Why are women held to higher morals than men?

First posted 29th November 2020

I recently read about a pastor to the stars who had been fired from his position in the church because he had failed on moral grounds. It was further revealed that this pastor had cheated on his wife of seventeen years – the cheating incident was not a one off thing but rather a five month affair. As usual, there were many commentaries on social media regarding this issue and the focus once again was on the mistress who was perceived as a home breaker. Some how when it comes to morality it seems that it falls on women most times to uphold it. I found myself again in the comment section because I was intrigued to know what people were thinking and one comment stood out to me. This commenter pointed out my exact thoughts and also highlighted something I had not given much thought to – why are women held to higher moral expectations than men?

The mistress in question had granted an interview and she stated that when she met this pastor, he never disclosed that he was married. I wrote a few weeks ago on the challenges single women face and one of the points I touched on was that single women are exploited by some married men – and in this case, this is what seemed to have happened. She would later explain how she snooped on google to find out that the man she had been dating for some time was in fact married. At which point, she was emotionally invested in this relationship – how many women are able to find out online if the man they are dating is married? This lady was only able to find out because this pastor was famous but there are countless women dating men they don’t know are married. As she gave her account on her relationship with this pastor, the comments on social media were more forgiving towards this man who had clearly violated his marriage vows but not so towards the mistress. Once again, a man had messed up and a woman was being bashed for his failure – so to read the one comment where someone had had the courage to ask why women are held to such high standards when it came to morality and how men can do the barest and get by, really spoke to me.

What stood out to me in the comments was the scrutiny of how this woman looked – suddenly she had similarities to the Kardashians and he probably wanted into their world since he had been pastoring some members of that family. However, I did not see the similarities being pointed out – she had a certain way about her that was clearly unique to her but I failed to see how this had now become the focus of the issue at hand. A husband had disrespected his wife by breaking his marriage vows and entertained the feelings of another by not disclosing that he was unavailable – therefore toying with the emotions of both women – but commenters were rather concerned she was using her position for fame. There were also comments about how she dresses which is what led me to investigate this man further and why I agreed with the commenter who stated that women are held to higher moral standards than men.

Where I come from and in certain social circles, including the church, every time morality is brought up, it is mainly targeted at women. There are so many narratives out there positioned towards women when it comes to morality but hardly anything out there for men and unfortunately worst in religious settings. So while women go to so much trouble to cover themselves up completely and behave in a certain way that checks off how a woman is supposed to look and behave, men have been allowed to make these rules and behave however they want. On looking into this pastor – there were countless images of him in shirtless poses, skinny jeans that looked like second skin, shorts that left little to the imagination and a particular image that showed his ‘dick root’ (new word I discovered whiles investigating this)  – most images of this man was of him in deep V neck t-shirts. In short, his appearance was very sexually explicit! I wondered what names would have been attributed to him if he were a woman. Why are women given such a hard time when they show up in something slightly revealing but a man can show so much and yet get a pass? When did doing the right thing become the exclusive responsibility of women?

I have witnessed countless times in certain social settings when a woman had been called aside to discuss how she was dressed but a man in the same setting with tight clothing that outlined his genitalia had been given a pass without anyone calling this to his attention. I can recall several times I had been in church and other women have offered ladies covering because they thought their dresses were inappropriate, or had been pulled aside to discuss how they are dressed. I recall a time I was speaking to a male friend, whom I assumed was more enlightened when it came to these issues, who was surprised I had used a ‘strong word’ (yes, I did swear) because as a woman, I should not speak such ‘strong words’. So the question was, can a man be free to express himself with these words? Because I am sure it’s in these instances of such frustrations why these words were coined. An aspiring MP in Ghana had allegedly used a gun to fire warning shots to disperse a crowd she found intimidating – almost all commentaries were on the fact that she, a woman, should never have used a gun. I then asked the question – would the gunshots have been okay if a man had possessed and fired the gun?

I am in no way condoning the behaviour of the mistress – she should have walked away as soon as she found out this man was married. However, she had not made a vow to anyone she needed to uphold. When I listened to the lady, the only reason why she spoke out was because this pastor had referenced their relationship like it was a quick fling in his apology – but she wanted to clarify that it was not the case. In fact, for 5 months, they had been seeing each other and he had professed his love for her and she also believed herself in-love. I don’t know about you, but to invest time and effort into any relationship is an investment many of us would like to yield some positive results from. To wake up one day and find out that there was no future is heartbreaking to say the least. I think it is time we stopped labelling the other women as home breakers and seek to know the full story of such relationships but equally, if a man steps out of his marriage then perhaps, he has broken his home!

Most cultures believe that the man is the leader in the family, fair enough – but if the leader is not leading by example and his moral compass is crooked, what exactly is he portraying to the people he leads? In any business, leaders are seen to be the ones championing the values of the organisations they lead – why is this not the same when it comes to the leaders in our domestic settings? We need to start holding men to the same moral expectations placed on women and perhaps even more when they expect to be treated as leaders. Leadership is not a place one can behave anyway they want but a place of great responsibilities that is worth emulating. I am asking that when we choose to understand men when they fail morally, we should extend the same grace to women also. When marriage counsellors ask women to forgive cheating spouses and help them feel more happy at home, the same should be said to men and perhaps more expected from them. The man that believes he is in a position of leadership in his home, must ensure that he is worth following and that he has created an environment conducive for his family to thrive.

I would love to hear from you – please comment, email or follow me on social media so we can change these narratives by sharing our experiences.

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