5 Things Women Are Penalized For That Men Can Almost Always Get Away With
If you think sexism doesn't exist anymore, you might change your mind after looking at all the things women are penalized for that men can generally do without any backlash (or even simply fear of backlash). Even if women may officially have more legal rights than they used to, they're not always afforded the same social right as men are to do what they want when they want to. Cumulatively, society's restrictions on our behavior lead us to constantly monitor ourselves, which consumes energy we could put into accomplishing our goals and contributes to gender inequality.
Men may not notice the subtle ways we penalize women's choices because they're not on the receiving end, and when they're on the giving end, it's usually subconscious. Most people don't try to make women feel inferior, but we carry around ideas about how women should act that lead us to contribute to this feeling of inferiority. People have presumptions about how men should behave as well, which allows women to get away with certain things, like showing emotion, more than men do. But women particularly face many double binds that restrict their behavior, and gender nonconforming people also get shamed disproportionately simply for being who they are.
Here are a few things women often face backlash for that men typically get away with.
Making Raunchy Remarks
As Amy Schumer has pointed out, female comedians get pigeonholed for making sexual jokes that are considered par for the course for men. This is really a reflection of what we expect from people in everyday conversation. While men get away with cracking raunchy jokes, even ones that objectify women, women who do the same are often penalized for being impolite or making people uncomfortable. Or, they get labeled as "slutty" because it's still not considered "normal" for a woman to admit to having sexual thoughts.
Showing Off Their Bodies
People don't generally blink an eye at a guy without a shirt on, whether he's on a magazine cover or walking down the street. Women who do the same, however, are often considered trashy, accused of being indecent, blamed for harassment they face, or — even sometimes from feminists — accused of objectifying themselves. Of course, objectification is worth fighting. But when we view women as sexual objects and view men as full humans for doing the same things, we're the ones guilty of objectification.
Voicing Their Opinions
Jennifer Lawrence wrote in Lenny Letter last year that someone got upset with her for speaking her opinion at work. "All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive," she wrote. Similarly, 84 percent of women in senior positions in the tech industry say they've been called too aggressive, according to the Elephant in the Valley survey, and that's far too many for it to be justified. Deeming women aggressive or bossy is just another way to keep them from being powerful.
You need only look at Hollywood to see how extreme our double standards for aging are. At age 32, Anne Hathaway was already being passed over for younger actresses, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was told at 37 that she was too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old. This is also evident in our attitude toward age differences in relationships and in the workplace. A National Bureau of Economic Research study found that women but not men are penalized as job candidates for being older.
Speaking About Social Justice
This one's a question of degree, because men do get penalized for it too. But many women have observed that when they speak about the sexism they've experienced, people tend to ask for proof or harass them, whereas when men do, they're more likely to listen. Alex Blank Millard conducted an experiment in which she tweeted about social justice with a photo of a man as her profile picture. Suddenly, people weren't giving her rape threats. One reason why privileged people should use their privilege to educate others about injustice is that, unfortunately, people assume they're more objective.