You need only look to history to see how power-hungry, abusive people rely on double standards to seize and maintain power. Abusive people don't think they're abusive. They believe they are right and just in their actions of terror against others. Abusive people believe they are smarter, better, more deserving, and more hardworking than other people. They are affirmed of this every time they get away with toxic and abusive behaviors. This is why accountability is fundamentally important in an abuser's ability to grow out of that mindset. Those individuals feed and promote a system of inequity because they benefit from it. And they surround themselves with people who feel the same way-- or who lack the self-esteem to say otherwise.
Abusers can be anyone: a police officer, a partner, a boss, a parent, a priest, a president, etc. Wherever there is a power imbalance in the relationship, there is the potential to abuse that power. The more power an abuser has, the harder it is for the abused to hold them accountable. The more abusers we have in positions of power, the more weight their double standards carry-- and those standards serve more than the abuser, which is why they're so difficult to work out of our culture.
What Are Double Standards?
Double standards are a type of logical fallacy necessary to maintain power imbalances. According to Merriam-Webster: double standards are how one rule or principle is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups. 2020 was a non-stop example of the ways the powerful have a different set of rules. Billionaires and millionaires received fast-tracked government handouts as the government shut down small businesses with little to no aid for months on end. When it comes to helping the poor and middle class, Republicans said it would encourage laziness. When it's assistance for the rich, they say it's good for the economy.
Double standards are found in the application of social media policy. For years tech giants permitted Trump to violate social media policies any normal user would be banned for. It wasn't until an armed act of treason against The Capitol that the platforms suspended and ultimately terminated his accounts. Initially, they argued that it was in the public's best interest because he was a world leader. But really, what they did was feed his ego, lead to mass misinformation, and illuminate yet another area of life where the powerful get to play by another set of rules. Misinformation is a dangerous weapon, but so is censorship. These are careful lines we must walk, which is why understanding double standards are fundamentally important in our discourse.
These double standards are everywhere. They're in politics, the workplace, families, and entertainment. And since this is a blog about music, let's dive into how these double standards show up in our scenes as womxn and non-binaries.
Examples in Music
Remember Kat Katz's departure from Agoraphobic Nosebleed? Riddled with double standards. Her bandmates scolded her because they couldn't find her after a set. After all, the grown adult woman's whereabouts should be known at all times! She was helping a friend at the time and missed the texts/calls. The men said they were concerned for her safety because they didn't know where she was. Their concern was justification for taking turns screaming at her. I'm sure screaming made her feel really safe.
While that was not the sole factor in her leaving, it was the final straw. After she left, Kat said:
"I felt that some outlets were attempting to invalidate my experience. Every woman fights the stereotype of “hysterical female,” and I was extremely disappointed in my bandmates for exploiting that trope. The amount of narcissism, drama, and insecurity I witness from men in metal is astounding and yields no consequences; the tantrums are accepted without the bat of an eye. As a woman, you show anger, you speak out, and you’re automatically labeled as 'crazy.'"
Thankfully, she's been able to move on and even made some more music. She has a new set of boundaries and red flags when determining what men to work with due to her experiences.
The double standard shows up more subtly too. It's part of the attitude toward femmes that they don't belong in metal. Ever get a pop quiz from a random guy for wearing a band's shirt? The assumption that women don't actually like extreme music is still prevalent. And if she can't spit band facts out on the spot, she's a poser who doesn't belong, but a scene boy can fake his entire personality to fuck her, and he's high-fived.
It's Snoop Dogg having the audacity to criticize Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion for "WAP" being too sexual. In a recent interview, he said, "Oh my God. Slow down. Like, slow down. And have some imagination. Let's have some; you know privacy, some intimacy where he wants to find out as opposed to you telling him."
The man who made his career out of lyrics demeaning women, who raps about what and who he does with his dick, is saying these women should be more private about their pussies. He may not be telling them what to say, but his comments validate the vocal body of men that share those sentiments, that women shouldn't express their sexuality unless it is in a way they deem desirable. The saddest part is that women will absorb these rules for themselves if we don't call it for what it is: a bullshit double standard.
Open Mike Eagle explained rap music in the Netflix comedy series The History of Swear Words as an art form where "… it's ok to say the things that you've been saying in secret." That's what Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion did, regardless of what you think of the music around them. That's what hip hop/rap and other forms of extreme music do: challenge the status quo.
Snoop even went on in the interview to say that, "…as an older man, it's like, I love it that they're expressing themselves and doing their thing, I just don't want it that fashionable to where young girls feel like they can express themselves like that without even know that that is a jewel that they hold onto until the right person comes around." And while I'm not surprised about Snoop's double-standard, it's nevertheless frustrating as a fan (and a woman).
Spotting a Double Standard
Get in the habit of asking people: what do you mean by that?
This isn't just great for getting someone to elaborate on a double standard, but whenever someone says something discriminatory. Reflective questions will teach you a lot about a person's ability to think critically and be accountable for their actions.
Ask: why is it ok for "x" to do that, but not "y"?
This is also a good one to ask yourself to determine whether something is a double standard. As a parent, it's natural for me to have a different set of age-appropriate rules than my child. However, if I'm telling her to limit screen time for health and creativity but have my face stuffed in 24/7, it creates a double standard and comes off hypocritical. If excessive screen time is related to health and creativity: what does my role as a parent have to do with it? It's still to my benefit to reduce screen time as well. Not to mention, it's better to lead by example, not force.
Reflective questions increase self-awareness and help develop an understanding of others. This doesn't mean that everyone you ask a reflective question is going to grow from the experience. For some, it may encourage them to think about a topic or belief they have differently. May even eventually help them change that belief! If you've done any personal growth, you're likely familiar with this.
By asking reflective questions, at the very least, you're going to get a good idea about how emotionally intelligent the person is… I find it helpful in determining how much time and energy I want to invest in a person.