A double standard is a rule, expectation or principle that applies differently and usually more strongly to one person or group of people or circumstances than to another.
Here are some examples:
A woman can approach a man in a mall, reach out to grope him and tell him he’s sexy and this is considered acceptable. A man does the same thing to a woman in a mall and this is considered sexual abuse.
A woman has a different set of physical requirements on a fitness test than a man has on the very same fitness test.
A person cuts you off and you think to yourself “what an idiot”. You cut someone off and you think to yourself “he was in my blind spot.” Yes, for those of you who just caught it, hypocrisy is often an indicator that a double standard exists.
A leader can make unilateral decisions for a group of people, another member of the group cannot.
An unmarried woman has rights to her child. An unwed father does not.
A man expects his wife to be there for him when he is sick and stop doing whatever she is doing to support him. When she is sick and needs him to support here, he will not stop whatever he is dong and be there for her.
A woman has a very close friend who is a guy. Occasionally they hug. She expects this to be ok with her boyfriend. But if her boyfriend had a very close friend who was a female and occasionally they hugged, she would not be ok with that.
White on black racism is not tolerated but black on white racism is tolerated.
In one country, men are allowed to be unclothed and women have to be fully clothed.
A boss can have a negative attitude towards one of his employees and not lose his job but an employee who has a negative attitude towards his boss will lose his job.
One person would never choose to be in a situation where their needs come second to someone else’s needs. But they expect other people’s needs to come second to their own.
The reality is that double standards exist everywhere. Every person has them, whether they realize it or not and they exist within every society. As people, we demonize double standards because we have created link between double standards and morality. We have decided that double standards are bad and that having double standards therefore makes you a bad person.
We want to see ourselves as good people and we have been taught to treat others the way we want to be treated. We have been taught that it is downright wrong to expect something of someone that we can’t do ourselves. For this reason, we are likely to suppress, deny, disown and be totally unaware of our double standards. It’s too painful to see those things about ourselves. But becoming aware of these double standards that we hold is critical for our path of progression. It is how we will know what double standards to let go of and which ones to keep. Notice I just said keep? What if I told you that double standards in and of themselves are not a bad thing provided that you are fully conscious of them?
First, we have to stop making all double standards wrong. Instead, we have to become conscious of our double standard and conscious about WHY we have the double standard. From there, we can decide if it is a double standard that is best to keep or best to throw out.
I’m going to tell you something that may surprise you. Double standards are only ever a problem when someone perceives that the double standard is unfair. I’ll give you an example. It is a double standard that when a baby cries, mom is expected to immediately respond by comforting the baby. But when mom cries, the baby is not expected to immediately respond by comforting the mother. But none of us think this double standard is unfair. We don’t think it is unfair because there are lots of good reasons why the double standard exists.
When we are dealing with a sense of unfairness, what we are really dealing with is a conflict of needs. One person perceives that their needs are not being met because of an inequality relative to a rule, expectation or principle that exists in a certain scenario.
A boundary is a sense of self. It is a sense of one’s own wants, needs, preferences, likes and dislikes, yes’s and no’s. When a double standard conflicts with our boundary (our sense of what we want and don’t want, need and say yes or no to) we perceive it, as well as the person holding the double standard, as being a threat to our self. We get into a boundary conflict. To learn all about boundaries, watch my YouTube video titled: How To Develop Healthy Boundaries.
Many times, especially in relationships, the issue isn’t the double standard itself. It is that the double standard currently doesn’t allow for one person to keep their boundaries because to allow for the double standard means their needs are not going to be met.
For example, imagine there is a celebrity athlete who needs a team of people around him, all of whom are totally dedicated to his success. Imagine that he needs his emotional and physical wellbeing to be the first priority for people on his team. Now, imagine that one person on his team got sick. Because quitting his game to take care of that person and therefore making their physical and emotional wellbeing his first priority is going to conflict with his need, he will not do it. This is a double standard. He expects the people in his team to do for him what he will not do for them. But the reality is, if he did, his career might end. This arrangement is only unfair if his team is comprised of people who need their emotional wellbeing and physical wellbeing to be the first priority for him. If this is the case, he will get his needs met and they will not. If he finds people who do not have that need or who feel like the perks they get from being around him are a fair exchange for making his emotional and physical wellbeing come first and theirs second, this double standard will not be a problem.
Fairness is an important part of relationships and so is recognizing where double standards exist. But the reality is that some double standards need to exist for people to get their needs met. And it is perfectly ok given that the double standard is something that both people are aware of, both people agree to and given that the double standard does not conflict with the boundaries of either person.
It is really hard for us to admit to the double standards that we have. This is because double standards have the stigma of being bad, wrong, unkind, unjust, and unfair… Something bad people do. For this reason, we feel shame about having a double standard. Anything society shames us about or that we feel shame about is likely to be hidden from our conscious awareness. This is a problem because if it is hidden from our awareness, there is no way to have a conscious conversation about it. We cannot talk about what the double standard is and why it exists and decide if keeping it is necessary or if discarding it is necessary. We can’t even discuss how to remedy the boundary conflict with one another. This means, any time a double standard causes a boundary conflict, we fly straight into defense and attack and make the person holding the double standard the bad guy.
Many double standards, especially within society at large are unfair and quite frankly need to be trashed. The reason is that there is no room when it comes to a societal or global double standard for individual choice. There is however lots of room within a personal double standard for personal choice. For example, if all of society decides that women should not get equal pay to men, the boundary of any woman who is not ok with that is now violated. They are powerless to it. However, if one company decides that woman should not get equal pay to men, a woman who is not ok with that is free to choose. She can choose to not work for that company.
This is very true for relationships between individuals. When a double standard leads to a boundary conflict, there is plenty of room to figure out whether the boundary conflict is big enough that a genuine incompatibility exists. If this is the case, people are free to go separate ways or change their relationship and therefore expectations of each other. This is much better than fighting someone to meet our needs when our needs conflict with their needs.
One of the best ways to flush out double standards in relationships is to think about needs, wants and expectations. Become aware of what you want and need and expect from other people in different situations. Then, flip the tables and imagine that they need and want and expect the same thing of you in those same situations. Can you recognize any discrepancies?
Some double standards don’t exist for good reason. Some double standards on the other hand exist for really, really good reasons. For this reason, we need to take our attention off of the rightness v.s wrongness of double standards in general and instead place them on the needs conflict that is being canvassed by the double standard so we can figure out if we can and if so how to meet the needs of both parties involved.
So… what are yours?