The term “sexism” refers to:
(a) the idea that each sex has a set of related characteristics that are common to all members of that sex, and
(b) the discrimination that inevitably results from this idea.
“Is it sexist?” can be a tricky question with multiple gray areas that are open to interpretation, but it’s not rocket science.
If it’s a work of fiction, are sexist statements such as “Like all women, she was a poor driver” made not by characters (who are allowed to have stupid opinions, just like real people) but by omniscient third-person narrators or obvious author stand-in devices? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
If it’s an anthology of fiction, are 80% to 100% of the writers represented male? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
If it’s a work of nonfiction, does it rely on sexist statements such as “there are no lesbians in Japanese history” as evidence to support its arguments? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
If it’s an anthology of academic nonfiction, do none of the scholars acknowledge the existence or influence of real (as opposed to fictional) women within the scope of their studies? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
If it’s an encyclopedia or other reference work, are fewer than 20% of the entries about real (as opposed to fictional) women? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
If it’s a biography of a man, does it attribute every negative thing that happened in that man’s life to a woman? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
If it’s a biography of a woman, does the author undermine her personal agency and criticize her decisions as not being appropriate to her gender? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
If it’s a series of interviews, does the interviewer ask a different set of questions based on the sex of the person being interviewed, such as asking women about their families while asking men about their careers? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
If it’s a publisher, is more than 80% of the company’s output the work of male writers and artists? Yes? THEN IT’S SEXIST.
OH NO, SOMEONE CALLED MY WORK SEXIST. WHAT NOW?????
Again, this can get complicated, but you’re not trying to land a rover on Mars here. You have two options:
(1) Flip out and starting delivering tirades against all the nasty mean people who don’t know anything and are ruining your fun with their trite and ignorant libel. You may want to use the term “feminazi,” because someone pointing out that women are people is just like Hitler invading Poland. Obviously.
(2) Take a break and eat a sandwich or something. Once you’ve calmed down, recognize that your accuser may have a point. If you’re an author or a press, meditate on the statistics concerning how much money women spend on books, and take some time to think about how many choices people have in terms of where they get their reading material.
In conclusion, books are for smart people, but sexism is stupid. The end.