Punching up is a term for deploying powerful techniques of criticism and rhetoric to critique and dismantle power structures, rather than to harm people disempowered relative to yourself. It (apparently) comes from comedy, in which the idea is to make fun of powerful people and institutions rather than disempowered people.
As part of this, it may mean that if a conversation has an imbalance of power, the empowered party to it may be denied rhetorical tools available to the other, for example, the disempowered party might be snarkier without it being ethical for the empowered party to snark them right back.
Some examples might be:
- the ethics of flooding the Twitter mentions of a celebrity who said something sexist are different from those of flooding the mentions of someone from a disempowered group who said something snarky about your sexism
- the ethics of doxxing someone who is harassing you are different from those of doxxing a woman whose technical opinions you slightly dislike