Ed West

Don’t knock ‘benevolent sexism’ – it makes us happy

Don’t knock ‘benevolent sexism’ – it makes us happy
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The American-led Left has a new fixation: ‘benevolent sexism’. Recent examples found here, here and here.

According to one definition: ‘Ambivalent or benevolent sexism usually originates in an idealization of traditional gender roles: Women are “naturally” more kind, emotional, and compassionate, while men are “naturally” more rational, less emotional, and “tougher,” mentally and physically.’

I don’t want to say anything that could get me arrested in Belgium, but men are on average physically tougher than women. And I would have thought that stating women have – on average – greater empathy is was not likely to get you an auto-da-fé.

I imagine that ‘benevolent sexism’ is enduringly popular because people quite like it, women included:

‘For men, BS was directly associated with life satisfaction. For women, the palliative effect of BS was indirect and occurred because BS-ideology positioning women as deserving of men’s adoration and protection was linked to general perceptions of gender relations as fair and equitable, which in turn predicted greater levels of life satisfaction.’

As so often, the things that we're told are 'bad' actually make us happy, while the things that we're supposed believe to be good actually make us sad.

Sexual freedom, for example, makes people depressed much of the time, especially adolescent girls, judged cruelly by their ability to attract the opposite sex. A money-obsessed culture, with its intense competition, stress and inequality, also causes us to be miserable, although few Conservatives acknowledge this except for Jesse Norman. Ethnic diversity we know makes people unhappy because they vote with their feet. Likewise sexual equality, or at least sexual equality that refuses to acknowledge the biological reality of sex; and I can’t imagine the idea of ‘microaggressions’, in which people are encouraged to see slights in every experience, is very good for one’s mental health.

There’s a parallel between modern political ideas and modern urban living, which also makes us unhappy a lot of the time because we feel lonely and isolated. That is why rural romanticism will always have an appeal, both on the Left and Right, even when the reality of rural life has historically been awful for the vast majority of people. (I like a good bit of it myself, gazing at a beautiful country scene while on holiday, paid for with money I’ve made by working in a city.)

Cities are good things in themselves; the trick is to combine urban living with aspects of a traditional, more human existence that we feel happy with. The same is true of politics, and the aim of Burkean conservatism is to achieve progressive political ends by building on tradition and emphasising institutions, manners and social trust, rather than utopian ideas that ignore human nature.

That’s my philosophy, at any rate; the equivalent of one of those rural-style gastropubs one finds in nicer parts of London that have their own microbrewery attached.

Written byEd West

Ed West is the author of The Diversity Illusion, 1215 and All That and is writing a series of books on medieval history

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