When Benevolent Sexism is Mistaken for Female Empowerment

Cross-posted from: HerstoryArc
Originally published: 21.08.15

As the push grows for more women and girl protagonists in storytelling across all media forms, more artists and studios are starting to rise to the challenge. While these media creators are getting better at avoiding the more glaring misogynistic mistakes, more subtle ones keep rearing their heads. As our culture continues to shelve old stereotypes and tropes in search of new and fresh ideas it is not surprising that we are having some growing pains.

The mistake I want to discuss today is when a woman protagonist uses benevolent sexism as a vehicle to show her power and agency. If you are unfamiliar with the term benevolent sexism, I highly recommend checking out the links I’ve provided. Benevolent sexism is sometimes referred to incorrectly as “female privilege” because it is misunderstood as something positive*. In actuality, it can affect and harm both men and women. Some assumptions about, and reinforced by, benevolent sexism include:

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