“We don’t like the sexist behavior and aren’t going to accept it silently anymore,” women in the skeptical movement say.
“They kind of have a point,” some guys in the skeptical movement say.
“Women are dividing the community by stirring up this trouble!” other guys in the movement say. “There’s all this fighting! And now we’re splintered! And we’ll never ever be able to do those important skeptical things because who’s going to listen to a bunch of skeptics who can’t even get along! You’re hurting the movement!” they add, and more words to that effect.
But they are wrong.
When women (the minority group) speak up about ill-treatment they’ve received from the dominant group (men), it stirs up all kinds of trouble, for all kinds of reasons (which I’ve addressed a few times already, like here and here). Heated discussions erupt, and true feelings are revealed, and yes, when emotions are expressed and judgments passed, a group loses a certain level of comfort that had been taken for granted. (Well, the dominant members of the group were comfortable before and now aren’t, anyway.) And because it’s women who, by speaking up, undermined this sense of comfort–the illusion that it was all OK for everyone and everybody was just fine until certain people when looking for trouble–it’s women who get blamed for the conflict that appears.
This is called “being divisive.” Calling it that is a mistake. An actual misuse of the word “divisive” kind of mistake.
Women are not, by protesting sexism and not ignoring it anymore, being divisive. Women are, by protesting sexism and not ignoring it anymore, revealing a divisiveness that was already present. Women were already separated from full participation in the community because of the effects of sexism, and nobody in the dominant group was noticing or doing anything about. Not protesting sexism and just ignoring it is divisive, because that reinforces the divisions between the dominant and the minority group. This divisiveness could go on forever if nobody speaks up. Fortunately, women speak up and begin the process of erasing the divisions.
By protesting sexism and not ignoring it, women are being inclusive. They are identifying the forces that hinder them from fully participating in the skeptical movement, and they are suggesting strategies to remove those barriers, in order to better reach all available intellectual resources and improve the community’s public reputation. They are doing everyone a favor. Arguing about it, or fighting back against women, or declaring that you will continue to behave as you’ve always behaved and they can suck it up or get out supports the division that is already in place. That is what “being divisive” really looks like.
If you are really worried about a divided community, listen to women’s explanations of how they have been kept away from the skeptical movement and then change how you behave toward them so they feel more included.