Disclaimer: Now, I’m no scholar, or philosopher, or political scientist, and I don’t consider myself well-broached in topics beyond Feminism 102 stuff, so the claims I am about to make about sexism maybe are not accurate. I welcome clarification and correction from people who actually do know about it, and hope that I get my point across even if I misuse terms or flat-out miss important arguments in the global conversation about sexism.
There are two phrases you often hear in these long, complicated, heated discussions within comments sections and discussion boards about sexism:
1. The patriarchy hurts men.
2. Sexism hurts men.
I agree with the first. The patriarchy, by creating and policing gender roles and punishing the people who defy them, does hurt men. But these damaging aspects of the patriarchy have not resulted in an underrepresentation of men in the active skeptical community, so I will leave this conversation for someone else to conduct.
I disagree with the second. Sexism does not hurt men.* Sexism hurts women, full stop. There is no special kind of shit that magically rolls uphill, even if the patriarchy hurts men too. Sure, maybe there are individual men who receive negative treatment or are victims of individual, prejudiced women, but that’s not sexism. There’s no social sanction for it, and the very next woman that man encounters is not very likely to repeat the behavior (unless he’s stumbled into a coven of manhaters who have taken over the whole town). Suffering a personal insult from one person is not suffering from sexism. Earning less money than a female coworker at the same position is not sexism against men. A selection committee making extra effort to schedule women speakers at a conference is not being sexist against men. Until men are being harmed as a group and can prove it, with laws of averages and stuff backed up by surveys and data from longitudinal studies and evidence like that, and can frame it as a coherent narrative with lots and lots of quotes from women that reveal how they consider men an underclass and why there are perfectly rational (perhaps biological) reasons to perpetuate the difference in political power between the two groups, stop claiming that sexism hurts men. Bad things happen to men, sure, but when a woman treats a man badly for no other reason than that he is a man, she is prejudiced. Someone being mean to a man does not signal systemic oppression.
*Racism does not hurt white people, either, and classism doesn’t hurt rich people. Homophobia doesn’t oppress straight people, undocumented residents aren’t displacing citizens, and the disabled are not successfully shoving their accommodationist agenda down abled people’s throats.
Don’t collect personal anecdotes of all the times women have been mean to you to argue about the validity of women’s experiences of sexism, particularly when they are explaining their experiences of sexism within the skeptical community as a deterrent to membership after you’ve asked them what’s holding them back from active participation. Don’t try to shut them up by calling them hypocrites because regular sexism is just as bad as reverse sexism, and thus all people within skepticism are on an equal footing and women demanding special treatment are being unreasonable. There is no reverse sexism. And if individual people have been mean to you, deal with it when they are being mean to you and move on. Either brush it off and forget about it because you don’t really care what strangers say to you, or call them out for it because you are fed up or relish confrontation, but don’t nurse the grievance as ammunition you can use to shoot down arguments of the people trying to dismantle the status quo. If you really cared about how the patriarchy was really hurting men (cared more about that then how the patriarchy mostly benefits men, that is), you’d acknowledge that fighting one-way sexism is one strategy for dismantling the patriarchy.