In a recent conversation about Parent and Child parking spaces* one participant became offended at the sexism of comments like "they should just walk", or "why do they need 8 seat vehicles to go shopping in". They took that as being sexist to their position as a mother. The person stating it meant it in the manner of any parent, not just a mother. Thus, it was not sexist.

Is there a word or phrase for this kind of perceived but not present sexism/racism?

(* if you're not familiar this is an extra large parking bay near the shops so as allow Parents with Children more room to load/unload said children.)

NB: You may be tempted to disagree with the assumption/statement that this is not sexist. You could very well be correct but this is not the place to argue such so please don't. I was neither participant so please don't make assumptions about my own attitude.

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    Hmm, I'm not sure there will be a word specific to sexism or racism, but there might be a word or apt turn of phrase for misplaced indignation in the general case. – Dan Bron Sep 10 '15 at 12:45
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    I suspect if there is a word it's going to start with 'hyper', e.g. hypersensitive, hypercritical, hyper judgmental. – chasly - supports Monica Sep 10 '15 at 12:46
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    Are you using "sexism/racism" as a stand-in for all offensive attitudes, or are you intentionally limiting your question to those two? Would you want to add snobbism, elitism, paternalism to the list? – TRomano Sep 10 '15 at 13:12
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    Wrt "sexism/racism that isn't present": How about this: racism and sexism are always present. They are institutional, cultural, and historical. They are part of us, and we are part of them. – Drew Sep 10 '15 at 17:37
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    So one person made a boorish statement without qualifying which group they specifically intended to malign, and a listening member of both candidate groups assumed the target group was "women"? – user662852 Sep 10 '15 at 23:01

For me, just based on my interpretation, I would call those people hypercorrect. That just has to do with my perception that most people who are going to respond like that do so out of a desire to be politically correct and offend no one, which may be overly general and wrong, but it's my perception and thus contributes to my answer. It seems a concept that would be better expressed as a phrase, as an aggregation of several smaller concepts.

As to the comment provided on a previous answer ( Is there a word for perceiving sexism/racism that isn't present? ) that certain things are not satisfactory as answers, and should perhaps be in comments, I would like to posit the idea that certain answers, while not directly answering the question asked, still contribute something to the spirit and nature of understanding of the question and the practices of culture and linguistic interaction. Not only that, but there are also people like myself who don't have a high enough reputation to comment, and by the time we do, the moment is gone and we have lost what we wished to contribute.

I will gladly take down this answer if anyone finds any fault with it, but I would really be remiss if I did not post this.

  • It's always best to avoid terms such as above and below in answers. Once an answer receives a couple of upvotes it shifts up, if "votes" is selected; if it is edited the post shifts up if a user/visitor selects "active". One solution is to copy the url by clicking on the time stamp, and pasting it on the answer. But beware, comments can be deleted by mods, if they degenerate into diatribes and discussions. – Mari-Lou A Sep 11 '15 at 6:48
  • Googling "hypercorrect", all I see are references to excessive adherence to grammar rules, or general "fussiness" e.g. around manners and etiquette. I've never heard it used this way. Can you give a link or example of it being used like this? – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 11 '15 at 11:19
  • @user568458 Looking to see if i can find a specific usage that works with this. I was more interpreting based on my method of utilizing speech (hypercorrect in this case indicates being insanely politically correct.) – ozzmotik Sep 11 '15 at 14:59
  • @Mari-Lou thank you for your input, I notice that now. I'm not quite used to the functionality of stack exchange, but I will keep that in mind in the future. – ozzmotik Sep 11 '15 at 15:00

Statements like "they should just walk" or "why do they need 8 seat vehicles to go shopping in" are irrelevant to to the discussion of "Parent/Child parking spaces" and were essentially out of order.

The person objecting may have misread these obnoxious folks -- they may have been simply "anti-yuppie" or some such rather than sexist -- but the person was perfectly well justified in raising an objection of some sort.

As to your question, I can't think of a good word to describe being offended by something offensive but ostensibly for the wrong reason.

But thinking about it some more, this is something along the lines of a logical fallacy, though I can't figure out which one. Ad hominem, perhaps, with the speaker saying "you're a woman and so of course you'd complain about sexist bias. Therefore we can ignore the fact that we have indeed exhibited a bias which could reasonably be interpreted as sexist, since of course you'd complain about such a thing."

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    I won't downvote you, but answers which consist of meta-commentary and conclude with "I can't think of a [good answer to your question]" are ... not good answers to questions. – Dan Bron Sep 10 '15 at 17:50
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    @DanBron - I think explaining why there probably isn't a valid answer to the OP's request is itself a "good answer" to a posted question. – Hot Licks Sep 10 '15 at 18:07
  • Traditionally, such explanations are offered as comments, not answers. Answers are intended to answer questions. – Dan Bron Sep 10 '15 at 18:08
  • @DanBron - There's a limit to the length of comments, and you can't put paragraphs in them. – Hot Licks Sep 10 '15 at 18:09
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    @DanBron - Among other things, comments have a way of mysteriously disappearing. – Hot Licks Sep 11 '15 at 0:17

I am tempted to call it a simple genetic fallacy, a fallacious assumption that the argument is wrong because of the person making it. But that's not all that's going on here. What's going on is that the person arguing for better parking for mothers is reading a dismissive argument, "they should just walk," and perceiving that it must have come from someone that is perhaps opposed to all procreation, or--less sarcastically--someone who just hasn't fully unpacked all the biases that make them dismissive.

C.S. Lewis coined the term bulverism for this implicit assumption that the flaw in the argument, "they should just walk" is that the argument comes from a biased person AND must be wrong because it comes from a biased person. Both assumptions are fallacious on those grounds.

Lewis wrote:

"You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly."

In this case, you'd assume "they should just walk" is a ridiculous, biased thing to say, and then get busy explaining why it's stupid to marginalize the need of mothers to walk shorter distances. The fallacy is skipping right over explaining the need to arguing that the need is obvious and should not be marginalized, and that anyone who marginalizes the need is biased.

Some anonymous genius at Wikipedia contiunues:

Assuming one's opponent is wrong is a formal fallacy of circular reasoning. Undermining one's opponent rather than arguing that he is wrong is a fallacy of relevance or genetic fallacy. Bulverism combines both of these. One not only assumes one's opponents are mistaken but also accuses them [of] believing the mistakes because of their motives or some accidental features of who they are.

In the situation the OP describes, there's bulverism at play, because "they should just walk" is assumed to be risible, and the only criticism of the argument is that it's inherently biased. A better response is to argue the argument comes from someone unaware of the societal benefits engendered by giving parents better parking spaces, whatever those are. You should not argue that it must come from someone who hates breeders.

I happen to be a father of two, and I'd love the occasional better parking spot. But "just" walking is exactly what we do with our children, and I'd find it difficult to explain why any particular parking lot is an exception to all the others. Perhaps full of unvaccinated people and roving bands of dingoes? I don't know.

  • Certain parking lots, combined with a certain kind of toddler or pre-schooler, can be dangerous. – aparente001 Sep 13 '15 at 5:48
  • @aparente001 - all of them... – stevesliva Sep 13 '15 at 6:33

The more succinct the expression, the more context needed.

Acute sensitivity to racial/sexist slights. Racial/gender hyperacuity. Reactivity. Heightened bias sensitivity.

Being thin-skinned, hyper-aware, having a chip on your shoulder, making a mountain out of a molehill, lacking perspective, being unforgiving, being a racial/feminist crusader, bringing race/gender equality into everything, expecting bias to be around every corner, being a bias tinderbox.

It happens when your sensibilities are inflamed, you are too isolated, and you have plenty of other things to be resentful about.

In a sense, your resentment about whatever other things are going on is displaced. So we could say displaced resentment, or racially displaced resentment.

It happens when you are unable to distinguish between what is harmful with what is simply hurtful.

The hypersensitivity ends up being self-destructive. But it can be hard to pull yourself out of it.


I recalled a news story about a high profile case of claimed racist speech at a U.S. university, and the Wikipedia article includes commentary from the time describing those who came down on the speaker with phrases including "language police" and "word cops":

The language police are at work on the campuses of our better schools. The word cops are marching under the banner of political correctness


Statistics are used today to prove things like this. The question might be more along the lines of what is it called when people use statistics in such a way. For example, the courts have allowed distribution statistics on XXXXX (race, religion, sex ...) to prove discrimination.

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    Can we please offer actual answers to the question? As in suggest specific words which convey this meaning? All this meta-commentary should be in comments, not answers. – Dan Bron Sep 10 '15 at 21:03

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