diversity and inclusionGender communicationsexism

Is it sexism to criticize women?

By October 4, 2008 No Comments

There seems to be a glut of accusations of sexism in this election. Pundits were saying that if Joe Biden came on too strong, he would be accused of sexism, so he had to temper his speech. There has also been a weird expectation that women should vote for a female candidate because she is a woman.

Men who question Sarah Palin and her qualifications are called sexist.

This is either an opportunist ploy or a misguided attempt to be diverse. Actually the constant beat of sexist accusations is the antithesis of true diversity. I’ve been consulting with organizations and training people in diversity and inclusion for over twenty years. At no time have I or the people in my diversity network claimed that criticizing a woman is always sexist. We’re engaged in this process so people have equal opportunities to show their best work amd be acknowledged, and to get honest and constructive feedback when appropriate.

There is certainly sexism today and it must be challenged, people need to be educated and rid themselves of stereotypes, but using the cry of sexism when someone doesn’t agree with you is ridiculous and dishonest. Also just because someone unintentionally says something sexist or even engages in behavior that is sexist does not mean that they are a”sexist.” It just might mean that they need education and not relegated to “sexist limbo” or put in the corner with a “dunce cap.”

Over twenty years ago I was working with a police captain who asked me to train his people in gender communication and sexual harassment. He said he chose me because I was able to talk with people, and educate without finger pointing, condemning and threatening to “expose them as bad people.”

We need more education and less condemnation and be able to differentiate mistakes from malfeasance.