Friday, August 05, 2005

Sexualizing Chivalry

This is the kind of thing that bugs me. CNN Money starts off with a reasonable sounding question: "Does it Pay to Flirt at Work"

Women who cross their legs provocatively, wear short skirts or massage a man's shoulders at work get fewer pay raises and promotions, according to Friday's USA Today.

The newspaper, citing a Tulane University study, said 49 percent of MBA graduates polled admitted that they have tried to advance in their careers by sometimes engaging in certain sexual behaviors, including sending flirty e-mails and wearing revealing clothing.

The respondents who said they never engaged in such activity earned an average of three promotions, versus two for the group that had employed sexuality. Those who said they never used sexuality were, on average, in the $75,000-$100,000 income range; the other group fell, on average, into the next range, $50,000 to $75,000.
Fine. This is a perfectly legitimate concern and even shows signs of validating the conservative position that women don't have to lower their moral standards to succeed in the world of business. But then comes the twist:
Tulane professor Arthur Brief said the study suggests that women should be careful about letting men open doors or lift boxes that aren't particularly heavy, because chivalry is "benevolent sexism."

"We argue that there are negative consequences for women who use sexuality in the workplace," Brief told the newspaper.
This is a complete non-sequitur. Did the study include such behavior as allowing men to open doors? It isn't in the original list. Only someone who starts witht the premise that treating women with respect is necessarily motivated by sexual attraction could jump from flirting to chivalry in this way.

What is worse, such a reductionistic, which can conceive of only base motives, view tends to make women suspicious of the kindness of men. Is it any wonder that the prevalence of such views tends to produce a coarsening of culture?

This kind of tripe was popular in the 70s. Really, I had thought we were getting beyond all of this, but evidently it still pervades academia. You've come a long way, baby.

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