Friday, August 28, 2009

Double Standards

We've all got 'em.

The assumption that certain sets of behaviors and words mean differently depending on who's doing it, and who's saying it. We expect - or approve even - one thing from one group, but should another group do it, well... we tend to go ballistic like an ICBM.

Myself, for instance, feel that when a woman wears reaaally tight jeans, she looks sexy; but when a man wears reaaally tight jeans, he's probably gay. Or when a kid chases pigeons, I think that's cute; but if an adult did it, then I'd probably be worried about their mental state of mind. Or if a Japanese person confuses me with the difference between "lip and "rip", they're just having pronunciation difficulties; but if some regular person did that, I'd get pissed before realizing they have a speech impediment.

There's always been the double standard of linguistic privilege. A black man can say "Nigger/Nigga/Nikka/Nyukeh" and other homophones thereof, but should anyone else, whether they be white, yellow or brown use it, they can be called a racist. Same for a Jew who can say "hey you kike bastard," but if any blonde-haired blue-eyed should try, they'd be invisibly tattooed [Facist Nazi] before you knew it. A man can't call a woman a "cunt," but a woman can call a man, "cock, prick, dick" and other phallic slurs. The list of offensive nomenclature goes on: "beaner, chink, coolie, cracker, gook, gweilo, jap, jerry, kaffir, paki, spic, wetback, wop, and zipperhead."

Now, I'm all for reappropriation, "taking it back" as a personal attempt to even the historical score, but sometimes people take it too far. They glory in the perverse reversal of power that comes from using words forbidden to their originators/creators. In fact, I've always felt that if you use a word, then fair game for another to use it too, and that's just intellectual consistency. But your own linguistic hypocrisy aside, language belongs to everyone and not just to you. Sure, certain words have a bad reputation due to previous usage, but at the same time, those connotations - even denotations - don't have to be yours. Language is constantly evolving, and you should too. What's offensive doesn't have to be if you refuse to let it get to you.

There are other double standards besides those made with words. There are behaviors expected or condoned for one group that are suddenly inappropriate for another. Take the inter-relations between Man and Woman.

If a man rapes a woman, he is justly branded a sex-offender for the rest of his life, and punished accordingly. However, when a woman rapes a man, this as seen as some sort of impossibility. As if there's no way a woman could ever rape a man. And even if it could happen, the man is ridiculed - even though he's the victim - for not fulfilling the cultural stereotype of guys always being ready for sex and always being stronger than any female sexual predator.

This is not the case. Mothers rape their sons, daughters their brothers, grandmothers their grandchildren, and so on. Random women will rape random men, but nobody will ever blame them, because what guy wouldn't want to get laid, right? Wrong. It's a sad thing when we assume that men can't be as easily preyed upon, and then when they make their substantiated claims, they're met with derision and suspicion, while any woman can make the wildest accusation of rape or molestation and she'll be believed (because for some reason, nobody remembers "innocent till proven guilty" in these cases).

(For more information on male abuse and other related topics, check out these blogs: [Toy Soldiers] and [The False Rape Society])

But the main inspiration for this blog was something I noticed while watching a 90's teen romantic-comedy. You might've heard of it. 10 Things I Hate About You.

In one scene, the guy, Patrick (played by Heath Ledger, RIP) is sitting in the car, having a moment with the girl, Kat (played by Julia Stiles) and they're sharing a particularly good moment together. This has come after a long night at a party where Kat got outrageously drunk and Patrick gentlemanly looked after her, even driving her home and making encouraging conversation. Then, Kat moves in to kiss Patrick, but he turns his cheek. This angers Kat, who gets out of the car in a rage of romantic rejection and goes back to her character's original stand-offish temperament.

Now, the thing I'd like to ask is: why is it when a guy tries to kiss a girl, and is rejected, this is seen (by society as a whole, not just other men) as being coy, or merely an obstacle, and that she just needs more time to realize her feelings for said prince charming, to get comfortable before taking that "next step" - but when a girl tries to kiss a guy and is rejected, this is seen as an insult?

Isn't it possible for a man to be genuinely interested in a person but just not ready to be physically intimate yet? What if he's really not comfortable, but could be, given enough time to get to know the person. I ask my female followers, would you feel insulted if a man refused to accept your advances? And if being rejected from a kiss (or other physical advances) is really an insult, then why don't more men take that as a sign and storm out of their cars when a woman does this?

Ahh, and there's the double standard. Because if a guy did this, he'd be seen as someone only interested in sex, rather than a heartbroken man who just got dissed after putting himself out there. Rejection hurts. But rejection of women by men is discouraged, whereas the converse seems to be acceptable. Why? The power of sex. When a guy violates that long-held advantage by rising above it, seems like - in some subconscious way - a woman just can't take it.

Or maybe I'm over-analyzing.

The funny thing is, later in the movie, Patrick states he didn't do it because he was uncomfortable with the situation of Kat being totally drunk (although under the surface there is his own developing feelings for her juxtaposed with the situation under which he originally decided to pursue her, which is for the benefit of a different character - I'm trying not to spoil the movie for ya'll who haven't seen it).

Yet, Kat is the one who gets to be justifiably upset, while Patrick has to feel guilty and "make it up" to her. Why should he? He was simply being emotionally - and intimately - honest with himself, and with her. Shouldn't it rather be that Kat needs to give him more time, as men are so very used to doing with women? It certainly is a role-reversal, but brings up important questions about gender equality, and the assumptions even so-called "feminists" take for granted in men-women relations.

Double standards are ugly things, because they work on assumptions reinforced by ignorance. I feel like we should abandon our attempts at stratifying acceptable behaviors or approved language between disparate groups. This is not equality. This is not even a facade of it. This is blatantly discriminatory. This is socially acceptable prejudice.

As far as humanity has come, our culture still needs to evolve, because there's so much more for us become besides a reversal of reactionary hatred and unbalanced power.

Well, okay. Maybe double standards aren't always a bad thing.

5 footnotes:

Sarah Alaoui said...

Hahaha great post. also that's a scene that sticks out in my head as well...but I feel like the reason Kat stormed out is because of her own personality and prior experience with guys. otherwise, rejection is rejection. guys get butt hurt over it and so do girls.

Zek J Evets said...

@sarah: yeah, and i figured that was what the film-makers intended. (as opposed to my over-analyzations of gender-relations.)

but nonetheless, these misconceptions/preconceptions exist. and it sucks.

which is obvious.

Manju said...

it's all perspective, and prejudice, that's what makes double standards.
lol but i know loads of boys who really sulk when they face rejection. that's more of an individual way of handling things, and should not really be generalized i think.

regarding my post, i know the swine flu is like the regular flu, but i'd still rather avoid it as much as i can. i'm not very fond of being sick you know ^^
but maybe i'll take your suggestion and wave. i can pretend to be a queen or something hhaha.

i don't really think u understood the symbolism though. bowing down is not something degrading means that i can look beyond things like ego, hatred, pride, caste, and all other negative stuff, to acknowledge the good in someone else. it shows love and makes me more humble, and a better person. that's the real intention of the greeting, but it' s wasted on many people who use it as well, as they don't even know the symbolism of their own actions

Zek J Evets said...

@manju: i get what you're saying, but i'm more taking issue with how society sees man rejecting a woman versus woman rejecting a man. there are different standards for each circumstance that show

the situation is not equal.

also, i understand the bowing. in fact, it's a beautiful gesture... which is why i wouldn't be comfortable doing it. i'd rather save that kind of intimacy/compassion/love for someone i'm closer with than for someone i'm just trying to say "hi" to.

but that's just me.

Frizz said...

I applaud you for addressing the racial word exclusivity matter.

It pisses me off when black people use "the n-word" but then get pissed when other races use it in the SAME exact way.

I don't use the word myself but i've always had an issue with that.

Good post.