Double standard

From Academic Kids

A double standard is a rule which is applied more stringently to one party than to others. Double standards are seen as unjust, because they violate a principle of justice known as impartiality. Impartiality is the principle that the same standards should be applied to all people, without regard to subjective bias or favoritism. A double standard violates this principle, by holding different people to different standards.

While double standards are generally condemned in the abstract, they are also very common. Efforts to defend purported double standards usually take the form of denying that a double standard is being applied, or attempting to give a good reason for the disparate treatment.

For example, children are generally forbidden from acts such as drinking and smoking while adults are permitted to perform such acts. This differential treatment could be described as a double standard, because people are being held to different standards. However, one defending this differential treatment could argue that there is a good reason for the different treatment -- that children are inherently less capable of making mature decisions regarding those activities, so they should be protected from risky and potentially harmful behavior. The counterargument would then be that children are not inherently less able to make good decisions, as there are some people who are more mature in their decision-making than other adults, so that age is an arbitrary criterion.

Thus, the key factor in determining whether a double standard is being applied is whether or not there is adequate justification for the different treatment.

Other examples of double standards

A traditional example in many societies is adultery and other sexual behaviors if it is socially more acceptable for a husband than a wife to have a lover. Similarly a man who has sex with many different women may be considered a "stud", while a woman who has sex with many different men may be considered a "slut" or a "whore", "tease", "tramp", etc...

In the context of religion many argue that accusations of blasphemy are an especially common example of double standard in that the very concept of blasphemy relies on applying or seeking to apply different standards to the theology seeking protection than to other matters.

The ancient Roman aphorism, Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi (Gods may do what cattle may not) captures the idea of the easier norms of behavior that elites apply to themselves and the harsher norms of behavior they apply to the masses.

Specific political examples are harder to give, because almost no one, whichever part of the political spectrum they are on, will admit to hypocrisy, although all sides are quick to point fingers at the "liberal media" or "conservative media" (in the US) for giving a "pass" to one side of the political spectrum while virtually slandering the other. In the UK, this is less of a problem, as all newspapers are accepted to be biased and there is no move towards pretending otherwise. However, the BBC has been attacked throughout recent times for having a left-wing bias, and it is true that of the major newspapers, the majority tends to favour the Conservative Party.

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