Women are not asking for special treatment when they ask you to stop doing sexist things that discourage them from participating in the skeptical community. Nope. Yet people accuse them of asking for special treatment all the time, which is unfair because it is not what they are doing. What is happening is that they are being singled out for special treatment, and they don’t like it, and they want the special treatment to stop.
Here are some (very broad) examples of the special treatment that women get when they participate in the skeptical community that men do not get:
1. Strangers put their hands on them.
2. They get interrupted.
3. Their ideas are ignored.
4. Their physical appearance is commented on.
5. They are propositioned–directly and indirectly–for sex.
6. Their gender is used as an insult.
7. They are personally attacked instead of being disagreed with.
Here are some (equally broad) examples of the regular treatment women would like when they participate in the skeptical community:
1. For strangers to keep their hands off of them.
2. To be allowed to speak all the way through until they’ve completed a thought.
3. To have their ideas considered without some guy having to repeat what they just said and get credit for it.
4. To have their ideas and contributions commented on instead of their appearances.
5. To not be propositioned–directly or indirectly–for sex outside of social environments, and then not by complete strangers.
6. To not have their gender flung around as an insult to them or to other people.
7. To have intellectual disagreements stay intellectual.
Women being singled out for special treatment is so pervasive that it just feels like regular treatment, but it’s only “regular” treatment for women. Generally men don’t treat each other like this (not even homosexual men in intellectual environments, when they might be interesting in dating some of the other men there). They refrain from the engaging with men in the kinds of behaviors that marginalize women’s ideas when women appear in spaces dominated by men. And because it’s mostly men in the skeptical community, that restraint is actually the regular behavior, and that kind of behavior allows people to be respected for their abilities, instead of relegating some people to (sexual) support positions.
When women ask that men stop engaging in the behaviors that marginalize their ideas, all they are asking for is that men interact with them the same way that they interact with each other. That’s it. Honestly, people should be grateful for this. The way men go on and on about how women want special favors and are asking for all this extra stuff and it’s just so many things to keep track of and it just makes skepticism that much harder to perform is kind of a mess of their own making. By cultivating a set of behaviors they pull out only when women are around they are making skepticism more complicated and trickier because they’ve got all the regular behaviors to keep track of on top of these special behaviors they use for women. By eliminating the special behaviors they’d have only one set of social rules to have to remember, and everyone can concentrate harder on accomplishing the goals of the skeptical movement. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Of course, if you want very much to keep women from fully participating because you really, really like those special behaviors you get to engage in around them, like touching strange women and reserving the right to ask them for sex at any time–and that may be important to you–you ought to fight for those privileges with the right arguments. Come up with a reason for why it helps skepticism to maintain two standards of behavior within the movement instead of whining about how women want special treatment when they actually want no special treatment. It would be a better demonstration of your rational faculties and critical thinking skills and would make you look like a better skeptic. Better person, though? Maybe not.