Coming to you from a proud feminist (and lets get this straight once and for all. A feminist is not a bra-burning, man hating, "femi-nazi" as some like to call them. On the contrary, a real feminist is someone who loves both women and men, and works towards/promotes/wishes equal rights for both), here is my list of several concerning double standards that still permeate our society with regards to how women and men are perceived, why each of these are a problem, as well as incorrect.
To clarify a quick side note first though, to me, being a feminist means believing that men and women should be treated with equal rights, be afforded the same opportunities, and judged with the same standards for behavior and personal potential. Not for women to continue being seen as less than men. Nor does it mean hating men, claiming they are all "pigs" or "awful" (as Ive heard some women who claim to be feminist say), nor does it mean disparaging men in our working towards and wishing to be treated equally. Thats taking it to the other end of the extreme. Its thinking about and treating men in the very ways which we ourselves are upset about being treated.
Instead, being a feminist means wanting to be regarded and treated with the same rights, respect, and opportunity that men are afforded. Thats it. Wanting to be seen as of equal worth to men. As though we have just as much to offer and bring to the table as they do, because we do and because that is the truth. Men and women are both just as intelligent, worthwhile, worthy of respect, capable, and awesome as one another.
With all of that said, here's the list of several sadly ever pervasive double standards and grossly unbalanced ways of thinking that still permeate our culture, as well as unfair and absurd expectations/judgements/perceptions of women in our society today (as compared with men). And why these are so damaging.
1. Hes a Stud, Shes a Slut. Most, if not all women, have either been called a slut at some point in their life, or called another woman said offensive word. Women are called sluts when they develop faster than others in school. When they kiss a boy at a party. When they wear something slightly revealing. "Slut" has become a word tossed around like popcorn at a movie theatre. Commonplace (which is sad and getting ridiculous), casual, thrown about willy nilly whenever a ready-made insult is needed on the fly to put down a woman.
Men though, cannot be sluts. Sure, occasionally someone will call a man a "dog" or a "pervert," but they are not judged even close to how women are with regards to their sexuality. And if they are, generally its in a positive way. Men who have a lot of sexual partners are studs, Casanovas, pimps (lets not even get into how disgusting this slang word is. So whats become a compliment to men who bed lots of women actually means a man who SELLS women, Wow), and players. There isnt even a word, let alone a concept, to signify a male slut.
The word "slut" is about controlling women through shame and humiliation. Womens bodies, in our culture, are still ever being vied over for control. Whether its rape, reproductive control over the right to choose what we with our own bodies, violence against women, or even gross things like purity balls (a totally creepy prom-like gala where fathers take their daughters to a fancy dance where they promise their virginity to their daddy. Disgusting on more than one level, and all about giving over control of their bodies, again, to a man).
Aside from the incredibly offensive and awful double standard behind this, lets go with logic. Why is a woman less of a person, or "dirty," or someone deserving of shame and disrespect, because she has sex? Why is it that men do not receive the same judgements? Why are they exempt from such, simply by means of having a penis? This is not just inaccurate, its completely wrong, unfair, illogical, and misdirected.
2. He can be a Beast, while she must be a Beauty. Unrealistic beauty standards have become so pervasive and normal throughout our culture, we hardly look twice any longer, other than to long for looking like such. All of these cookie cutter, near duplicate media messages touting almost the same images of what women should look like: thin, blonde (usually), big boobs, curvy hips, perfect hair, the whole package.
Sure, nowadays men have more pressure to be ever muscled and hot themselves, there is more emphasis of importance being place on appearance in general both for men and women (a misdirected priority and overly focused on life aspect for sure), but women get this backlash a whole lot worse and have for ages.
He can let himself go, while she must remain beautiful. Its ok if he becomes a beast because "hes a man" so thats almost expected. However, if she doesnt remain ravishing, most certainly she will either by dumped or "traded in" someday for someone younger and prettier. The majority of her worth and offering in a relationship, being laden in her looks.
Even further, its not enough to be emaciated, tan, shaved, toned to the max, and generally perfect. There are even things like the new "labiaplasty" trend. For those not in the know, this is vaginal rejuvenation surgery. One of the fastest growing plastic surgeries out there, despite it being dangerous, painful, and potentially permanently damaging to your ability to have pleasurable sex.
Now, even our body parts unseen must be beautiful. AND at the cost of our own pleasure. And why? For the same reason that all the other parts of us must be flawless: for the pleasure of men, of course. Women are so desperate to be "perfect" and beautiful that they are even paying thousands of dollars to feel so. Literally buying body parts (whether bigger breasts, a new nose, or a different vagina) to make themselves so. What happened to being born with how you look and thats just who you are? And then making peace with such and going through life focusing on and in pursuit of other, more important goals and ambitions? Now, our pursuit of beauty and physical perfection has become, for many, a central focus and near obsession. What a waste of the limited time we have here on earth.
A little (hopeful) inspiration against such thinking: Do not diet. Its a waste of your time, energy, and hopes. Its a $31 billion industry that fails 95% of the time. Further, dont spend money on products made by companies that make you feel inadequate and ugly. Instead, redefine your notion (which is probably a narrow one, and spoon fed to most of us at that, by our cultures one dimensional view of what it means to be attractive) of beauty to include your own wellness- including joy, fulfillment, resilience, and self love. As well as know and believe that beauty can look like so many different things. Varying heights, different types of hair, numerous skin colors, differing body types, etc.
The media does not dictate what is beautiful, though it certainly tries to force feed us the same narrow images over and over again, excluding the other 93% of the population who doesnt look like such. Beauty is health and a degree of self care/mindful attendance to ones being, and its also, very importantly, joy...luminosity…love...generosity...thoughtfulness...caring...etc.
Additionally, check out movies and TV these days which further promote and perpetuate this frustrating and ridiculous double standard: Marge/Homer on the Simpsons. Tony/Carmella on the Sopranos (or really, any couple in that show. All the men, overweight and ugly. While the women are generally decorative, ever glamed up ornaments for the mens viewing pleasure, as well as stand-ins for the mens sexual pleasure whenever they so desire). The movie "Knocked Up," hes an ugly, aimless slacker while she is a bombshell, ambitious woman. The list can go on and on and on.
This constributes to men having delusional expectations about how women should look. That they can just sit back, and the universe is likely to and should deliver them a supermodel. Because hey, look at TV and movies, apparently theyre everywhere and this is how women really should and can look. Its gotten to a point where, for many men, being with a woman isnt so much looking for a partner but more a status symbol who looks good on their arm. For many, this has taken priority over someone who is, say, intelligent, kind, funny, driven, you name it (basically, someone to whom you are attracted but who just as importantly has compelling and great character).
3. He is the Bad-Ass Bachelor, while Shes a Spinster/Old Maid/Lonely. Men who remain ever single are touted as the coolest, with their own place and "freedom," the ultimate openness in their lives to do "whatever they want." They're seen as mysterious, confident, independent, and more often than not, envied.
Single women, basically any women not paired up over the age of 30, are old maids, spinsters, lonely, unfulfilled, resigned. They are desparate to be either a mom or a bride and just couldnt find either one. There is no such thing as a single, happy woman. Single women are all just wives in training, or crazy cat ladies in the making. They are all "waiting" to "find someone" and "then they will finally be happy."
There is something about unmarried women that our culture does not like and seems to feel threatened by. Thats why the media is constantly telling us how miserable single women are. Fun fact: the interesting and ironic truth is that women may actually be better off not getting married. Studies show that while married men tend to score higher than single men on measures of mental health like depression, as well as generally having physically healthier habits, the same is often not the case for women.
Dont get me wrong, I am not against marriage. Not even close. Getting married for the right reasons can, and often is, a very positive thing. I am against this obnoxious, unfair, and totally inaccurate perception with regards to women who chose to remain single which men are not faced with.
4. Hes a Politician, Shes a Fashion Plate. The man in power is recognized for what he says, how he acts, what hes like as a person. The woman on his arm? Generally, its all about reporting what she wears, where she brunches, who does her hair. All about how she looks, as well as shallow, unimportant, vapid "facts" about her lifestyle. Little to nothing about who she is as a person, and what she brings to the table intellectually or action-wise as a partner.
5. Hes Distinguished. Shes Old/Used Up. As men age, they are often give labels like "distinguished," "silver fox," or "gentlemanly." Women who age? Done for. Deemed generally unfuckable, unloveable, "used up," and ultimately useless.
Take a look at any womens magazine. Its littered with advertisements and images of wrinkle creams, youth serums, Botox ever increasing as the norm. We are so terrified of aging that we pay huge sums of money to inject poisons into our bodies, and even purchase whole body parts to replace the aged ones, to feel better about ourselves.
The message is clear. For women, old or old-looking is bad. Youth is ideal and is the only way to be attractive. All while men can get as old and/or as fat as they want with no one saying a word against such. Seems pretty messed up that someone like Hugh Hefner (one of the slimes of the earth, might I add) has like nine young "girlfriends" and yet, Helen Mirren is considered "over the hill." Huh.
6. He is Superdad, while she is Shittymom. Moms can never do enough. They can never be too selfless, devoted, or giving. Can never go to enough soccer games or school plays. They can never actually obtain being a perfect mom, even as they chase it via all the pressure of our culture to do so, as its what society demands of them.
But if dads so much as attend a baseball game or read their child a bedtime story, they are proclaimed father of the year. This is the absurd and angering parenting double standard. Traditional norms about who should be the primary caregiver are nothing new (moms), but what is new is that moms must be "perfect." Thus, the setting up of impossible-to-meet standards for mothers.
Further, the insistence that no woman is truly complete or fulfilled unless she has children, that women remain the best primary caretakers of children, and that to be a remotely decent mother, a woman has to devote her entire physical, psychological, emotional, and intellectual wellbeing 27/7 to her children, all of these are angering, untrue, and damaging perceptions about what it means to be a woman in connection with potential motherhood (or not).
The purpose of these impossible standards is such that the media, public, or even your own family can beat up on women constantly for not living up to this new standard of perfection. If moms work outside the home, they are neglecting their kids. If they stay at home though, theyre "lazy." They should breastfeed, but not for too long, and for gods sake, not in public. They should be straight. Most of all, they should be married. Dads on the other hand, if they manage to show up and financially provide, theyre automatically a good dad. Dads who leave work early to catch their kids school play or baseball game get props for being "so involved" in their kids life. A mom who does this is called a slacker.
7. Hes Gay, while shes the Fantasy. When it comes to being homosexual, men are just gay, while women who are gay are "hot" and a "male fantasy." This cheapens and dismisses a love relationship between two women, making it into being a source of pleasure for men. Instead of being about them and their relationship, its about men "enjoying the show."
8. Hes Himself, shes Mrs. Himself. Why the automatic assumption of changing her name to his on marrying. The automatic shedding of a huge part of her identity, all while he gets to keep his, no discussion. The reason most women elect to do this? Tradition. Meh, seems lame to me.
Why shed such a huge part of who you are, just because out culture dictates that "this is what you do?" Why doesnt the man change his name? Or, the couple hyphenate both their names together? Or, the couple come up with a hybrid of both their names? Why must the women still, ever defer to the man?
If a woman truly wants to change her name to his (maybe she doesnt like her own last name, or prefers his), this is totally all good. If, on considering such and thinking about it, this is what feels most and truly right for her, than she should go for it. But a woman should not do this just because "thats what do you."
9. Hes "Pussywhipped," while shes a "Good girlfriend." Why is it when a guy does things that are nice or considerate for the girl with which he is involved, hes called "pussy whipped." But the same behavior is just expected as the norm from women in a relationship?
We are supposed to care (a lot) about what men think of us. Just take a look at the cover of any womens magazine: See what he thinks of your breasts. Does he really love you? When will he pop the question? How to please him. When it comes to (straight) love, men are "whipped" and women are just...women. This is how we already are "naturally" in romantic relationships.
Further, this has negative implications on men, and how they feel they should be in relationships. Men are actively taught that if they care at all what women think of them, or if they are kind, gentle and attentive to a woman they love, they're some sort of softy, weak, less masculine, or my least favorite word ever, a "pussy." That just by being a decent, kind guy, that by caring about and loving someone, they are "whipped." Very odd way of putting it. This just reinforces gender norms, that men are supposed to be "tough" and not give a shit, while women should care and bend over backwards a lot.
All this serves in doing is putting up emotional barriers between men and women. It encourages men behaving callously or emotionally disconnected from the person they love. It puts men down for loving and caring about someone. What kind of a messed up world is this that we live in? Where loving and caring about someone is "weak," "lame," something to be made fun of.
To conclude all of the above, which I realize is a lot, these double standards as well as many more, are lines of thinking that still exist and in abundance, throughout our culture today. They are damaging to men and women both. Serving to shame women, as well as men. Disconnect us from one another. Encourage men to treat women badly, as well as to view them as less than.
Just because our culture thinks, encourages, or does a certain thing, does not make it right, good, or the best thing/way.
Challenge yourself in thinking more this way.
Plenty of things our culture perpetuates, people accept without much thought or consideration, to their own detriment as well as those around them. In life, we need to be more proactive and forward thinking, more analytical and informed, braver and outspoken. To question in depth whether or not certain lines of thinking, as well as particular ways of acting and behaving which our culture may also encourage, are hurting/preventing or actually helping us to lead our best lives.
Note: Much of the above material with regards to specific examples for the double standards was gotten from the book "Hes a Stud, Shes a Slut" by Jessica Valenti. A great read which I highly recommend. In her book, she goes over 49 of these damaging double standards.