I looked up the definition for "sexism" today, and I find that it is defined as "the sense that one sex is inferior to, or more valuable than, the other." We have a number of ways of expressing the same concept: "male chauvanism" or "female chauvanism," "misogyny," and so forth.The Daily Mail, today:
What we don't appear to have is a way of expressing a concept that recognizes the real differences between the sexes in a way that honors them. As far as I know, there is no word in the language for a "a sense that though the sexes are genuinely different, both are necessary and valuable." That is to say, we have a lot of ways of describing a problem, but we have no way of talking about the solution.
I've tried to use the term "chivalry" in this context -- that men should regard women, though different, as wonderful and valuable, and should take care to listen to their concerns and help make a world in which they feel welcome.
Two things happened when I did that, which point up the severity of the problem. The first is that it was pointed out to me, by a well-meaning and kind-hearted woman, that I was offering good advice to men, but nothing for women. If "chivalry" is right for men, what is the female version of recognizing the differences between themselves and men, honoring men, and trying to make a world in which we also feel welcome and valued? I have no answer to that question: there is no word I know of that applies.
The other thing that happened was that certain feminists received my use of "chivalry" as a sort of code-word for male chauvanism.
They found men whose answers led to them being classed as benevolently sexist smiled more while playing the quiz game and chatting. They were more patient while waiting for their female partners to answer the trivia questions and warmer, friendlier and chattier than those who were hostile sexists... Study co-author Jin Goh said: 'Benevolent sexist men hold women in high regard and are willing to sacrifice themselves to save and protect women.
So, OK. Let's ask the same questions. What is the female version of what is on display in men seeing women as valuable, listening to their advice as a civilizing influence (an impulse rather unfairly degraded by being phrased as "putting on a pedestal"), and trying to do right by them and show them that they are safe and welcome in public places?
And why should we receive men who do it as bad? There are some senses of the word "strong" in which women are stronger than men. There are others, including the most fundamental sense, in which this is not the case. That fact is a fact simply: can't we be honest about it? Can't we show each other honor while recognizing each other's imperfections? If we can't acknowledge the truth about each other's imperfections without failing some assumed duty of respect, talk about putting on a pedestal!