Benevolently Sexist or Chivalrous? Whichever, More Please!


Hello Beautiful

I have missed you and am so excited to get back to writing you!

Let me preface by saying I know for some; this post might stir up big emotions. My intention is to offer you a wider lens with which to view some well-meaning men that live by a set of traditional masculine morals. I won’t be focusing on what I believe to be the exceptions; men that pay for dates expecting sex in return or those that offer to carry heavy grocery bags implying we are too weak to do it ourselves.

I’m speaking of gentlemen. Yes, I know, they actually exist! The well-educated men that respect women’s professional drive and accomplishments but simultaneously feel good about taking the initiative of asking a woman out on a proper date, paying for most and making sure she is safe by walking on the traffic side of the street.

I can hear some of you thinking “great Irene but what the hell is benevolent sexism?” I’m glad you asked because I had never heard of the term before last night, but felt inspired to learn more. It refers to a theoretical framework developed by social psychologists Peter Glick and Susan Fiske which reinforces traditional gender roles signaling women need to be protected by men.

One study posted on published by Kathleen Connelly and Martin Heesacker explains that even though previous research proposes benevolent sexism as an ideology that sustains gender inequality; some very much support it, as it has also been linked to greater life satisfaction. Besides these findings Connelly is against it as it presumes “women are wonderful but weak.”

Although the second- wave feminism movements overarching goal was to achieve gender equality, it confused the hell out of many men that value more traditional behaviors. Gentlemen in the baby-boomer generation knew how women expected to be treated. They had a more courteous approach towards women. Men wanted to lead and believed it was their role to provide a certain type of security; financial and physical towards women they loved. Today roles are undefined both men and women aren’t sure how to act, what to say and what is actually desired by the other.

I had such an interesting coaching session last week with a charming Gen-X male entrepreneur whose topic of conversation sparked my curiosity and moved me to dive a little deeper on this subject. He said he was raised to believe it was common courtesy to open doors for women and pay for dates but sometimes felt torn to act with integrity as he didn’t want to be viewed as a sexist ass.

As a result of this conversation, what really sparked my interest was, what do women especially devoted feminists feel about men that express old school ways of being?

A study of 782 women in 5 experiments conducted by Pelin Gul a post-doctoral research fellow in the Dept of Psychology at Iowa State University found that women were more attracted to benevolently sexist men than their counterparts, despite knowing these men were more likely to be patronizing and controlling.

The findings show women interpret men who confidently go after what they want and cherish women as signs of a partner that will commit, protect and provide. The reality is, women want men who make them feel physically, emotionally and financially safe. This is the case no matter how professionally successful they are.

Drinking the Kool Aid of women don’t need men and we can have and do it all on our own came with the cost of believing we should be doing everything on our own. This led to a whole lot of high-achieving but lonely women.

There has never been a time in history where women had more pressure or expectations on their shoulders. We’re juggling building businesses, managing employees and doing whatever it takes to keep up with the ridiculous cultural beauty expectations while simultaneously taking on twice as much on child care and housework. How much more fulfilling would our lives be if we released some of our control (after work) and allowed these men to take the lead and do more for us?

Wishing you a wonderful rest of your day!

P.S. I would love to be connected with you on Instagram and see what you too are up to.
You can find me @Irene.abbou, let me know you’re a member of my blog community and I will follow you back 



Irene is the creator of the Happiness Within Reach program which coaches single, freedom loving women on the foundational skills of building a meaningful relationship with themselves so they can attain the love they dream of. She is an ICF, ACC Certified Personal Development coach who holds two certifications from the University of Pennsylvania on Positive Psychology and is trained in the Gottman Method for Couples Therapy. Irene is an advisor to the Keeepr app as well as a dating coach to the Three Day Rule Matchmaking Company. She is also an Amazon best-selling co-author of the book How To Be Crazy Amazing During Difficult Times and has been interviewed on podcasts such as Chat With Leaders and Beyond Barriers. Her mission is to remind women of their indisputable worthiness and capability of creating the extraordinary soul on fire life that is their birthright.

Happiness 101- A Happier Life Now

Awakening to the science of well being and some easy steps to kick start your experience of happiness immediately.

What do huge organizations like Google, FedEx, Harvard University and the American Army have in common? They have all acknowledged the benefits of promoting happiness in their institutions and use Positive Psychology (the study of well being) techniques to bring out the best in their communities.  Advocates of this relatively new science explain that all of us can learn these proven methods to awaken self-confidence and pleasure in our lives. Below are four ways you too can begin your journey to a healthier and happier life.

Unconditional Acceptance

Giving our selves the permission to be human and experiencing all of our emotions including fear, anger and dis-appointment is what Tal Ben-Shahar co-founder of Wholebeing Institute explains as the basis for human happiness. Often times we try to push negative emotions away. Unfortunately this is as useful as asking someone not to think of the pink polar bear in the living room. The more we avoid uncomfortable emotions the more present and the stronger they become. That is how the human brain is wired. Recognizing, then accepting them (not wishing they would go away) is what allows them to pass through us and eventually subside. Unconditional acceptance of ourselves not only gives us permission to be more human it opens our hearts to a fuller range of happy emotions.

Do Less Do Better

It’s important to ask ourselves if we are investing in the activities that will give us the highest return on our time and energy. Most of our days are stretched so thin that feelings of over-whelm and burnout has become the norm. This results in depression at worst and a loss of enjoyment with life at best. If we learn to take time for recovery between activities we will become more focused and productive on the next project. Make time to think about what matters most and explore all options before deciding on a project. Understand that it’s impossible to do everything and trade-offs are unavoidable. Quantity in life effects quality and quality effects happiness.

Make your Move

If you’re feeling un-enthusiastic about life and cant wait for the day to be over, start moving your body! There are hundreds of studies proving the correlation between physical activity and a greater sense of well-being. Among many other life changing benefits, regular exercise reduces stress, depression, improves peak performance and even sets the foundation for a happy sex life. It has also been shown that women who exercise thirty min’s per day/four days a week are 30{2aa3a04f6be2f923df0575bbe556bf071a31657c2ccac3245c743dc0f72a11ff} less likely to develop cognitive decline. It is not necessary to be training for a 5K nor does it take months to feel results. The mood changing effects of exercise are same day, according to the American Psychological Association’s journal Health Psychology. Exercising just a little bit more than we’re used to releases those feel great neurotransmitters called endorphins. For more on the connection between physical activity and its benefits, see Spark by John Ratey, MD.

Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness and mindfulness mediation increases happiness and decreases stress. It is intentionally becoming aware of the present moment as it is unfolding- free of judgment. The idea is to dis-engage our minds from it’s automatic thought patterns “doing mode” by utilizing all of our senses so we can enter a more peaceful state known as the “being mode.” We can practice mindfulness while participating in everyday activities like driving to work, speaking with friends or chopping onions. When taking a shower for example listen to the soothing sound of the water, look at the soft lather forming on your hands, pay attention to how that feels on your fingers, smell the scent of your favorite lavender shampoo and savor the warmth of the water hugging your back. Consistent daily practice of mindfulness meditation will nurture inner calmness and non-reactivity of the mind. This will promote a deeper experience with ourselves and those we share our lives with. For additional information on mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, see Mindfulness for Beginners by John Kabat-Zinn or The Art of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Positive Psychology practices like the four described above has made it possible for everyday people to understand and have access to scientifically proven techniques that enhance and promote a happier life. Accepting all of our human emotions, identifying what’s most essential, engaging in physical activity and practicing mindfulness are some of the significant catalysts that will set you on your path to sustainable smiles.