There could never be an ‘Elona’ Musk – women are held to far higher standards than men | Arwa Mahdawi

Could there ever be a real-life Elona Musk?

Elon Musk may not be a diplomat but, as everyone knows, he is a genius. And, true to form, the man has come up with a genius way to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (The United Nations, I hope you’re listening!) Here we go … he wants to fight Vladimir Putin. Just him and Putin, man-to-man, battling it out.

“I hereby challenge [Vladimir Putin] to single combat,” Musk tweeted on Monday. “Stakes are [Ukraine].”

Putin was a little too busy committing war crimes to reply but, don’t worry, Musk still got the attention he so desperately craves. On Tuesday, the billionaire shared a post from the messaging app Telegram written by Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Putin head of the Chechen Republic. Kadyrov told Musk that he was in a completely different league from Putin and needed to “pump up those muscles in order to change from the gentle (effeminate) Elona into the brutal Elon you need to be”. Not one to let a humanitarian crisis distract him from a bit of banter Musk then changed his display name on Twitter from “Elon Musk” to “ElonaMusk”. (He has since changed it back.)

All of this is completely idiotic, of course, but I have to admit that Musk is on to something here. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we replaced wars with wrestling matches between world leaders? Instead of killing innocent civilians, leaders could just duke it out among themselves. They get to stroke their egos and feel like Real Men™ without everyone else paying for it.

It’s a nice idea but, of course, it’s impossible to imagine it ever actually happening. You know what else is impossible to imagine? A real life Elona Musk. There could simply never be a female version of Musk. A woman could never act the childish way that Musk acts and still be revered as a brilliant entrepreneur. A female CEO could never get away with spending half her day shitposting on Twitter and cracking juvenile jokes in the way that Musk does. People wouldn’t take her seriously.

That’s not just my hypothesis – research shows that women are routinely held to far higher standards than men. A Rockefeller Foundation-commissioned study, for example, found 80% of news reports about female CEOs involved in a crisis cited the CEO as the problem. When a man was CEO, however, only 31% of stories blamed him for the company’s issues. In a similar vein, a 2016 study found female lawyers receive far harsher punishments than their male counterparts for ethical violations at work. The study looked at disciplinary punishments handed out by the American Bar Association and found that women had a 106% higher likelihood of being disbarred than a man for committing the same ethical infraction. And even women in prison get held to higher standards than men in prison: across the US women are disciplined at higher rates than men for smaller infractions of prison rules.

Even if a hypothetical Elona Musk didn’t spend half her time insulting people with names like “pedo guy”, engaging in possible violations of securities law, and firing off sexist tweets about “TITS”, it’s unlikely she’d be lauded as a genius in the way Elon is. We are socially conditioned to think of brilliance and genius as male traits. Indeed a 2017 study found that girls as young as six are more likely to associate brilliance with the opposite sex. That builds on previous research which found parents and teachers attribute good marks in maths to hard work for girls, but to natural ability for boys.

A certain sort of person is constantly going on about how it would be great to have more women in power, but it’s really important not to lower the bar. Here’s the thing: the bar is a hell of a lot lower for men than it is for women. It’s easier to imagine Mars being colonized in our lifetimes than an Elona Musk being taken seriously.

Idaho wants to let people profit from rape

Last year, Texas introduced an extreme abortion law that gave private citizens the right to sue anyone who aided or abetted an abortion for at least $10,000 in “statutory damages”. Since then, a number of Republican-led states have seemingly been in competition to try to come up with even more dystopian legislation. Leading the charge is Idaho, which has just passed a bill that would effectively allow certain family members of a “preborn child” to veto an abortion and sue anyone who aids or abets an abortion for damages starting at $20,000. As Slate reports: “The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Representative Steven Harris, has confirmed that if a rapist has 10 siblings, each can sue for $20,000.” Essentially then, the legislation financially incentivizes rape. And this wasn’t even seen as particularly controversial: the bill was passed in the Idaho House of Representatives in a 51-to-14 vote. The governor is excepted to sign it into a law, and it may go into effect next month.

Avowed ‘anti-feminist’ elected next president of South Korea

Yoon Suk-yeol exploited the country’s heated gender wars in order to gain support from angry young male voters. It worked: he won a tightly contested election last week. However, Yoon might not be able to turn back the clock on women’s rights as he much as he had hoped. One of the president-elect’s big campaign promises was abolishing the government’s ministry of gender equality and family – however, that requires approval from parliament, which is controlled by the Democratic party. And they’ve just appointed as its new interim leader a 26-year-old feminist who has been very critical of Yoon’s policies.

Is there a ‘romance gap’? Bumble thinks so

According to a YouGov survey commissioned by the dating app, 74% of adults think that, when it comes to romantic relationships and dating, different behaviors are expected based on your gender identity. People still expect men to take the lead, for example. And 33% of women said they had changed their behavior to make someone feel more powerful while dating or in a relationship

The week in pawtriarchy

Time for some good mews, I reckon! So, please meet Stepan: a 13-year-old tabby cat with more than a million followers on TikTok. Stepan and his owner, Anna, are Ukrainian but recently managed to escape to safety in France. “When you’ve got that many followers you can use them as a network to provide aid, find shelter or even help find escape routes in a war zone,” a humanitarian expert told the Washington Post. “Having an online network will help you survive difficult times.” Someone should probably tell the kids in Yemen that if they just get an Instagram-famous cat the world might give more of a damn about them, eh?

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