Misogyny and Double Standards for Women in Politics and at Work

Misogyny is a difficult and important concept to understand if we are to grasp many of the challenges that women face in politics and in the workplace. One source of confusion is that misogyny is actually an umbrella term that encompasses multiple concepts such as sexism, patriarchy, gender-based oppression, and internalized oppression. Both women and men participate in perpetuating the misogynistic attitudes, behaviors, and practices motivated by hatred or distrust of women. Such concepts are largely unconscious in individuals and often institutionalized in the policies and practices of organizations and societal institutions. I wrote about some post-election examples of misogynistic behaviors in a recent article.

Another way to understand misogyny is to consider examples of double standards that women regularly experience. In order to succeed, women are often evaluated against different and harsher standards than are men, as the following examples show.

  • Women are given more negative performance reviews with more negative personality criticisms.
  • Women get interrupted more and then are criticized for not talking more in meetings.
  • Women must walk a tightrope between being effective versus likeable and too feminine versus not feminine enough.
  • Women in academia receive less research funding and less tenure credit for publishing, even though they publish as much as men also on the tenure track.
  • The gender-wage gap persists in most professions in the United States, including for teachers and nurses, for female physicians, and in the financial sector. Maria Tadeo of Bloomberg News reports on a study by the World Economic Forum showing that it will take 170 years to achieve pay equity due to continuing deterioration in progress over the past twelve months.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times writes that we must consider the double standards women face in politics, noting that women are subjected to greater scrutiny than men in politics. He asks us to imagine how Hillary Clinton would have fared in her presidential campaign if she had

  • been married three times with five children by three husbands and referred to her daughter as “a piece of ass”
  • boasted about the size of her vagina during an election debate
  • had less experience in government or the military than any person who had ever become president
  • been caught on tape referring in a degrading way to men’s genitals
  • been accused of sexual assault by more than fifteen people
  • been sued for racial discrimination and retweeted white supremacists
  • filed six bankruptcies and withheld payment from many people who worked for her

I have seen people and organizations change once leaders become aware and support each other. I recently advised an organization trying to be more fair and inclusive to white women and to people of color. After a series of awareness training sessions, the managers began to call each other out about applying double standards when making hiring or promotion decisions. Their decisions became more conscious and intentional, resulting in a significant increase over time in hires and promotions of white women and people of color.

Here are actions we can take to effectively change double standards.

  • Join together with other women and men to call out misogynistic behaviors or practices when they occur so that such actions do not remain unconscious.
  • Do not allow misogynistic behavior to be seen as “normal” or “just the way men are” either within yourself or others.
  • Form study groups to read and discuss double standards applied to white women and to people of color.
  • Take action together to recommend changes in your community or organization.

Do you have success stories? Let us hear about them so we can learn from each other.

The image in this post is courtesy of Nguyen Hung Vu (CC BY 2.0)

Anne Litwin, Ph.D. is an Organizational Development and Human Resources Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together.’

Originally published at annelitwin.com on January 16, 2017.

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