Did you balk at the title? You probably did. Why is it any of my business to tell women what they shouldn’t wear? Sure, I’m not a huge fan of the new high-waisted shorts fad, but why should that matter? I assume most women don’t make their clothing choices based on what I think. However, when BuzzFeed publishes an article titled “Dear Men, Please Stop Wearing Cargo Shorts,” nobody bats an eye. The fact of the matter is that if BuzzFeed published an article with the same title as this one, people would get angry and there would be backlash.
Newsflash: just as women often make clothing choices independently of how they think men will perceive them, men often dress a certain way because they want to, not to impress the fashion police. Cargo shorts are comfy. They have enough pockets to carry everything you could possibly need. They’re like the lovechild of sweatpants and a purse, and they have the best traits of both. Perhaps I’m doing a disservice to women and gay men by hiding my gorgeous legs under a pair of cargos, but sometimes I just like to wear what I like.
We’ve been told for years about how the media objectifies women, using attractive women to sell everything from perfume to internet domain names. It is sexist, we are told, to use women’s bodies as a marketing tool. We are also told that advertisements set unhealthy and unrealistic beauty standards for women. But look more closely: that same perfume commercial features a muscular, strong-jawed, five-percent-body-fat man swimming around with the attractive woman. Ads for sports drinks often feature ridiculously athletic men doing ridiculously athletic things. These men are no less objectified than their female counterparts, and the standards of beauty they set no more realistic. We are told that we live in a society that objectifies women, and that is true. It is also true, however, that we objectify men. And while the objectification of women is decried loudly and frequently, nary a peep is heard with regard to the same treatment of men. See an attractive video game heroine in skimpy clothing? Sexism. An equally attractive shirtless video game hero? No problem.
Unfortunately, the double standard doesn’t stop at objectification. Men are often told they shouldn’t speak about “women’s issues,” such as abortion. Putting aside the obvious double standard that men seem to face this reaction only if they disagree with the woman with whom they are speaking, can you imagine if a woman were told by a man to butt out when speaking about issues relating to men? If a man told a woman to shut up about the Selective Service System, saying that her opinion doesn’t matter because the program doesn’t affect her, he would be called a sexist, or at the very least a jerk, but when a woman does the same thing there doesn’t seem to be any backlash.
When recounting the story of a woman who first drugged her husband and then cut off his penis and put it in the garbage disposal so that it couldn’t be reattached, Sharon Osbourne laughed and said she thought it was “quite fabulous.” Although Osbourne later issued an apology for her reaction, the backlash she faced was less than that faced by a European Space Agency scientist who wore a shirt with provocatively posed women on it. Though I’m not the supreme arbiter of morality, I think enjoying the thought of genital mutilation and torture is certainly worse than wearing an immature shirt, and yet it seems that the public disagrees with me. Apparently, the objectification of women is a far more serious issue than the fact that violence against men (especially by women) is often trivialized, dismissed, or even treated as a joke. If you doubt my claims, refer to one of several social experiments which show that while people are quick to intervene in situations of domestic violence against women by men, they ignore—or even laugh at—domestic violence against men by women. We’re told that domestic violence is a serious issue (as it is), and yet it seems it’s only treated as such when women are the victim. We are told that domestic violence is a women’s issue, despite the fact that women are just as likely to initiate and to commit domestic violence, and men are just as likely to be victims. The double standard in the treatment of men and women strikes again.
The media treats people poorly. It objectifies people and pokes fun at their misfortune. Are women treated poorly in the media? Of course. But at least when women are treated poorly, people care. The media treats men just as badly, if not more so, and almost nobody is angry about it. If you make a big stink over the objectification of women in the media and you aren’t equally outraged about men being treated the same way, or if you decry articles shaming women’s clothing choices as “sexist” or “patriarchal” while laughing at articles like the one on BuzzFeed mentioned above, you are no less sexist than those you denounce.