Socially-Constructed Double Standards

The Keyword essay “Childhood” explores the notion that childhood is not necessarily a set period of life but rather a constructed concept in which society decides what boys will do and what girls will do at certain ages. In both “Meet Kirsten” and “Kirsten Learns a Lesson,” this idea is perfectly illustrated. There are obvious roles for boys and girls, and the line between the genders is very defined. Most obviously, when they get to school, boys and girls sit on different sides of the room and only associate within these homogeneous groups. This idea is perpetuated at home when the adults make comments about “the men” going out to do work while “the women” work in the home. While the lines between genders today are not so stark, there are instances where these “double standards” can be clearly observed, such as the NFL Superbowl Halftime Show. The 2020 Halftime Show featured Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, and a large amount of female backup dancers who gave a spectacular show. Unsurprisingly, they received a fair amount of backlash because of their “skimpy” outfits. However, if you look back to the 2019 Halftime Show, Adam Levine performed shirtless for almost the entirety of the show. Even though the women in 2020 were never shirtless, the reaction to their performance was far worse. This is because society has created the notion that men can appear in public shirtless and have no repercussions, but it is somehow “wrong” for a woman to dress in any sort of sexual way. This idea begins already in childhood when girls are punished in school for wearing clothing that shows their shoulders, but boys can wear their pants sagging enough to see half of their underwear. There is no defensible claim that a girl’s shoulders are worse than a boy’s entire exposed torso, but society leads us to believe from a young age that showing skin is something boys are “allowed” to do that girls aren’t. Thankfully, society has come a long way in what it “allows” women in public — specifically women in the public eye — to wear, but there are still instances like these where women are criticized for expressing themselves in a sexual way. 

3 thoughts on “Socially-Constructed Double Standards”

  1. Even though society has come a long way from such a huge separation between men and women, there are still always issues that come up regarding that and the double standard. I like how you used dress code as an example because it is something that has still not been resolved. Girls from such a young age are taught to dress more modestly while boys can wear whatever they want and not be criticized for it. This is something so engrained in our culture and sends the wrong message to young children.

  2. Double standards for male and female presentation have been present for centuries, and have always made clear the expectations we bestow upon each gender. As we discussed with Allison Welch, women’s fashion reflects with great clarity the ideas we hold about women. Much of this can be seen with the clothing Kirsten would have worn as an adult. Her voluminous skirt says a lot about what she will and will not be doing. Women, it seems, have no need for easy mobility. Their roles as homemakers and mothers in this time are reflected in the large and impractical skirts they wore. Similarly, her corset reflects the pressure society places upon women to appear thin and hourglass-shaped, for both aesthetic and childrearing purposes. Perhaps most relevant to the debate around the sexualization of female bodies, the conservative, floor-length nature of gowns contemporary to Kirsten’s time reflect the way females bodies were made inherently sexual, down to the ankle. While the clothing worn by Shakira and Jennifer Lopez couldn’t be more different than Kirstens 19th century garb, these women are being subjected to the same pressure: a woman’s body, society makes clear, is a sexual thing to be covered and kept hidden.

  3. The double standard for men and women is something that I agree with you on; it is still a problem in todays world. I also thing that gender itself is a problem because there are no clear boundaries of what it is. By making children think that there are certain roles they need to portray, like you mentioned, they are putting ideas about what is right vs wrong when it is truly up to them.

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