Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The problem with the double standard is this: that it exists, period.

My mother constantly lectures me on the fact that she believes I’m not “ladylike” enough and is afraid I’ll repel men with my “manly” attitude. Double standard, much? I admittedly am somewhat of an abrasive person – while I love wearing heels, jewelry, and have an unhealthy penchant for dresses (especially ones with pockets – love!), my attitude rings different from my preference for a more arguably “feminine” attire. I curse like a sailor at times, I am loud, I am too verbose for my own good at times, and often the things I say come out completely and entirely unfiltered, which has caused problems for me in the past, especially in a more professional setting. This somewhat aggressive behavior of mine also reminds me of an instance where I’d gotten into a rather frustrating fight with my younger brother – it escalated to the point of me shoving him in the chest, and him letting me throw a few light punches at his shoulders before he stormed out of the room.

I learned later on that my brother was fairly distraught about the fact that our fight had gotten physical. While he had no desire to actually place a hand on me, he was upset about the fact that I “took advantage” of the situation, because I was a female and it was viewed as more socially acceptable for me to hit him rather than vice versa. I would never intentionally hurt anyone in my family, and while I could justify my actions and chalk them up to just something that occurred in the heat of the moment, I had to think long and hard about this incident and ask myself if I maybe I was still in the wrong? In that same vein, it was acceptable of me to throw a fit and to react the way I did – a little dramatically and for the purposes of being cathartic, but if my brother were to do so, my parents would have probably just told him to “man up” and to not be a baby.

The list runs miles long for each gender if we want to trade stories and experiences where one respective group has felt like they were being held to a double standard. To build off Bijorn Turock’s earlier post introducing the issue of the double standards the media portrays, I’d like to address and probe further into the deep-seated issues that come from following double standards.

I’m assuming that on the feminist side of the fight, a constant goal of ours is to squelch whatever we are held victim of: all the seemingly negative double standards that are out there – the discussion we had a few class sessions ago about falling into certain gender roles in a heterosexual marriage comes to mind. Another to consider is the age-old notion of only the female being promiscuous and “slutty” if she engages in sex too often, while a male would more likely be praised by other his male colleagues. Others that we’ve encountered and discussed in the class range from issues like the fact that a woman is expected to be thin as a standard of beauty while men not so much, the fact that women are expected to know less about topics of politics, law, and business than men, and the fact that women are restricted from combat engagement, while men would be serving their country in doing so.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, and recently sparked by remembering that specific fight with my brother - is it right for us to claim oppression from certain double standards, while honing others as okay, just because they happen to instill privilege in us while possibly oppressing others? I don’t remotely intend to claim that we are not deserving of privilege – such as doors being opened for us and to be physically abused (or, well, at all, of course), but it is rather contradictory, purely based on principle at least, to not acknowledge that men face similar issues of being held to a different set of standards when it comes to certain things. Like my brother in this instance in feeling somewhat victimized as I immaturely tried to attack him physically. Another issue men face that women are unfamiliar with is feeling emasculated just because of their more obvious preference for things as basic and simple as hygiene.

I’m not making the statement that men fall victim to the double standard, as well, I am making the statement that the double standard is problematic, period. Despite being unable to come to terms with whether or not I’m completely comfortable with preferential treatment and specific privilege as a female, I am very much aware and affected by the wonderful men in my life and in order to stray away from the very stereotypical “man-hating” view that comes with the feminist stereotype, I think a better focus would be, simply put: equality.


N.P. said...

Much of my comment to your post is unfortunately going to be anecdotal, but I found it so interesting because of the numerous double standards that seem to exist in my life - and I really connected with your piece.

First, while participating recently in the moot court competition, I have encountered 2 male judges who found me to be aggressive. Now, my fury at getting this appraisal rests on two things. If I was a man, would I be called aggressive, or just a good advocate? And also, isn't interesting that a man told me I was aggressive - not the other two female judges who were sitting as well - in fact they gave me fairly good responses. Double standard? I think so.

Second, as young girl, I was fairly tall for my age and in fact if I put heels on I am pretty much taller than most men. I distinctly remember being told on multiple occasions that if I didn't stop growing taller (like it was my choice?) I wouldn't get a man. Well, if a man is really tall isn't that attractive? Why could that not be attractive for me - well because for these people it was too manly, and one comment specifically reflected on the fact that it made me look too intimidating. Double standard? Well, I think so.

So I echo your quote: "the problem with the double standard is that it exists."

Rebecca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca said...

So many of the posts over the last several weeks have been intertwined, like threads of the same sweater. When one thread comes a little loose and is exposed and we tug at it, we begin to see the form of the sweater unravel.

In very wonderful ways, we have been unraveling the feminist legal theory sweater all semester. I feel like I am a much better feminist for it and perhaps will be a much better lawyer for it, as well.

Here is a statement I found by Leslie McIntyre that hits the double standard nail on the head for me:

"Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist, if at the same time, she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good looking, good tempered, well groomed and unaggressive."

gtg263r said...

I enjoyed seeing the complexity of this blog post develop as I continued to read through its entirety. I especially appreciated how Betty opened up the discussion of double standards and acknowledged that they also affect men.

Betty has already mentioned a few double standards that affect men, but I wanted to just name a few more off the top of my head: men are expected to not express emotion and/or not let their emotions govern their decisions; men are held to standards of physical strength and sexual prowess; men are often judged by financial security or statuses of power.

This was a particularly inspiring blog post in its rallying call to end double standards, period.