“Not sluts, nor saints, just women”
Women are held to higher standards than men and patronising as it sounds, it does no one any favours. A woman is to be altruistic, an adaptable version of perfect. A man? A man can scale by on the bare minimum. In public offices and general positions of authority, the yardstick used to measure the performance of men and women is entirely different. First, there’s the fact that many men resent female leads mostly because they never learnt that leadership and power wasn’t a birthright for men. They were not socialised to work under the leadership of women. The notion that men are ultimately superior (“the head”) to women at home and subsequently in society makes men more resistant to criticism from their female superiors regardless of their professional hierarchy. “I have your type at home” and other such sexist tropes contribute to the ill-treatment of women in positions of authority. Even when women go out of their way to be agreeable and nice; they’re met with sexism and oftentimes, in the quest to be liked by men, they end up throwing other “less agreeable” women under the bus.
A more visible example, because of how little women are represented in that field, is politics. A woman in politics responsible for the actions or inactions of every woman in politics whereas her male counterpart is only answerable for his actions. For centuries we have been plagued by the failings of men in government, yet, when a woman manages to attain a similar position, she is scrutinised and should she mess up, god help her, we hear the songs of “women are not fit to lead, they are too emotional” and other tired hymns. Almost as if countless conflicts, decree and divisive politics aren’t borne of the illogical and emotional responses of men; case in point, the Twitter ban.
On the requirement of sainthood, women’s transgressions are seen as doubly bad simply because they are women and society expects docility and kindness from women even in the face of oppression. In the eyes of society, women do not act, we react. Women are expected to placate the egos that potentially harm them. A man gropes a woman in the marketplace and if she responds harshly (as is justifiable) people berate her for offending him. Women are told to just ignore or smile and nod in the face of oppression; an arbitrary and unrealistic expectation. Women’s (very valid) responses to things are undermined because they are “emotional”. The positioning that emotional responses are the antithesis of logic is dishonest. It is human to respond according to how we feel and, the requirement of stoicism and supposed logicality from men dulls empathy.
Women do not have to be saintly to merit respect. Is that even attainable? Women should not be judged by different standards than their male counterparts “simply because”. To do so is to be discriminatory and sexist.