Gender bias: explanatory theories

In 2005, the Organic Law on Comprehensive Protection Measures against Gender-Based Violence entered into force in Spain in an attempt to address social issues such as gender-based violence, domestic violence and domestic terrorism.

Article 1.1 of the said law stipulates that violence is a manifestation of discrimination, the situation of inequality and the power relations of men over women.

While many believe that this inequality or “marginalization” towards women is exaggerated or that it does not exist directly, shows that such a problem is due to clearly psychosocial factors. is this is why studies have been carried out in this regard from social psychology. To fix a problem, you need to understand it, know how it works, and what factors are reproducing it.

Context of the study of the status of women

Janet Taylor Spence created in the 70s the Scale of Attitudes towards Women, which has proven to be very useful and ongoing and is still in the news. It measures belief in the rights and roles of men and women which assesses different treatment of the sexes by emphasizing that women do not perform certain tasks as well as men.

Fortunately, the results of applying this scale have varied over the years, and although today women are even more egalitarian than men, the latter’s score has increased. The Gender Identity Scale was created in our country. The results conclude that less educated and older men have more prejudiced attitudes towards women.

Theory of ambivalent sexism

The ambivalence evoked in the name of this theory of sexism refers to the coexistence of two types of sexism which complement each other: hostile sexism and benevolent sexism.

Hostile sexism

In which women are seen as a lower group that must be subordinated to the control of men. How to justify its existence?

For the dominant paternalism, according to which there is the belief that men should have more power than women, so they are afraid to usurp this status of domination. For example, in the private sphere of a heterosexual relationship, it is the man who must make the important decisions. For a hostile sexist, the prototypical characteristics of women (such as their greater sensitivity) make them less inclined to higher status roles.

In heterosexual relationships, hostility includes the belief that women manipulate men and that in addition, they exert power over men through sexual satisfaction. With the paradox that even though they see them as subordinate, they are sexually addicted to them.

Benevolent sexism

In this second, a “positive” connotation is adopted towards women but subject to certain functions.. This kind of sexism is explained by a protective paternalism, according to which women depend on men and must protect them. For example, caring for women before men in an emergency. Complementary gender differentiation for the benevolent sexist is that female characteristics complement them, however, their roles will always be of lesser importance than those he can or should perform.

Finally, in this sexism, heterosexual intimacy is also based on cooperation, however, physical and psychological aggression towards their partner has been a way of controlling them to maintain inequalities.

How does a man react to an ambivalent conflict?

To resolve the unpleasant psychological conflict that arises when faced with a man ambivalent towards the opposite sex, one can choose to react in two ways.

First of all, you can divide the woman into subsections, rating each one differently. So, for example, they may like certain women (for example, their daughters) and hate others (for example, those who advocate for gender equality). The problem with this way of resolving conflict is that this subdivision of women can lead to not all women falling into one of these categories.

Secondly, sexists may rate powerful women negatively but respect them for their competence in their professional life. Or conversely, to feel affection for subordinate women but perceive them as incompetent. What sexists need to keep in mind is that in real life they don’t interact with stereotypes but with flesh-and-blood women who can fall into many categories (housewife, mother, worker in positions of responsibility, etc.) about which they will have ambivalent feelings, especially if they have some sort of social or emotional bond with her.


Theories that address the issue of gender bias should understand the issue as part of a psychosocial dynamics. On the one hand, it is necessary to study the styles of thinking related to sexism, and on the other hand, it is necessary to study the way in which individuals interact with each other and with the environment. In this way, such a complex phenomenon can be understood.

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