All double standards are based on power and who should have it.
Double standards are the most obvious example of social inequality among people. In every situation with multiple people, there lies a “rule” that dictates who is entitled to certain levels of power over the others in the group.
In truly fair situations, the power structure makes sense. Such as a teacher in a classroom having the power to direct students and talk over them. This is not a “double standard” because each person is there for a different reason. The teacher is there to teach and the students are there to learn. Therefore, it makes no sense for a student to teach and a teacher to sit and listen.
Double standards occur when people have different levels of power in a situation without any justifiable reason. For instance, two cars get pulled over for running a stop sign, but only one driver gets a ticket because the other driver is friends with the cop. This would be considered a “double standard” because there is no reason for only one person to get punished for breaking the same law.
Double standards exist because some people are more important than others. Its really that simple. And this is not to say some people are “literally” more important than others. It just means individual people will always harbor bias in every situation.
Everyone ranks the people in their lives by level of importance whether they want to admit it or not. And the people who rank highest get the most “leeway” with that person. Getting more leeway in a situation is a form of power. The person with the most freedom in a situation always has the most power. And leeway is a form of freedom. More freedom leads to more opportunities and more opportunities leads to more success.
Essentially, this is what people mean when they talk about a “privileged” group. They are saying the privileged group has more freedom than others. On a small scale, this can manifest itself as a better-looking person being treated better or someone with connections getting something for free. On a larger scale it becomes one of the famous “isms”. Sexism, racism, fascism, classism, Anti-Semitism, ageism, etc.
These famous “isms” occur when a large segment of a population agrees on a double standard collectively. Thus, putting customs in place to systemically enforce whatever double standard(s) that group chooses to support.
The truth behind a double standard doesn’t matter because double standards are always intentional. They exist to decide who has power in a situation and who doesn’t. And these double standards are enforced most strongly by those who benefit from them.
Going back to the stop sign example, the driver who is friends with the cop will definitely try to use this to his advantage. Due to the friendship, the friend will encourage the cop to treat him differently and give him a “break”. The cop’s decision in this situation is revealing because it shows what he values most: the job vs. the law vs. his friend.
The cop choosing not to give his friend a pass might lead his friend to trust him less or like him less later. However, helping his friend forces him to break the law, ignore his morals and ignore his job responsibilities. The cop’s decision will ultimately depend on how important this friendship is to him. Because once again, some people are more important than others.
Is the cop’s friend more important than the other driver who ran the stop sign? Probably. Is the cop’s friend more important than the law or his job duties? Only the cop can say. But his final decision will showcase how much power/privilege he believes his friend deserves in that situation.
These are the types of decisions individual people make every day when choosing how to treat the people around them. They give everyone around them a certain level of value and that value determines how much leeway each person gets with them. The more leeway given, the higher value the person.
On a large scale, when we give one group of people more leeway than another group, we are essentially assigning more value to one group of people than another. This assignment gives that group a higher level of power and freedom. Whether the leeway is given based on gender, race, class, status, education, age, religion, political affiliation, physical attractiveness or any other factor… every double standard exists for the purpose of giving power to those with the highest perceived value.