Let’s say a woman makes an observation about the level of sexism within the skeptical community. Telling her that skepticism is no more sexist than the culture at large is not reassuring. Women who hear that by joining the skeptical community they will experience as much sexism as they already experience will not be very enthusiastic to spend free time there. Women get plenty of sexist bullshit in their regular life with no effort at all. Why would they want to invest their time and resources in a group that offers no respite from the crap that follows them around the rest of the day, and that is happy in turn to invest a lot of intellectual pontificating to justify that crap to their faces?
It’s particularly galling to hear people in the skeptical movement emphasize how they’ve logicked and reasoned themselves into viewing the world from a more rational perspective and then hear them tell women that no, no, no–there’s absolutely no problem with sexism in skepticism, and that women who say it’s a problem are crabby or thin-skinned or looking for trouble. They can lament for hours in person and pages online about how frustrating it is to deal with non-skeptics’ irrational blind spots, and how those people must have profound psychological motivation to maintain illogical beliefs in the face of so much evidence, yet they cannot comprehend their own irrational, simultaneous positions of there being no sexism in skepticism but also that the level of sexism in skepticism is acceptable because other groups are just as sexist. And they can back it with science, and they will argue and argue, and they will insist that they are more correct because they’ve got the rhetorical skills to prove it. So much for sacred cows and the world can be a better place!
In fact, the case could be made that sexism within skepticism is even more unpleasant than sexism in general society. At least in general society women are just hurt and hindered by sexism; they very rarely have to also listen to lengthy explanations about how if they perceive sexism the flaw is in their own thinking. No one pays them lip service about how it’s so great that all these female skeptics with their amazing analytical minds can join the team and solve the world’s problems but actually communicates that it’s mostly nice having women at events because it makes sexytime more convenient. Being told that her intelligence is a real turn-on doesn’t express appreciation for a woman’s brains or accomplishments. It just lets her know her vagina is attractive in two different ways.