Efforts to assist minorities to achieve parity are sometimes labelled as positive or reverse discrimination. For example, an effort to do outreach to women and recruit them to a software project may be described as reverse sexism.
The problems with claims of "reverse sexism" include:
- Men may be complaining that a privilege they have is being eroded; there is an expectation that the vast majority of attention, effort, and resources will be given to them, and any diminution of this is cause for complaint.
- Accusations of "reverse sexism" are used as an attempt to derail conversations, or to silence women.
- "Reverse sexism" claims are often disproportionate, or used to obscure larger problems. For instance, in an environment where there are 99 things that marginalise women, and one that marginalises men, loud and vigorous complaints of "reverse sexism" may be made, without any reference to the relative scale of the alleged sexism.
- The term itself is silly. "Reverse sexism" would be sexism in reverse; that is, equal and fair treatment regardless of gender.
- "Positive discrimination" is usually implemented as an all-pass filter which tends to attract the lazy and dumb over the driven and smart, making the minority appear incompetent when compared to the rest of the group, formed by people who had to fight and keep fighting harder and be more capable to achieve the same status. Supporters usually hold on to the thesis that equality is all in the numbers and once the minority stops being a minority things start to work out, although they fail to document any long term success case. The exact opposite (but equally bad) thing happens with regular discrimination: The minority is made of people much more capable than the rest of the group, otherwise they wouldn't be able to earn their place on it and the respect they deserve. In any case, neither of them achieves equality, because both of them are focused on strongly differentiating the already divided groups by not treating them equally or even populating them with a similar distribution of competence.
Here are some examples of men claiming "reverse sexism" regarding women in geek communities:
- Is BlogHer Conference Guilty of Sex Discrimination? by Michael Grey
- "To those organizers I challenge them to look in the mirror and realize that you’ve now become the same evil and sexist pigs you started out with the goal of overcoming."
- Google EMEA conference grants for female computer scientists: First comment, Frank Ch. Eigler: "At least the sexism is privately rather than publicly funded."
- Left Behind: A male reader (post-doc) writes to the blogger Female Science Professor complaining that he felt discriminated against by receiving an email that invited only women to a dinner.
- Grievances about Etsy's "Hacker School" with grants for women applicants (regarding this press release )
- LWN thread about GNOME Women's Outreach Program
Further reading Edit
- FAQ: Aren't feminists just sexists towards men? (Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog)
- Why Teaching Equality Hurts Men (as in: presenting the current imbalanced system as "equal")
- A comedic explanation of reverse racism by Aamer Rahman