Double Standards in Society: How We Judge What Men and Women Wear

The other day I was walking down the street behind a girl wearing sweatpants when I heard two guys talking:

Guy 1: “Wow, she didn’t try at all today”

Guy 2: “I know, right”

They then laughed and started walking away.  What were they wearing you ask?  Sweatpants.

When it came time for me to decide on a Change Making Project for my Introduction to Women, Gender, and Sexuality Class, I thought back this experience, and suggested that my group work on the double standards present in society about clothing.  We decided that our project would be to educate people on this double standard, but before we could do that, we needed to have further proof.  

This proof came through a survey that we conducted.  In it, there were four pictures, two of women and two of men.  These pictures are shown below:

Woman in Sweats

Man in Sweats

Woman in Party Outfit
 
Man in Party Outfit
 

We then asked people to describe these outfits in one word or a short phrase.  When we received the results, we separated them into two categories: positive or negative, and then compared the percentages of the two categories, and this is what we found.

When it came to those who were wearing sweatpants, the majority of people gave positive responses.  However, while only 53.9% of results were positive for the woman, 62.4% of the results were positive for the man.  Furthermore, the man and woman were wearing the same sort of outfit, yet the woman was described as “not trying hard enough”, while the man was “comfortable”.  About 25% of the people who responded to the survey said something negative about the woman, but something positive about the man.  For example, they described the woman as “slouchy” or “sloppy”, while the man was “casual”.  The woman was also described as “lazy day” versus “everyday” for the man, and “pajamas” for the woman versus “typical college male attire” for the man.

When it came to those who were wearing the party outfits, the results were much more negative.  For the woman, 78.7% of the results were negative, while for the man only 59.6% of the results were negative.  These results are especially interesting.  While the man was wearing less clothing than the woman, she was deemed “slutty” or “asking for it”.  Let me repeat that.  People responded to the woman in the party outfit by saying that she was “asking for it” or “DTF”.  

While for the woman, most responses were judgemental and harsh, the responses for the man were funny.  For example, “Ugly” for the woman, versus “I mean...it’s cold, put a shirt on” for the man.  Another response was “Makes me uncomfortable” for the woman, versus “Perhaps appropriate for summertime lumberjacking” for the man.

When we started this project, we expected to find a double standard, and we did.  However, one of the more interesting facts we found was that women were even more critical of other women than they were of men.  This leads us to think about how internalized this double standard is.  

The outfits used were the same basic concept, just on different genders.  Yet, the results of what people thought of them were so different.  Women should not be judged more harshly just because of their gender.  We hope that with education like this, and more awareness, this double standard may go away.  One day, we hope that when two guys see a girl in sweatpants walking down the street they just move on, thinking only “I guess she wanted to be comfortable today too.”