The curse of being a feminist and having a deep understanding of misogyny is the recognition that it is everywhere and underlines within many aspects of life. You notice it in the way people speak, the words they chose, their reactions, their actions, the list goes on. One particular notion of misogyny that I’ve been noticing recently are the double standards for men and women. And I know that many people can name a few off the top of their head such as women being assertive is seen as ‘bitchy’ and having more sexual partners is shamed for women but rewarded for men. But I want to dive a little bit deeper into my own experiences with double standards and also my own discoveries.
For instance, for a very long time, my boyfriend’s shower bath drain was clogged resulting in the water piling up whenever he or I would take a shower. It got to the point where the contents in the drain began to rise and make the bathtub filthy. It made me upset that not only did he let this go on for so long (even after several requests from me asking him to fix it) but that I feel as if that would never fly by if this were happening at my house. Not that my boyfriend himself would necessarily judge me, but that in general as a woman I would be judged. Women are given the notion that they must be clean in all aspects. They must be shaven, smell good, have neat hair, have clean un-wrinkled clothes or they are slobs. I felt a sense of unfairness knowing that if my bathroom was in the same state as his I would be seen much differently. Whereas men get a ‘normalcy pass’ for being uncleanly.
Obviously, this wasn’t a super huge deal to me, but it made me realize that this same concept applied to a lot of other aspects. His house has always had a lot of dishes in the sink, relatively dirty counters, and sometimes overflowing trash. And honestly, that is seen completely normal for an apartment shared with 4 college men. And in no way am I judging them whatsoever. I always help clean whenever I’m there. And it’s not dirty 24/7 but I would say most of the time it is. There’s no problem being a little messy, the problem is that it’s only a problem if you’re a woman. Women are expected to be clean. It’s not ‘normal’ if they are not clean. Even for college-aged women are seen as having cute, organized, and aesthetically-pleasing apartments. Every women’s apartment I’ve been to has been really nice and clean. Every men’s apartment I’ve been to is the complete opposite.
So why is this? What I believe is that women have this invisible pressure to be neat in order to avoid judgment. While men lack this pressure because there is normalcy in being unclean. And you know what? It is completely normal to not always be clean and organized and have no dishes in the sink. The misogyny here is that women are expected to go above and beyond normal to fit the frame in which they believe they are supposed to be seen. Otherwise, they will receive judgment. The root of so many jokes that men make about women consists of women being too hairy, women smelling bad/their genitalia smelling bad, women being slobs, etc. Cleanliness to equated attractiveness. For women, there is an underlying fear of feeling unattractive or being seen as unattractive by not being perfectly clean.
I believe another possible root of this problem is that most men growing up are not expected to clean. The societal pressure for women to be clean is prominent in most households as most mothers will clean after their children and husband. This can either lead to the mother always cleaning after her male child, or having her female child assist in cleaning while the male child does not. I have heard so many stories that women have told me or that I’ve seen online of how they would always have to clean while their brother(s) would play. So not only are men from a young age not expected to clean, they are not even taught how to. I can not even begin to explain the organizational differences I see between men and women daily.
I think it’s important for everyone to recognize and understand double standards are very prominent in our society, even in ways that aren’t always explicit. Recognition of double standards can help to break the cycle of unfairness. Of course, there are double standards that negatively impact men that also deserve to be looked into. I hope my post allows some people to think in different ways about how men and women are treated differently. I hope my post also helps people understand that double standards are more prominent than you think and that they can be deeply embedded in everyday things we may consider to be ‘normal.’