Since patriarchal culture values maleness, the weight behind antimale prejudice is limited primarily to the individual woman who expresses it and is therefore easier to discount (“She must not like men”). And however hurt men might feel, they can always turn to the compensations of male privilege and a mainstream culture that sends continuing messages of inherent male value. In this sense, the issue isn’t whether prejudice hurts-it hurts everyone it touches. But prejudice against women wounds in deeper and more complex ways than does prejudice against men because the hurt is magnified by a patriarchal system that spreads it by association to all women and that systematically links it to male privilege.
Because prejudice affects women and men so differently, calling antimale prejudice “sexism” distorts the reality of how systems of privilege work. Prejudice against women not only harms individual women, but perpetuates an oppressive system based on gender that harms women more deeply than any isolated instance of hurtful speech or discrimination. Antimale prejudice may hurt individual men, but it isn’t connected to a system that devalues maleness and oppresses men as a result. The difference between the two is so great that we need to distinguish the one from the other, and that’s what words like “sexism” and “racism” are for. Sexism distinguishes simple gender prejudice-which can affect men and women both-from the much deeper and broader consequence of expressing and perpetuating privilege and oppression. Without this distinction, we treat all harm as equivalent without taking into account important differences on both the personal and the social levels in what causes it and what it does to people."