Gendered double standards follow us everywhere we go. They’re like shadows that don’t look like us even a little bit. The things women are expected to justify in relationships that men aren’t come up everywhere from the workplace to the bedroom. While not always blatantly sexist, they are certainly rooted in sexist ideas of how men and women should behave.
When it comes to dating, the expectations of men and women are far from equal. From the things a woman considers before a first date to unrealistic sexual expectations of men, we’ve culturally internalized some pretty harmful ideas on gender roles. These double standards go beyond what a couple may discuss between themselves. Often, society's expectations are what drive us to question choices we may not have otherwise thought twice about.
Here are seven of these dating double standards, things women are expected to justify in a relationship that men simply are not.
Disclaimer: These relationship double standards are pretty heteronormative, as many gendered stereotypes often are. There are plenty of ignorant questions queer people are asked that compound sexism with homophobia and heteronormativity in a way that I as a straight person don’t ever experience. And if society still can’t wrap its brain around such groundbreaking things as a woman earning more than a man in a relationship, it must completely implode when the relationship is between two women.
One thing's clear: As a society, we've got a whole lot of work to do.
1Why They Don’t Want To Be In A Relationship In The First Place
Society expects women to want to settle down in a way that isn’t expected of men. The misconceptions about single women primarily stem from the sexist idea that marriage is the ultimate goal for all women. Our culture seems to be more than okay with the idea of a bachelor who has no interest in settling down, but takes issue with women who want the same.
2Why They’d Want To Pay On A Date
You don’t need more than a simple Google search to see there is still wide debate over who should pay on a date. While the assumption that the man should pay is continuing to be deconstructed (since its roots are pretty sexist), we’re still not completely cool as culture with the idea of a woman offering to pay on date. According to a February report from a Match.com survey on singles, 71 percent of men “find it attractive when a woman offers to split the bill.” However, 65 percent of men think that women who offer to pay are “just being polite.”
Men aren’t the only ones who question why a women would or wouldn’t pay on a date. 74 percent of women surveyed say they offer to pay because “they don’t want to feel obligated for anything – a hug, kiss or a second date.” There is certainly a sense of obligation behind the idea that men “should” or “have to” pay. But I’d argue it almost certainly isn’t because they’d feel “obligated” to where the date would lead were they not to pay.
3Making More Money
Despite more women becoming the breadwinner in the relationship, there is still a negative perception of women who make more money than their male counterparts. Like writer Ashley C. Ford points out in this piece on Millennial women breadwinners for Refinery29, “The woman being the breadwinner is approached as an obstacle a couple must overcome to aid the general health of the partnership.” It is seen as something a couple needs to “manage” in a way that the man being the breadwinner is not. Some statistics even suggest that female breadwinners are also less likely to get married.
4Why They Wouldn’t Want To Move In With Their Significant Other
Moving in is a significant milestone in a relationship, one that can affect your dynamic more than just having to divvy up closet space. Similar to the stereotype that all women want to be in a relationship, the idea that all women are ready to be at peak commitment is an expectation that is not there for men (the "bachelor pad" is perfectly acceptable to our culture, whereas women are expected to want to "nest"). So much so that there are literally listicles on listicles telling women how to “get” men to settle down. The decision to live together or not live together shouldn’t be assumed based solely on the gender of the person you’re talking to.
5Why They’re Dressed Up (I Mean, You *Already Have* A Significant Other...)
Admittedly, this a pretty archaic idea and one that thankfully doesn’t seem to persist quite as much as some of the other sexist notions of gender roles. While a significant other telling you want to wear should be a red flag for an overly controlling relationship, people outside the relationship seem to still be OK with questioning, “Why are you dressed like that? I mean, you already have a boyfriend” — implying that the only reason we might dress up is to attract a man. Men, however, don't typically face these kinds of assumptions about their wardrobe choices. Women’s bodies and appearance are constantly being policed in a way that men’s are not.
6Why They’re Not Dressed Up (Are You Letting Yourself Go???)
The idea of “letting yourself go” is the ridiculous concept that your appearance might not remain exactly the same throughout the course of a relationship. To clarify: Of course appearances are going to change, and people aren’t going to get dressed up all fancy all the time; that’s exhausting.
While “letting yourself go” can apply to all parties in a relationship, regardless of gender, there are arguably more factors under scrutiny in how a woman looks (see: aforementioned policing of appearance). Things like removal of body hair and wearing makeup are just not societal expectations for men, but they are very expected of women. It doesn't help that things like dad bod become an ideal for men's bodies while there's basically entire industries based off of women getting their pre-baby body “back.”
7Why They Aren’t Married Yet (Your Biological Clock is Ticking!!!)
While a couple may feel collective pressure to put a ring on it, that pressure being tied to having children is often more directed towards women. Although men also have a “biological clock,” I’d argue that it’s not called into question quite so often as women’s. The “you’re not getting any younger” line of questioning is twofold for women in a way it isn’t for men: 1) The older you get, ladies, the less physically appealing you’ll be, and then maybe you’ll never get married, and 2) the older you get, the older your ovaries get, and then maybe you’ll never have kids. (The horror!) In addition to that being rampant with sexism, the assumption that all women want to have children ASAP is just another one of the parenting double standards this kind of questioning is rooted in.