double standard

[duhb-uh l stan-derd]

What does double standard mean?

Ideally, we should all be judged according to the same criteria. But ... when someone is treated differently than someone else in the same situation, especially when women are treated differently than men, we have ourselves a double standard.

Related words:

Examples of double standard


Examples of double standard
Progressives say you must bake a cake for a gay wedding, but you don’t have to serve Sarah Sanders when she comes to eat in your restaurant. If the Left didn’t have double standards, they would have no standards at all.
John Veritas, Rutland Herald, June, 2018
The same people who supported Trump's statement about "good people" in the Charlottesville nazi march, which resulted in murder, are demanding civility from the left. For far too long there's been a double standard regarding partisan behavior. I'm done with that.
@AnaKasparian, June, 2018
Male superheroes get body armor, cool capes, and war corsets; female superheroes tend to get booty shorts, push-up bras, and body paint...Evangeline Lilly, star of the upcoming Marvel movie "Ant-Man and the Wasp," has had it up to HERE with sexist costume double-standards — and she's calling it out.
Alle Connell, Revelist, June, 2018

Where does double standard come from?

double standard

The expression double standard originally referred to 18th- and 19th- century economic policies of bimetallism. Bimetallism was a monetary system that was based on two metals—a double standard, in its financial “prescribed value” sense, of gold and silver.

The first recorded instance of the idea of a double standard as applying to the realm of morality and ethics was in the late 1800s. By the turn of the 20th century, double standard was used both in dry economic debates and spicier discussions of morality. For instance, the opening address by Yale’s president in 1905 exhorted students to guard against “double standards in college and business life” as good Christians.

The question of double standards as referring to different expectations in behavior for men and women emerged in the 1910–20s. One Christian text from the time snappily put it: “What was right for Jack was wrong for Jill.” The women’s suffrage movement picked up on the moral tone of double standards and used it to fight for their rights.

Around the same time, the idea of double standards as applying specifically to different rules for sexual activity for men and women (i.e., a man’s a stud if he has multiple sexual partners, but when women do, they’re sluts) started gaining wider use. One textbook example, written by a medical doctor in 1915 reads, “the majority of mankind—women included—believes in the justification of the double standard of sex-morality for the two sexes.” The debate about female sexuality in those terms continued in mainstream culture into the 19th and 20th centuries.

By 1930, the expression double standard was used in just about any context to describe two different sets of rules for the same thing.

While double standard isn’t a legal term per se, it became increasingly associated with arguing for equal treatment before the court. With the rise of the Civil Rights movement starting in the the 1940s, activists frequently complained about the double standards for whites and blacks as well as other oppressed minority groups.

The Women’s Liberation movement from the 1960s thrust the spotlight back on the sexual double standards for men and women—and contributed, no doubt, to the prevalence of double standards in the context of sex and gender.


Who uses double standard?

Double standard is often used in the plural, double standards, to refer to the many and various unfair rules or expectations that differ between different groups of people.

As noted, double standard is frequently used in the context of sex and gender. When men are forceful in a debate, they may be called assertive while women are called shrill and bossy and told to smile more—a double standard.

Double standards also decry a whole range of other injustices. Many people describe, for instance, the different treatment white and black people get by law enforcement and in the justice system as a double standard. Others describe, when it comes to religious liberties, the different treatment Christians and Muslims get in Western society as a double standard. Yet others think policies like affirmative action are a double standard, showing historically marginalized groups favoritism.

Double standards don’t just refer to big-picture social issues, though. Any unequal application of the rules qualifies, including less consequential ones. A kid complaining their older sibling gets to stay up later than them might whine that it’s a double standard, for example. That’s a pretty pretentious kid.

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