On Double Standards and Gender Equality | Exploring "Heaux Tales" Truths (part 2)
Updated: Mar 8
“The thing is, “N****s cannot handle if a woman takes the same liberties as them, especially with regards to sex…” Antoinette’s Tale
Our culture has politically accepted gender equality as a truth toward which we must constantly strive. In such a setting, double standards are observed, pointed out, and critiqued. This is one of the issues Jasmine Sullivan deals with in her latest project, Heaux Tales, from where the above excerpt was taken. (Review part 1 here)
From a cultural and social perspective, equality holds a connotation of sameness. Such a connotation can be misleading and cause people to arrive at misguided assumptions about binary oppositions. For instance, if men and women are equal, and equal means, “same”, then women should be treated the “same” as men, be paid the “same” as men, and be able to do the “same” things as men. Inequality, it follows, is noted as any time one gender is viewed or treated one way and not the other.
As it applies to reputation and ability and pay and accessibility, so should it apply to sex. This is what Antoinette’s Tale alludes to, at least; that if it is socially acceptable for a man to have many sexual partners, so should it be ok for a woman.
But gender equality is not about men and women being able to do the same things. It is about having equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of differences. It is about equal and respected value, not (necessarily) equal ability. When Antoinette’s above referenced Tale points out the double standards that exist between men and women regarding sexual expression, it utilizes the misguided definition of equality connoted with sameness. And while I understand the frustration around societal contradictions like this, viewing them from a flawed definition may cause greater, more global problems in the future.
The reason these definitions of equality are arrived at in any case is largely related to the sickness of patriarchy that governs and shapes today’s society. Patriarchy lifts men above women in the same way that white supremacy lifts whites above Blacks. Both systems (white supremacy and patriarchy) respond blaringly when any oppressed group fights to move to an equal (or superior) status. When the benefactors of the system resist these expressions for social mobility to preserve their position at the top, it causes a frantic response from the group wanting to move—namely searching for examples to argue their case for equality, or worse, prove their worth.
The main problem with this response is the point of this post. When women present arguments about gender equality using the sameness definition, they generally keep men as the standard. “Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you.” Even in this example from popular culture, the woman must measure herself from the bar that the man sets if her claims of equality are to be validated. The sameness argument not only devalues differences, it also causes oppressed groups to underappreciate the individual uniqueness they bring to the world. Even worse, it prevents others in higher positions of society (benefactors of the systems) from recognizing and acknowledging those differences which ultimately perpetuates the vicious cycle of rejection by benefactors and begging for acceptance by the oppressed. [As we honor and celebrate the contributions of Black people in America and all over the world this month, I can’t help but wonder why we are still in that same cycle.]
I think the solution comes from shifting our personal and cultural understanding of men and women. Instead of rejecting the social constructs just because they are social constructs, we should work to deeply understand gender and the balance that a more accurate definition brings.
Personally, I don’t think of men and women as equal; I think of them as one. I am of the mind that women and men were originally one androgynous being that later had the masculine and feminine principles isolated and separated to create two beings. Consider Genesis 1:27, when GOD created man in his own image. Could it be that GOD created one being in GOD’s image of (oneness)— “male and female created he them”, and the separation came in Genesis 2 symbolized in the story of Eve coming from Adam’s rib? And once these two principles were separated, they developed a natural attraction which causes them to come together to create and perpetuate life on Earth—bringing credence to the cliché, opposites attract.
As we discard the view of equality as sameness (in ability) we will begin to see the beauty of our differences and consequently respect the necessity of those differences. The negative pole NEEDS the positive pole in order to have balance. Only when the differences of puzzle pieces are respected and celebrated can the puzzle be assembled.
In conclusion, I think it futile for women, with all the power they possess, to reduce themselves to positions and behaviors that simply mimic what men are doing just because they can. And while I respect that a woman can do whatever she wants, I also believe that a woman has certain innate powers she will unlock only when she is being uniquely woman—unphased by societal expectations or double standards (which aren’t really standards at all).
Women, be your own standard. The world will be better because of it.
By the end of this series, I will release a Bible Study tool ministry leaders can use to have engaging conversations in their ministries.
Using Heaux Tales Truths for Teaching Ministry | A Topical Bible Study for Honest Adults (On or before Sunday, March 27, 2021)