May 17, 2015

MEGAN MCARDLE: The Wages of Crying Sexism:

People who carelessly toss around the “s” word are trying to have things both ways: They want sexism to be something very, very bad that forces the refs to stop the action and pull you out of the game, and they also want to be able to level this charge at every minor verbal tic that might be sexist. Even if it might just be, you know, politics. In this and other contexts, this is not a bargain that a modern society will strike. If you make the punishments draconian, people will hesitate to apply them widely. This is true in law enforcement, and it is true of social sins as well. To claim “sexism” too often just robs the word of its power.

So if we want to keep the norm that sexism is very bad, we need to think twice about when we pull out those accusations. Before you shoot, remember that you’re not a movie hero with an unlimited supply of ammunition. You’re the guy with a single six shooter crouching behind the bar. You have to make every shot count. Aim carefully. When in doubt, hold your fire.

That would require self-discipline, which is not our ruling class’s strong suit. Also, your cowboy-gunfight metaphor is a microaggression.

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