Impossible standards

My sister Mary said, “I can’t believe Karen said she voted for Trump and would do so again!”

“Why do you expect women to be better than men?” I asked. I was visiting Rapid City, South Dakota. We were having coffee in Mary’s fascinating living room, which features her unusual collection of Native American tourist kitsch.

“I guess I think that women should know better,” she said. “But they don’t.”

Laughing, I said, “Why do we expect better from women? And on what planet do people unconsciously think that all women should be all anything or believe the same things? Welcome to Planet Implausible!” That made Mary chuckle.

As a “baby” feminist in my early days, I hunted for examples where women were better than men in formerly male-dominated fields. That’s valuable information for many reasons, primarily as evidence that women and men aren’t inherently one way or another. Today, as our society is finally exploring gender fluidity, many of us are floundering about what gender even means. Rigid gender roles crumble daily. And, just as I collected stories of so-called “superior” women, detractors collected stories of the “downfallen.” Women as individuals are just like everyone else. However, as a group, we must constantly excel to prove we’re just as good. Forget the Double Standard: Let’s look at the triple standards women often face:

• First standard: Perfection. (I have a right to be a fallible human being.)

• Second standard: Unrealistic standards. (I deserve to be judged by human standards; I am no better and no worse than other women or men.)

• Third standard: Above and beyond expectations. (I did not sign up to be a perfect person when I said I’d fight for gender justice.)

This “Triple Standard” is at play constantly in our daily lives and puts unrealistic pressure on women who fight for justice, women in the workplace and government, or any pursuit at all. This pressure comes not only from detractors but also from allies.

During the arduous process of American women winning the vote, Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women,” stated this brilliantly: “I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country.”

We were all recently reminded of the “How could she?” concept thanks to white women being a crucial part of Drumpf’s 2016 victory, which led to Roe v. Wade being overturned. Am I disgusted? Yes. Do I think those white women represent all white women? No! Do white female Trumpers represent me? No. And white women have as much a right to be idiots as other groups. The Goddess of Idiots is nondiscriminatory; she bestows idiocy on people of all colors, all genders, all religions and all ethnicities. A few reminders:

• There is no Pope of All Women. No encyclicals. No edicts. No pointy hats.

• There isn’t a central handbook on being a woman, just as there isn’t one for men.

• Just like men, women are people first; their gender second.

Mark my words: If the White Christian Nationalists take over, we will lose our right to vote. There may be death penalties for women who have abortions. (South Carolina Republican lawmakers have already suggested this.) Our LGBTQ loved ones may be imprisoned. No one ever thought Roe v. Wade would be obliterated except for a bunch of us women’s rights advocates. But who listens to us?

Many women have internalized misogyny and vote against their own interests, just as men do. Many women conform their lives around a male-dominated religion, which comes first — everything else is, er… trumped. Many women grow up within a system where they are trained not to trust women, including themselves.

So many women and men expect women to be “better” than they are. Based on what? Cis-hetero white men have the luxury of mostly not having to represent their entire group. The rest of us? Not so much. “Hey, brother, stop it! You’re going to make other white, straight men look bad and set us back for decades!” Said. No. One. EVER! Is Drumpf ruining the future for all straight white men? Hardly.

If we base rights on anything other than being human, we stand to fail repeatedly. Our failures then get used against us, which results in people distancing themselves while making excuses for me or whomever else has failed at being a woman (or any other out-of-power group) rather than simply being a fallible human.

Susan B. Anthony said, “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we the whole people, who formed the Union. … Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.”

If you base rights on merit, someone has to judge whether that person deserves rights. Who’s going to judge that? One does not earn human rights: We gain them and then fight to maintain them… at least here on Planet Possible.

2023 marks the 30th year that Ellen Snortland has written this column. She also teaches creative writing online and can be reached at: Her award-winning film “Beauty Bites Beast” is available for download or streaming at