I feel that in my rantiness of my original post, there were some things I didn't make particularly clear. I do appreciate the outcry of support that followed, mind you, but I wanted to clarify some of the things I said to make sure that it was understood and not misinterpreted.
A lot of times, those of us who point out sexism or talk about feminism don't always point out why feminism is important for more than just women. Often people will say it's important to men because of how it affects the women close to them whom they care about, but it's more than even just that. The term "feminism" is misleading in modern times. It leads many to believe that it's all about bringing power to women, and bringing men down. The thing is, it's really not, though I know that it can come off that way.
Feminism, as a movement, certainly did begin in an effort to bring more equality to women. But the movement was so huge that it expanded to look at all forms of inequality between peoples - not just for women. It was a new way of thinking about things - based on the apparently novel concept of actually thinking about things. About not accepting things simply because that's how it's always been done. Challenging the very primal beliefs that we have about ourselves and others; about superiority and power dynamics.
Even if you disagree with someone about what they consider sexist, even if you think people take it to the extreme, even if you don't see something as offensive that another might, even if you feel that deep down there are fundamental differences between genders, and even if you don't believe that - the point is that by joining in on the discussion, you were required to actually think about it in the first place. And even if you come to the conclusion that everything is okay, you have wedged your mind open just a little bit more to at least consider the notion that there is a reason to reconsider things we've always taken as truth. Part of why mentalshaman's deconstruction of sexism in WoW is so important is not because we're all chomping at the bit to say "Yeah, sexist bastards!" and poise for attack - it's to make us look at things and actually think about them. Maybe some of the details are unfair, and maybe some aren't. But it's definitely worth at least considering. It's not about angrily ripping the world we love apart, but more about looking at it more carefully so that we don't get lost in a fantasy within a fantasy world. If you never challenge your own assumptions about the world around you, you will always be in the mindset of a five year old who simply takes everything presented as undeniable fact.
What feminism has truly brought to us, whether you like it or not, is the ability to challenge those long-held beliefs. And it is continually evolving and expanding as we look at new things we never thought about. Before I began studying feminism, it never occurred to me how internalized these concepts are of what makes a man a man, and what makes a woman a woman. You don't have to have children to be a woman. And you don't have to be the breadwinner to be a man.
So you see, the reason it is important is not just because women should be treated equally. It goes beyond that - if women are treated equally to men, then by default at the very least, men should be treated equally to women. If a woman steps up and says that it doesn't make her less feminine to work in the coal mines, then that means a man can stand up and say he's always wanted to be a nurse, and that doesn't make him less masculine. What it's NOT about is saying "well men have to put up with it too, so it all evens out and everything is fine!" No. The fact that men have to deal with it too is what makes it LESS FINE. Not because they are men and therefore it should be more important, but because it means that even MORE people are being subjected to the discrimination and judgment that comes from the same source. And the more people who take the time to deconstruct these long-held beliefs, the more people who will treat others as human beings who have a right to live their lives how they choose without the very tenents of their identity being questioned or ridiculed. Everyone is affected by sexism to some degree, whether they are male or female: and therefore everyone has a justification for standing up in opposition to it.
I don't think it's fair that when I was a delivery driver my boss didn't want me to take deliveries to certain neighborhoods - and I sure as hell don't think it's fair that because of that, he made one of the cooks (who was about half my size, had half as much knowledge of the area, and was twice as terrified) go do it instead - just because he was male. It wasn't just an insult to me as a female - in fact I think it was even more hurtful to him as a male. I just got pissed off. He was put into a dangerous situation he was much less equipped to handle.
There are studies all over the place that suggest men are less likely to get medical treatment for physical or mental disorders, and therefore die earlier on average than women... because they are raised to believe that a "real man" will simply "power through it". You shouldn't feel like less of a man for taking care of your health. No one has a right to make you feel that way - not your wife, not your parents, but most of all, not the whole of society at large.
Perhaps you like the traditional chivalrous customs, such as holding the door open for your date, or buying her dinner. But you should have a choice to be that way - not feel as though you are forced into it by what society tells you you ought to do in order to be a proper man. I don't like assumptions, and when I was dating, I brought money to pay for dinner. I at least offered to pay and presented the man in question with the choice. That wasn't just for my benefit. If someone wants to buy me dinner, I want them to do it because of me as a person - not just because I'm a chick.
A few weeks ago in Wintergrasp, while farming for eternals, there was an argument going on in general chat. One individual was antagonizing another about their PvP gear. I was already getting riled up in my indignant and self-righteous anger, but then, the antagonizer in question called the subject of his harassment a dude - to which the "dude" replied that she was female.
Suddenly his entire tone changed. Immediately after she replied that she was female, he apologized, and started using proper grammar and spelling, and being very polite and friendly. She was obviously confused about his change in behavior, but I was utterly enraged. Maybe it was silly of me too, because I had just been about to give him hell for being a jerk... but now that he decided he was going to be all nicey nice because she was female, I was even ANGRIER.
"Why exactly are you apologizing?!" "I'm sorry, I didn't realize she was female." "What does that have to do with anything?" "Well, I wouldn't have been so rude." "Screw you! Go forth and be rude freely! She can take it just as well as if she were male. You weren't willing to stop being a dick for the sake of, you know, not being a dick, but now that you realize she's a girl, you're suddenly willing to be a decent human being?" "lol" "What? Do you think the corsets we're wearing make us more fragile and susceptible to your asshattery? Did she bat her eyelashes at you in such a way that you suddenly felt shame for your poor behavior? Oh sir, ahm just so sahrry for steppin' into your big manly brain, ah jes' can't keep up with your phallic wit and chahrms!"
At this point every female in the zone started chiming in.
I actually did feel kinda bad about that. In his defense, he was obviously very embarassed, but he took it like a champ, especially since he'd been such a dick before. Truth is, I don't think it occurred to him that a bunch of girls might not appreciate the fact that he was suddenly nicer just because of their gender. It was like he suddenly was embarassed for his behavior now that he realized his audience was made up of a bunch of people with whom he might at some point want to flirt.
You should be a courteous person to both men and women because it's the right thing to do as a human being. If you say you're going to be nicer to girls, then effectively you're saying you're going to be meaner to men. While I'd prefer you just be nicer, period, I'd at least like to know that you aren't treating the men any shittier than you're treating me. It may immediately benefit me more that you are being nicer to me, but I don't think it's right that you are meaner to someone else, just because they are male. Be nice to me because I deserve it, not because rumor has it there are breasts underneath my clothes.
See, I'm not an angry bitter female. I'm just a pissed off member of humanity.