Social Work



Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Type of Paper/Work

Banded Dissertation


Ande Nesmith


This banded dissertation focused on the manifestation of benevolent sexism in American social systems, past and present. Benevolent sexism takes a subjectively-positive view of women in traditional roles, revering them as gentle, nurturing, and in need of protection by men or other more powerful members of society. These beliefs fall into three categories: protective paternalism, complementary gender differentiation, and heterosexual intimacy.

The first product was a historical textual analysis of documents from the Council on Social Work Education Task Force on Women. In 1973, the task force surveyed programs about their curricular content on women. Four themes were identified in the survey responses: women as individuals with power, women as objects, women as problem, and no content on women/unsure of need for content. Curricular materials reflected orientations of complementary gender differentiation and heterosexual intimacy.

The second product was a qualitative case study analyzing Texas House Bill 2, a law regulating abortion providers. Four themes were identified from primary source legislative and court documents: the state has the right to protect women, women need protection from “bad players,” women are emotional, and women are mothers/vessels. Results indicated that language reflecting protective paternalism and complementary gender differentiation was used to justify restricting women’s access to pre-viability abortion.

The third product was a poster presentation given at the Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting in October 2017. This presentation outlined the conceptual framework, results from the case study research discussed in product two of the banded dissertation, and implications for social work practice. The presentation provided an opportunity to engage social work educators in a discussion about benevolent sexism as a lens for public policy analysis.

The results of this banded dissertation indicated that benevolent sexist ideologies have been present at a systemic level for decades in common settings, such as education programs and policy-making bodies. Inclusion of appropriate curricular content on complex issues of gender and skills in policy analysis and advocacy will allow social workers to effectively challenge attitudes of benevolent sexism in larger systems, protecting the rights and freedom of all persons.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.