From Jacquelyn’s fine blog The Contemplative Mammoth, a bit of context:
You’re enjoying your morning tea, browsing through the daily digest of your main society’s list-serv. Let’s say you’re an ecologist, like me, and so that society is the Ecological Society of America*, and the list-serv is Ecolog-l. Let’s also say that, like me, you’re an early career scientist, a recent graduate student, and your eye is caught by a discussion about advice for graduate students. And then you read this:
too many young, especially, female, applicants don’t bring much to the table that others don’t already know or that cannot be readily duplicated or that is mostly generalist-oriented.
I’m not interested in unpacking that statement beyond saying that “don’t bring much to the table that others don’t already know” is basically a really sexist way of saying that they female applicants “are on par with or even slightly exceed others.” There is abundant evidence that perception, not ability, influences gender inequality in the sciences– it’s even been tested empirically.
What I am interested in is why other people in my community don’t think those kinds of comments are harmful and aren’t willing to say something about it if they do.
And then the question:
After the sexist comments were made, some did in fact call them out. This was immediately followed up with various responses that fell into two camps: 1) “Saying female graduate students are inferior isn’t sexist” (this has later morphed into “she was really just pointing out poor mentoring!”), and 2) “Calling someone out for a sexist statement on a list-serv is inappropriate.” Some have called for “tolerance” on Ecolog-l; arguably, more real estate in this discussion has gone into chastising the people who called out Jones’ comments. These people are almost universally male. To those people, I ask:
Why is it more wrong to call someone out for saying something sexist than it was to have said the sexist thing in the first place?
That is a really good question.
[Updated to add:] Apologies to Jacquelyn for misspelling her name at first. Need moar coffee.