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Chivalry and Gender Stereotypes. T. William Altermatt, Ph.D. Hanover College. Last wireless message transmitted by the Titanic : “Have cleared boats and filled them with women and children” Reactions in the newspapers mixed Praising the heroism of the men…. …and criticizing feminism.

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chivalry and gender stereotypes

Chivalry and Gender Stereotypes

T. William Altermatt, Ph.D.

Hanover College

Last wireless message transmitted by the Titanic: “Have cleared boats and filled them with women and children”
  • Reactions in the newspapers mixed
    • Praising the heroism of the men…
and criticizing feminism
…and criticizing feminism
  • Quote fromeditorial:“It was not a question of ‘Votersfirst,’ but the cry allover the ship was Women first!’ In acquiescing to that cry the women admitted that they were not fitted for men’s tasks”
  • Reactions reflect opposing beliefs about chivalry…
  • A norm advocating that men protect and provide for women.
  • Debate over chivalry:
    • Those in favor...
      • Gesture of respect
      • Acknowledgement of feminine “virtue”
    • Those opposed...
      • Woman’s role in chivalry: passive recipient
      • Undermines women’s independence
or maybe they re both right
Or maybe they’re both right…


Stereotypes about Women

“Positive”: Women are superior to men in


Negative: Women are inferior to men in


hypothesis 1
Hypothesis #1
  • Individuals who endorse chivalryalso believe that women are more virtuous and less agentic than men are.
  • Co-occurrence of belief
    • Direction of causality unknown
    • Chivalry is not only consistent with belief in women’s relative virtue and lack of agency, but the three beliefs tend to be found together.
study 1 questionnaire
Study 1: Questionnaire
  • 410 Participants
  • Questionnaire assessed two issues
    • Chivalry
    • Sex stereotypes
      • Virtue
      • Agency
chivalry scale
Chivalry Scale
  • 10 items,  = .87 (N = 571)
  • Sample items:
    • “A man has an obligation to protect a woman who is in danger.”
    • “A man should give up his seat to a woman if the bus is crowded.”
    • “When a man and a woman are together, the man should always offer to pay the check.”
sex differences in virtue
Sex Differences in Virtue
  • 11 items,  = .78 (N = 407)
  • Subscales
    • Moral Virtue (5 items,  = .64)
      • “Women have a finer moral sense than men do.”
    • Sexual Virtue (6 items,  = .67)
      • “Women aren’t as interested in sex as men are.”
sex differences in agency
Sex Differences in Agency
  • 12 items,  = .90 (N = 410)
    • “Women should be more submissive than men.”
    • “Men understand the complexities of the political world better than women.”
chivalry and sex stereotypes

Moral Virtue


No significant differences between male and female respondents.





Sexual Virtue

*p < .05, ***p < .001

Chivalry and sex stereotypes
hypothesis 2
Hypothesis #2
  • If you think that women are more virtuous than men, what happens when you encounter a woman that you do not consider virtuous?
    • Pope Urban II: “women of noble birth should enjoy his special care” (11th century)
  • Hypothesis: Chivalry is not for all women but only women who appear high in virtue and low in agency.
    • Must women act a certain way in order to receive chivalrous treatment?
    • Challenges the view of chivalry as indiscriminately altruistic toward women
study 2 laboratory experiment
Study 2: Laboratory Experiment
  • Every hour: 3 participants, 3 confederates
  • Stage 1: impression formation
    • Virtue: clothing, memorable event from last summer, most embarrassing photograph
    • Agency: eye contact, initiative, posture, year, major, plans for future, trivia game
stage 2 courteous helpful behaviors dv
Stage 2: courteous / helpful behaviors (DV)
  • holding door
  • retrieving dropped envelope
  • donating to charity
  • picking up pencils
results of study 2
Results of Study 2

Helping behaviors averaged together and standardized to form DV: 0 is “average” helping.

High = top-33%Low = bottom-33%

hypothesis 3
Hypothesis #3
  • Receiving chivalrous treatment makes women appear less agentic.
    • Chivalry manipulated rather than treated as an individual difference
    • Most directly addresses the question: Does chivalry undermine women’s independence?
  • Produced video of couple out to dinner:
    • Two versions, exactly the same except for 6 points
    • Six opportunities for chivalrous behavior
    • All six: High chivalry. None: Low chivalry

Holds her chair (high) or they both sit down together (low).

Motions for her to order first (high), or orders first himself (low)

Stands when she excuses herself from the table (high), or remains seated (low).

Pays the check (high) or splits the check (low)

Sample behaviors for male actor

  • After watching video, participants rated each actor on 11 traits.
  • Traits averaged to form scales:
    • Agentic: Intelligent, Competent, Ambitious, Assertive (alpha=.86)
    • Warm: Warm, Kind-hearted, Respectable (alpha = .88)
    • Independent (single item)
study 3 male character
Study 3: Male Character

Each comparison: p < .01

May explain why chivalry is not dead: It makes men look better.

  • Chivalry is related to two stereotypes about women:
    • Women are more virtuous than men (explains why women are thought to deserve chivalry)
    • Women are less agentic than men (explains why women are thought to require chivalry)
  • Future directions:
    • Video Study 2: independently manipulating courtesy and payment (and adding a “female chivalry” level)
    • Relation between chivalry and paternalism – treating women as if they were children.
the link between chivalry and sexist attitudes is the agency stereotype
The link between Chivalry and sexist attitudes is the Agency stereotype


Moral Virtue








Distrust ofWomen


Sexual Virtue