Double standards between genders – Part II

Woman on red background gazing directly through the lens in an effort to hide her naked body.

Giannis Aslanidis
Undergraduate student at the Department of Economics in the University of Macedonia

Translated by Valentina Koumoulou

Through a mélange of double standards, two of the most interesting categories where women are treated differently, mostly relating to their sexual behavior as well as their own physiology, are added on the list.

The sexual double standard is the perception that women are evaluated negatively and men positively for engaging in similar sexual behaviors. Traditional gender stereotypes are reflected in people’s attitudes toward men and women. Therefore, it is possible that sexism plays a role in the manifestation of the double standard. According to the double standard, boys and men are rewarded and praised for heterosexual sexual intercourse starting from a much younger age, however girls and women are considered deviant, while also being stigmatized for similar behaviors.

On the one hand, we have the father being proud of the sexual activity of his son at a young age, while on the other hand, there is the negative depiction of light morals for girls who are sexually active at a similar age. Even when it doesn’t come to negative characterizations, the treatment of girls only as potential victims, unable to protect themselves or make rational decisions about their sex life, in contrast to boys who have the “power of attorney” on the heterosexual population, is a good example of gender discrimination. After all, for boys and men, “the more the merrier” applies, which makes fathers and friends cheer, while the same phrase for women is characterized as immoral, disparaging, and for some reason, is inextricably linked to other aspects of them as individuals. Is there a proper number of sexual partners that are mutually acceptable for both genders to engage in sexual activity?

When it comes to women’s physiology we go from one taboo to another. Whether a woman’s breasts should be exposed in a sexual or seductive way, making it acceptable, or if a woman should breastfeed her baby in a public place, an act that many consider inappropriate, are issues subjected to continuous debate. Let us say here that breastfeeding is not sexual but is completely normal. It constitutes a change that only affects women psychosomatically, not men, and before criticizing the aesthetics, it is important to consider the double stereotypes that exist in the sexualization of the female breast.

On top of all the taboos sits the female menstruation, which has been demonized for decades instead of taking steps to understand and deal with it. The plague that bears the title of “Period shaming” is rooted in the perceptions of the world that period is dirty, unclean, ugly, in our society even anti-Christian, and makes women go crazy.

Internationally, Scotland is the first country in the world to offer all period products for free, making one step further in tackling the difficulties of those who cannot afford or do not have easy access to proper period products. At the same time, doctrines related to the place of women in the Orthodox religion are still taught in Greece, quoting the following excerpt from the Canon II of St. Dionysios of Alexandria: “When asked the saint, if women can enter the temple of God during menstruation, he replied that this should not even be considered or asked, because those women, if they have the proper devotion to God, they themselves will never dare to approach the Holy Table and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, as long as they are still in the state of menstruation. […] However, they can pray either at home or in the temple’s pronaos and ask God for help and salvation from Him. But he who is impure in soul and body, as impure in body is the woman who is in the state of menstruation, is prevented from approaching the holiest of saints, that is, from receiving the Body and Blood of Christ”. (Pidalion p. 445-446). I leave you to judge the situation.

To sum up, we observe that whatever a woman does can be treated with much less tolerance or understanding. There are so many reasons for a woman to be targeted and stigmatized in everyday moments that should anger everyone with a conscience, when we talk about economic, political and social progress, while there are still stereotypes and taboos in our basic perceptions. As much as the existence of gender inequality is debated, dangerously by many social groups today, even by women themselves, let us consider that in a privileged social environment no woman will be loved less in the family home, because she was born female nor her education should be limited due to her gender. In a utopian society, she is not in danger because her teachers and employers assumed that she would not go far in her professional life due the possibility of motherhood, nor will she have to bear the burden of an abandoned by a man single-parent family. All the above would be found in a privileged, almost utopian, society.

All too often, in the face of violence, control, male-dominated power structures and hidden discrimination, women and girls face centuries of misogyny and the erasure of their achievements. Starting from the mockery of women as hysterical or hormonal, to the usual judgment of women based on their appearance.  Continuing with the myths and taboos surrounding the natural functions of a woman’s body, to the absurd explanation and attribution of responsibility to the victim (aka victim blaming). For centuries, misogyny was everywhere.

However, even in modern history it does not need to be showed in the form of violence to be considered misogyny, or at least undermining of the female gender. This form can be mute, hidden and daily, hidden in every word that completes a phrase in a joke, in a stereotypical image that hangs like a parasite on social norms. The rising trend of the feminist movement may upset some as they do not understand, rationally as well as emotionally, the communication codes that govern a society, and continue to recycle an egocentric, authoritarian, but empty character, degrading by uttering a simple phrase more than half the population of this planet.

What we need is not a women-led movement. What we need is a united movement led by all of humanity. For women and men, from women to men, and from men to women. I am not a feminist because I believe in the superiority of women over men, but because I do not believe that either sex is inferior to the other. Ironically, in Greek the word “feminism” is literally masculine.