Double standards are standards and principles that are applied to similar things in a differing manner, typically without proper justification.
For example, if a man can get away with behaving in a way that women cannot, then we have a gender-based double standard.
Given that double standards have high consequences, it’s important to recognize and challenge them (see also: hypocrisy examples).
Below are 15 different ways and scenarios where double standards have infiltrated social practices.
Examples Of Double Standards
- Fathers vs Mothers: Fathers are praised for cooking dinner every now and then, while mothers are expected to do it all the time, without any praise.
- Body Image: Women’s body image tends to be scrutinized far more than men’s.
- Men’s vs Women’s Clothing: A male Australian television presenter wore the same suit every day for 12 months and no one noticed. He did it to highlight how men’s outfits are less scrutinized than women’s.
- Public Holidays: Christians get paid days off for their holidays (e.g. Christmas) while people of other religions don’t get the same courtesy.
- Men who Cry: Men are not allowed to cry or else the appear weak, while a crying woman is more accepted.
- Gendered Complaints: A woman who complains is considered ‘shrill’, while a man who complains is taken seriously.
- Assertive Women: Assertive women are seen as ‘bossy’ while assertiveness for men is often seen as a positive leadership trait.
- Journalism: A journalist who is tough on a politician they don’t like, but provides softball questions to politicians they do like.
- Gendered Professions: A man who wants to be a nurse is ridiculed while a woman who wants to be a nurse is encouraged (and vice versa for other professions).
- Racial Profiling: Police racial profiling leads to the assumption that black men are up to no good while white people are giving the presumption of innocence.
- Attractive Clothing: A normatively attractive woman may get away with wearing a miniskirt, while women who are heavier may be not.
- Sons vs Daughters: A father who allows his 16 year old son to stay out until midnight but doesn’t let his daughter go out past 10pm.
- Female Broadcasters: A broadcasting corporation that fires the female on-air anchor when she turns 40, but keeps the male until retirement.
- Elites Get Away with It: A politician who conscripts working-class men to go to battle, but makes exceptions for the sons of the elites.
- Pay Gap: A company that pays some workers more for the same amount of work.
- The Bad Parent: Parents who tell their children not to do something, then they do it themselves.
Double standards within the parenting arena are plentiful. Fathers are praised for doing things that are simply expected of mothers!
In hetero partnerships, women are more likely to be seen as the caregiver and men as the breadwinner. These roles have been cemented throughout history and established standards for households.
If women work outside the home while their children are growing up, they are sometimes seen as unfit mothers and potentially as abandoning their “duties.”
Men, on the other hand, tend to be praised automatically for any slight effort or involvement with their kids as an aside to their full-time job.
In recent years, the “dad bod” physique has been widely accepted and celebrated as an attractive body type for men.
The dad bod refers to a man is slightly overweight and not that muscular, or what is to be expected from a middle-aged man, (but applied to men of all age groups.)
Conversely, women do not typically receive the same latitude with their body and physique. Instead, they are encouraged and expected to stay slim at all stages and ages of life, including right after giving birth.
Failing to keep the standard of a preferred body image, women are at risk of facing criticisms that can have harmful effects and can be detrimental to mental health.
Race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender are just some of the unjustifiable grounds for double standards to exist and be executed in the workplace.
Whether it be opportunities for promotion or inclusion in company culture, employees have long been treated differently based on their identifying qualities as it relates to similar things.
For example, Christian-based holidays have been paid time-off for employees, while other religious celebrations are ignored and not afforded the same time off.
Although they are both religious holidays, they are perceived and treated with different levels of importance.
Mental health issues affect all types of people from all walks of life.
Although it is a universal experience, how we express our emotions during mental health issues is judged differently depending on who is experiencing it. Often perpetuated in movies, the act of crying, for instance, can be perceived differently between men and women.
While women who openly cry and express their emotions may be wrongfully called “emotional” or “crazy”, it is still socially acceptable for them to cry and express emotions.
In comparison, men who show emotion, especially through crying, are seen as weak and not acting “like a man” in the way society expects them to.
Female bosses have a much harder time than male bosses in the workplace.
While men are often praised for being assertive and strong when making decisions, women who approach decision-making in the same way are perceived as “bossy” and “difficult.”
Although both leaders may strive to lead the company, women tend to be held back in their career progress based on these gender stereotypes and hurdles they face that their male counterparts do not.
Media, specifically the news, shares information from a particular perspective based on the motivations or often the political ideologies it identifies with. This can result in double standards in news reporting.
For example, protests and social movements are communicated differently depending on who is directly involved with them. That is, protests tend to be framed as rallies instead of riots if the news organization supports the protesters’ point of view.
Similar events, when initiated by those identifying with the opposite position, are condemned as radical and problematic, although their purpose is the same: to voice opinions and concerns about government.
In a seemingly never-ending debate, social norms have positioned those identifying as men and those identifying as women in disparate positions when it comes to romantic intimacy.
Men, for instance, are accepted and encouraged to have multiple partners. Women, on the other hand, are stigmatized and shamed for having a history of multiple intimate partners, and in some cases judged for expressing a desire to have intimate relationships.
Although both men and women may be intimate with the same number of people, men are often congratulated while women are degraded for doing the same act: a double standard in plain sight.
Historically, there were socially agreed-upon careers paths for different genders to take on. A man who wants to be a nurse may be ridiculed while a woman who wants to be a nurse may be lauded.
When these paths are disrupted, people are often scrutinized or made fun of for stepping into a lane that “shouldn’t be theirs.”
Take for example the movie, Meet the Parents, Ben Stiller is identified as a nurse, a traditionally female-held job, and throughout the trilogy is belittled and made to appear as “weak” or “less than” other men with more masculine perceived jobs.
Similarly, women that work in trades are often discounted as not being strong enough.
Race and culture are arguably the most pervasive double standards. It has not been uncommon throughout history to hold one race up to one standard and another to a completely different standard.
We have seen this between white colonialists and Indigenous people. Typically, white people in positions of power have held the standard of “good” and “authority,” while those in marginalized groups have been met with standards that associate them as problematic to society.
10. Pop Culture
The music industry is an instructive place to find double standards at work.
Oftentimes, female rappers and male rappers are perceived and responded to differently based on their choice of lyrics.
While they may both utilize innuendos or make reference to certain offhand subjects, female rappers are often judged more harshly and receive backlash for including this type of content in their music, while music of the same nature by their male counterparts is accepted, and to a degree, celebrated.
The legal system, while intentioned to apply universal law to all, often contains double standards.
Although all parties should stand equal before the law, it is very common to see judges who do not apply the same standards to all people.
As judges are humans, there is a chance that they may be given different sentencing based on different judge’s subjective biases, or favoritism that is based purely on socioeconomics, ethnicity, gender, or religion.
Take, for example, the US supreme court, which (depending on the court’s makeup) will often interpret law in ways that favors one political leaning over another.
The same goes for jury trials in court because of implicit or subconscious biases: see the movie 12 Angry Men, to get a better sense of prejudicial attitudes in court trials.
Double standards are also at work in the realm of dating and levels of attraction.
Society accepts people in certain forms but uses different levels of judgment for others in a similar situation. For instance, it is only okay for a man to flirt with someone if he fits the image of what society deems as attractive.
If an un-attractive man hits on someone, it is seen as “creepy” or “unwanted.”
Similarly, revealing clothes on a woman who is an ideal beauty type is accepted, but a woman who is heavier in weight wearing the same thing is perceived as unattractive.
Movies and video games are both popular forms of entertainment that many enjoy around the world.
Aside from the positive qualities of enjoyment, it’s easy to find double standards at play without searching too far.
For instance, in the Marvel universe, a brand that spans across film, and video games, as well as its original home in comic books, women and men are presented with different standards of portrayal although they are both superheroes.
For instance, female superheroes are supposed to be scantily clad, while their male counterparts are more likely to be fully clothed and in less revealing outfits.
Even the act of aging is not immune to the judgments of double standards in our society.
Growing older is, in general, celebrated through various kinds of milestones and wisdom that is earned in older years.
Unfortunately, the effects of aging are not perceived equally; especially as it relates to the genders.
That is, age acts as an instrument of oppression: it enhances a man’s overall image but conversely older women are seen as outdated.
We don’t have to look any farther than beauty ideals to see this at work: older men are “silver foxes” but older women with silver hair are dismissed.
15. Social Interactions
People form bonds and relationships through communication. We express, listen, speak, and open our minds to others in an effort to form meaningful relationships.
Unfortunately, the way we choose to speak to one another is not always judged equally by society.
For instance, if a group of men are communicating in a vulgar or explicit manner it is seen as normal, but if a group of women were doing the same thing it would be frowned upon and perceived as “un-ladylike.”
Similarly, gossiping is usually perceived as more of a woman’s form of communication, but men who share information about others is informative.
In order for meaningful and authentic change to happen, we must recognize the double standards that we participate in whether consciously or unconciously.
It is not just to treat someone different in similar situations based on preconceived notions about them. If you find yourself in a moment of judgement against someone, stop and reflect on if that judgement is based on factual evidence or if you may be treating someone unfairly based on their differences.