Breaking: You can be rude to men and still be sexist

2 minute read

Being an equal-opportunity arsehat doesn’t make it OK.

Is it better to be a jerk towards everyone than to be a sexist jerk in particular?

Your Back Page correspondent is a member of the XY cohort that can’t fairly comment on this issue, but he is personally familiar with the defence strategy of bad bosses which claims that being an “equal-opportunity shitbag” exonerates accusations of sexism towards women.

Now, thanks to some fearless research undertaken by psychologists at the University of Virginia, we can bring you an unbiased analysis of such offensive behaviour, and the findings are unsettling. 

To test common assumptions, the boffins asked more than 1000 subjects to share their perceptions of tweets from former US president Donald Trump lambasting both men and women, fictitious stories of managers’ treatment of male and female employees, and surveys of sexist behaviour.

What these experiments found was that the more often men behaved badly towards other men, the less likely they were to be perceived as being specifically sexist towards women.

So being a total arsehat (our word, not theirs) to everyone creates “an illusion of impartiality, giving sexist perpetrators plausible deniability”, the researchers said.

“This is problematic because sexism and rudeness are not mutually exclusive,” lead study author Associate Professor Peter Belmi said.

The more participants perceived an offender being a jerk to other men, the more they diminished the need for gender-bias training.

Such gender blindness could also be exploited to refute accusations of sexism, Professor Belmi said. 

“When a sexist manager is rude toward men, it may appear as though he is not sexist,” he said. “Thus, women victimised by his behaviour will have a more difficult time proving that he is sexist. Rudeness can therefore protect perpetrators.”

If you have something that unshackles your hackles, feel free to vent at

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