Scrutiny and standards: Girls face higher expectations while “boys will be boys”

Boys will be boys. A damaging sexist statement that we continue to freely use to fuel toxic masculinity, and undermine women. The persistence of such statements has led to vastly different pedestals from which men and women are viewed. Women are held to a higher standard than men, and that is pervasive in all aspects of life. As we examine the phrase that we have used for so long, we should all become increasingly cognizant of the implicit biases that we hold when it comes to gender.

The perpetuation of certain gender norms and stereotypes have shaped our current culture and society. Phrases and sayings like Boys will be boys are rooted in a deeper issue. The media pushes men and the male image into stringent and outdated gender roles. While we think we have improved and surpassed these sexists notions, they still persist and are rampant in our everyday lives. When looking historically at gender norms, women have been forced into subservient roles as caretakers with domestic duties. In addition, women’s physical appearance has always been under public scrutiny. Advertisements often limit women to playing the role of not only being attractive, but attentive, kind, and unthreatening. Putting women in positions of power directly contradicts with this perpetuated norm. According to the book “The Conversation”, “Women are pitched hygiene and cleaning products, whereas men get ads for banks, credit cards, housing, cars, and other significant financial investments.” The scope of career options women have been conditioned to take part in are finite. In addition to this, emotions like aggression and anger are attributed to masculinity. These emotions have been deemed “innate” for men, and unladylike for women.  Instead, women who show frustration and anger are reduced with demeaning words and labeled emotionally unstable. All of these ways of thinking hold women to a higher standard by providing men with the luxury of freedom of which women are deprived. Men are given vindication simply for their gender, while women must fight to exist in the same space.

Furthermore, research from Kmec & Gorman concluded that there are, “stricter performance standards imposed on women, even when women and men hold the same jobs.” Research from Frontiers in Psychology, published by the National Institutes of Health found, “women are held to a higher standard of performance than men.”  Women are required to work twice as hard to outperform men because of the limitations that they are shackled with via sexism. Having to be ethically and morally just, while not crossing the line of being overly aggressive, is a part of the experience of being a woman. Finding a balance between being smart – but not too smart, assertive – but not angry, is the standard that women are presented with to navigate society.

Delving deeper into the realm of politics, according to a study by the University of California, “female presidents are, generally, viewed with a more critical eye than male leaders, and their popular support suffers in return. The study demonstrated that female presidents are less popular on average than their male counterparts; in particular, women in executive roles saw their public standing suffer greater damage when they were associated with corruption or security failures…the popularity of female leaders is, indeed, more sensitive to that of male leaders to terrorist attacks and homicide rates.” Women in politics are held to a higher ethical standard than men are. Falling short of meeting these societal expectations has damaging effects on women.  

In our day-to-day dorm lives, a similar situation persists even within the walls of this school.  In dorm life, the expectations for men and women differ. Boys being boys becomes an excuse for loudness and untidiness. Girls are taught to diminish themselves to the rules. Noise and untidiness are deemed unladylike, and, as a result, girls in the dorm are becoming compliant with rules that are somehow bent for boys.  

The bar is not the same for women and men, and while we, as a society, are becoming increasingly accepting of women in positions of power, we have implicit biases, which we can’t ignore, that subconsciously affect our views of men and women. Boys will not be boys. Boys will be held accountable for their actions, and women will be allowed the right to live freely.

Melissa Xu ’20
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