In a twist that surprises no one, a new study associates pro-life views to sexism against females, according to Raw Story. The report analyzed the link between abortion and sexism through the scope of the Ambivalent Sexism Theory. The theory hypothesizes that sexism comes in two forms: hostile and benevolent. Benevolent sexism ascribes to the principle that women are naturally docile, nurturing caregivers who need a strong male mate for protection. Kathleen Connelly of the University of Florida best described the belief as, “women are wonderful, but weak.”
On the other end of the spectrum, hostile sexism denotes an outright loathing of women and all forms of feminism. It’s the idea that women are merely sexual objects meant for procreation, while stripping women of their humanity. What both forms of sexism have in common is the idea that women should be submissive and inferior to men.
The study surveyed 627 students from both genders from six different universities and concluded that African and Asian-Americans were considerably more likely to be pro-choice than their White counterparts. Predictably, religious students were inclined to have the most ardent pro-life views.
Most importantly, the study confirmed that sexist mindsets were linked to anti-abortion outlooks. Respondents who approved either benevolent or hostile forms of sexism overwhelmingly approved anti-abortion views.
But distinguishing between benevolent versus hostile sexist attitudes is valuable in making clear why women are just as likely as men to hold anti-choice opinions. As one researcher explained, “While women have been shown to endorse forms of hostile sexism somewhat infrequently, women’s endorsements of benevolent sexist beliefs are quite common.” (You can test your ambivalent sexism here, it’s a sobering look at how patriarchy forms your opinions about men and women.)
The notion that “women are wonderful, but weak” shows the primary mentality of many anti-abortion proponents’ “gentler” side. Even if anti-abortionists think they are saving poor, helpless women from themselves, they are assuming females don’t have the capacity to evaluate the consequences of their own actions. Although, benevolent sexism is a far cry from yelling “Die, whore die!” at a woman entering an abortion clinic, it’s still sexist nonetheless.
To see ambivalent sexism in action and learn more about what women (and their partners) go through regarding abortion, we highly recommend watching After Tiller. The award-winning documentary follows the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, a renowned late-term abortion provider, in 2009 by pro-life extremists. No matter what your opinion is of abortion, the film will surprise you as it presents the complexities of women’s difficult decisions as well as the compassion and ethical dilemmas of the doctors and staff who fear for their own lives as they treat their patients.
Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Do you agree that anti-abortion equates to sexism?