The ultimate goal of feminism – or at least of my brand – is for people to receive truly equal treatment in society regardless of gender.
We certainly aren’t there yet: Women are still disenfranchised and victimized based purely on gender, which means that right now there are some areas in which treating a woman exactly as you would a man is not yet appropriate. When a man engages in a public dispute with a woman on social media, for example, he must recognize that the woman is almost certain to face fallout that a man never would in the same situation. This isn’t instinctively obvious to all men, though, and we can’t honestly expect it to be.
Many men are just now discovering that with their privilege comes a particular set of standards for how to treat the people who lack that privilege. Anyone who has demonstrated a genuine effort to shed whatever sexism he might exhibit deserves the benefit of the doubt when he slips up, especially when his slip-up is born of a myth of equality which fails to adjust for the realities of power imbalance.
We need to leave room for well-meaning men to err, learn and grow. There’s a difference between men who are still getting their feminist land legs and those who willfully hurt, harass or dismiss women. If we refuse to let the basically decent men live down their past mistakes then we are working counter to our own purpose. When it’s available, rehabilitation is infinitely more valuable than retribution.