Ditching the gender double standards

Fighting stereotypes this International Women’s Day.

Written by Emma Ní Chearúil


The Oscars flooded social media for over 24 hours recently. Monday morning, the winners smiled from retweets and Facebook posts of congratulations, but the previous night it had been all about the red carpet. Makeup, hair, dresses, accessories.. “who are you wearing tonight?” “How long did it take you to get ready?” “Can we see your nails – go on, show the camera!”

Can we turn back to reflect on some other current Facebook trends for a moment though? Recently, there seems to have been an upsurge in “MUA” pages; girls setting up their own Makeup Artistry businesses, both professionally and for pleasure. Of course, the Internet has been quick to react with thousands of memes, humorous videos, photos and fake accounts, shaming and mocking contouring, eyebrow grooming and full faces of makeup from just about every angle possible. 

I can’t help but think that there is a double standard here. Just last week, leaked photographs of Beyoncé showed us that she does, in fact have natural flaws and, shock horror, even a few pimples “blemishing” her usually flawless complexion. We constantly hear how celebrities, in general, photoshopped and airbrushed to perfection, set unrealistic standards of beauty for women – and men – yet we mock those who try to achieve this kind of beauty themselves. 

On the other hand, we have what have been branded as “Basic Bitch” habits – typically girly things that women do and styles they adhere to, being shamed as being “average”. They are trivialised and mocked for everything from Instagram to Starbucks to black leggings and fake nails – the things they enjoy and the way they present themselves. 

Recently whilst watching a primetime talk show, a friend of mine commented on the attire worn by the female presenter, why was she wearing pink, shouldn’t she wear something more demure? Maybe less makeup, if she wants to be taken seriously? 

And there it is; the idea that women who are “dolled up” or femininely styled are not seen to be as serious, as professional, as intelligent. And yet they are criticised in the opposite direction when seen without makeup, showing signs of weight gain or badly dressed – as seen online and in magazines after almost every award ceremony known to Hollywood. 

Men who show interest in sports, football or video games are rarely mocked or considered any less intelligent for their pastimes. So why is it that when women who show interest in “girly” habits or industries, such as fashion or makeup, are often belittled, their interests trivialised? Why are women who train for image as opposed to athletics seen as being shallow?

I have asked this question before; why are bodybuilders and athletes idolised, whilst the likes of Adriana Lima, a Victoria’s Secret model, who pushes her body to achieve incredible results and svelte muscle formation, is shunned for providing a “negative image for women” and “unrealistic aims” – her training, strength and goal achievement belittled and even frowned upon? Not every man looks like Ryan Gosling or is built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but we don’t often dismiss them as damaging role models, do we?

Standing alone, each of the above examples may seem trivial and without any major negative impact. Combined, however, they paint a picture of impossible standards that can undermine even the most successful of people. Does this not come back to the idea of “my body, my rules”? What happened to freedom of choice – even if that is the choice to wear the clothes Topshop recommends and perfect the messy bun that is so often mocked on “Basic Bitch” Twitter accounts? The lighthearted mocking of Basic Bitches may not seem important, but it does reaffirm a sad truth, where things traditionally associated with girls are seen as trivial, weak and unintelligent.

If a woman wants to wear lipstick, it should not be frowned up – just as if a woman chooses to go without make up that should be her choice too.  A woman in a dress should not be taken any less seriously than a woman in a black two piece suit – and the same woman should not be asked about her dress size before her achievements on the red carpet. Julianne Moore didn’t win her Oscar because of the nail polish she wore that night or the Instagram photo she did or didn’t take, after all.  Safra Carz doesn’t co-run Oracle because of who designed her wardrobe and Miriam O’ Callaghan wouldn’t ask less intelligent questions if she were contoured to look like Kim Kardashian. True, merit should stand for itself, but if lipstick and heels make someone feel empowered or feminine, it is surely their choice – just as a woman who wears football shorts and plays video games is no less of a woman. 

Whilst I do believe that, at a basic level, we do recognise the fact that make up and skirts don’t define the person wearing them, it’s really time that we start doing something to ensure that great talent, leadership, personality and everyday respect, equality and freedom of choice are no longer shadowed by our appearances or style choices, whether male or female.

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