I remember the first time I was ever called bossy.
My male teacher said it in front of the other kids in my fifth-grade classroom. Apparently, I spoke too much in the group discussion. I remember my peers laughing at my teacher’s statement. I remember immediately turning red hot in embarrassment.
Needless to say, I didn’t raise my hand for the rest of the day.
As a woman, countless examples of double standards have personally affected me. These are experiences I hold to my core. I do not let them define me — instead, I build upon them to make me stronger.
“Practice what you preach.”
This goes for men and women on both sides of the exchange. Why is it that women can act one way, but when a man acts that same way, he is judged? The same goes for women when the roles are reversed. Why do we hold men and women to different standards?
Everyone is affected by double standards, but there still seems to be a subconscious expectation we hold for the opposite gender. We might even be guilty of holding negative expectations for our own gender, even though we know it is hurtful and wrong.
Whether we realize it or not, we feed the notion of double standards when we hold them against our peers. We do this even when we know it’s wrong. We do this even when we know it hurts.
For those of you internalizing my previous statement as an attack — please read on and realize that you’re not solely responsible. This is an issue of social circles and societal rigidity.
I have evidence that both men and women feel they have societal pressures weighing on their shoulders.
Everyone has their own tolerances and resistances to double standards, but they still weigh heavily upon daily actions, regardless of our internal strength.
This is about everyone — not any lone gender or group. So let’s put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
I sent a survey around campus to gain a wider perspective of the double standards that men and women face. Participants were asked about the definition of double standards, and responded with examples men and women face in society.
I kept the survey anonymous in hopes of getting more concrete examples. It seems like the majority of survey takers were open and honest with their thoughts and opinions.
Excluding the one participant who identified as a “cow” (thank you, stranger!), approximately 65 percent of participants were female and 34 percent were male, out of 92 total responses. Bolded titles are survey questions. Italics are themes shared with participants responses. “Quoted material” is taken from specific examples.
What is a double standard men face in today’s society?
Men are not able to show emotion in the same way women do.
This was the most common theme, with 52 participants giving similar responses. Society expects men to mute their emotions in order to appear “hypermasculine.”
Men “shouldn’t cry” or “can’t show the same degree of sensitivity.” There is an “unspoken expectation to be ‘manly’ and ‘alpha.’” Men are expected to “act tougher than they might be.”
Generally, men are pressured to uphold a certain standard of “masculinity,” or else they are perceived as weak.
This also ties into the theme, “Men who act feminine are considered homosexual, even though they may be more in touch with the feminine side of life.”
Men who are sexually assaulted are not taken as seriously as women.
“It seems often times men are guilty until proven innocent. In addition, in situations where a girl does not ask for consent or the guy is too drunk to give consent, guys are taught to laugh it off and not take it seriously even though it is technically rape.”
“If a situation occurs, more often than not, the male is immediately blamed, causing less and less male victims to speak up about their experiences.”
“Our society doesn’t believe that women can sexually abuse boys. If a boy and a girl get drunk and have sex, only one can be accused of rape. Women can sexually harass men without consequence.”
Men are expected to be the breadwinners and the big spenders in the relationship.
Men are expected to pay “for everything on dates despite often times (having) similar incomes.”
They are “expected to pay for costs for girls: alcohol, food, risk, etc. and also expected to treat them equally. The standard of treating everyone equally is good, the standard for risking and paying for everything is not.”
It is perceived that “men aren’t innate caretakers, so men who stay home to care of their families are viewed as lazy or unsuccessful.”
What is a double standard women face in today’s society?
Women who are proud of their sexuality are deemed promiscuous and viewed in a negative light.
This was the most common theme to the question, with 48 participants giving similar responses. The stigma that women are viewed negatively for having multiple sexual partners or simply being open with their sexuality is prevalent in today’s society.
“Literally our lives are double standards. If we’re not sexually active, we’re prudes or teases. If we are, we’re sluts.” Women get “a bad reputation for sleeping with a lot of people, when guys would be praised for it.”
“When you think ‘walk of shame,’ you more often than not will picture a girl returning home, not a guy.’”
This theme ties into another common double standard:
Women are expected to dress a certain way — hot, but not too hot.
“Women can’t be sexually empowered without being a slut. The way you dress implies your desires or is always for the purpose of impressing men.”
“Women need to look ‘hot’ when they go out, but then people argue their clothes are provocative.” They “have to dress sexy but also proper, and be a lady but also be fun. They have to be skinny, but not too skinny. Have some meat, but not be too fat.”
“We women love dressing the way we want to dress, but it can be perceived as sexual or ‘slutty.’ That’s just not fair. We wear skirts above the knee. Men wear shorts above the knee. What’s the difference?”
Women who are ambitious or in a position of power are “bossy” or “aggressive.”
“When a woman is in a position of power and gives direction, she becomes ‘bossy’ or ‘bitchy.’”
“Men being aggressive means they’re ‘ambitious’ but women being aggressive means they’re ‘shrill’ or ‘bossy.’”
According to survey respondents, a woman who holds a position of power may be considered “nasty” or “unnecessarily cutthroat.”
These lists barely scratch the surface of the societal pressures men and women face. It is very important to be aware of the effect our actions have on others. If you are interested in learning about the other results, feel free to reach out to me, and I’d be happy to discuss them with you.
Karli Wachtel, ’18, is a columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].