Psych and Prejudice
Are double standards ever okay, even if we see them everyday?
There are countless moments while watching media where double standards run rampant. On any episode of House, there's a crack made by Dr. House about how Cuddy has her "assets" on display and that that is not what a Dean of Medicine should look like, to which she asks if it is because she is a woman in power. On the sports channels, there are debates over whether or not Serena Williams' behavior recently was justified and if a man had done those things, would they have been penalized for it. Our society seems to run on these double standards: remnants of years and years of social protocol that has since been deemed unnecessary, but the feelings of when someone does not adhere to them still stay.
What is a double standard? For those who do not know, a double standard is when you hold one set of people to one rule and another set to another. For example, think of a woman on a train. The train hits a bump and her purse falls, spilling its contents, among which is a condom. What would your first impression of her be? Most people, if they saw the contents of her purse would assume she is promiscuous. Did you? Now imagine a guy at the register of a store. He takes out his wallet, and as he does a condom falls out of his pocket. Would you react as strongly to him as you did to that woman?
The crazy thing about these double standards, is that not only do we hold other people to them, but on occasion, we hold ourselves to them as well. I can not begin to count the times I have been told to dress a certain way for things. Back in high school when I was the captain of my mock trial team, my outfit had to fit within the guidelines and regulations. My skirts could not go above an inch above my knees, my straps had to be at least three fingers wide. Meanwhile, the boys in the club just had to remember to wear a tie and "nice" clothes. That seems to be a common theme. Most of the time, men can just be told to dress nicely, meanwhile women are given specific rules as to what they must wear. Tim may be told to dress professionally, whereas Melanie may be told specifically to wear a dress. It is ridiculous.
So, what can we do about double standards if they are so ingrained in our society? Well, for starters, we can recognize when we are promoting those double standards in our own thinking and try to correct this. Whether it is evaluating things depicted in the media or even just finding ourselves in situations where you happen to hold someone to a double standard, we can evaluate our own thinking. Sometimes, just being conscious of our own thoughts and how we came to them and evaluating them against what we would hold other people to can help us work towards eliminating them. Let's go back to my earlier example of the woman on the train who dropped her purse. Instead of thinking that a woman with a condom in her bag is a whore, we can think about how you would not normally judge a man for the same behavior and stop. If we do this often enough, then eventually the heuristic of a woman with a healthy sex life as being promiscuous will not be as readily available to us and we will stop holding them to a different standard. It is definitely not easy, but it is something worth doing.