Ant Anstead and Christina Haack are both moving on. Why is only one being shamed?
Though there has been relatively little criticism about Anstead's reported new romance, Haack, on the other hand, defended herself against critics when going public with her new boyfriend, Joshua Hall, this month
"So yes 'another relationship' and guess what. I’m 38 -I’ll do what I want," Haack wrote in response to those who said she was moving on too fast.
On Wednesday, the HGTV star addressed i again, reminding fans that "no one knows what goes on behind closed doors" in reference to her past relationships.
"Some people are lucky enough to get forever the first time but no one should be shamed for things not working out," she wrote on Instagram.
Experts say Haack isn't alone, and most women, and especially celebrities, face an unfair double standard about their dating history. From Kourtney Kardashian's romance with Travis Barker to Jennifer Lopez's alleged reconciliation with Ben Affleck, high-profile women are often shamed and criticized for moving on "too quickly" from a break-up, while men are praised for the same behaviors. Twitter users similarly sympathized when Jason Sudeikis broke his silence about his split from Olivia Wilde, who has taken the brunt of public opinion amid romance rumors with Harry Styles.
"In general, women tend to be vilified or maligned for any aspect of their relationship where they’re really taking charge of it and owning what they want to do. That isn't the case with men," says Jenn Gunsaullus, a sociologist and intimacy coach.
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Take, for instance, the unrelenting slut-shaming of Miley Cyrus in 2019 after she moved on from Liam Hemsworth, or the demonization of Taylor Swift, who has been portrayed as the "crazy" ex for singing about old boyfriends.
But women are becoming more vocal about this negative stigma. Megan Fox recently pushed back when addressing misogynistic criticisms about her split with ex Brian Austin Green as well as her age gap with boyfriend Machine Gun Kelly.
"It's fantastic that women are doing a lot of pushback around this negativity and unnecessary judgement," Gunsaullus says. "But there's still a long way to go."
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Why women are shamed while 'boys will be boys'
There's a reason men and women are judged differently, even when they share similar sexual histories.
"Men are evaluated more positively and women more negatively, because if you're a woman and you deviate from your expected societal role, then it's believed that there's something wrong with you and as a result, you deserve judgement and policing," says Leora Tanenbaum, the author of "I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet."
The "good girl trope," which Tanenbaum says is the expectation for women to be sexually naive and innocent, contrasts the "boys will be boys" mentality, which makes it more socially acceptable for men to date more people or move on from a break-up without facing backlash.
"The double standard that props up slut-shaming shows that a woman is evaluated according to her real or perceived sexual behavior. And this judgement is a way of regulating women and limiting what is acceptable for them in terms of dating or sexual expression," she says.
Female celebrities are at an even higher-risk of experiencing slut-shaming and are often insulted for their sexual histories once they rise in status — an attempt to "connect their worthiness to their appearance" rather than their talent, according to Gunsaullus.
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'Ugly' judgments reflect a more dangerous problem in society
Tanenbaum says it's important to think before you speak, because judgmental behavior can fuel hateful actions.
"This isn't just ugly behavior. If it's socially acceptable to police, judge and malign a woman for being 'too sexual' or moving on 'too fast,' then that can become a justification for mistreating women, whether it be in the form of sexual harassment or assault," she says.
Though the sexism Haack and Fox face has been overwhelming, for women of color and those who identify as LGTBQ, experts say the stakes can be higher. Lopez, who received significant criticism about her 2020 Super Bowl performance has been stereotyped as "hypersexual and deviant" in her romantic life, which Tanenbaum calls a "persistent problem for women of color."
"Jennifer Lopez is being judged as a woman of color when people are making rude comments about her alleged post break-up romances, and that dovetails into ideas of slut-shaming," she says, referencing rumors that the singer and Affleck reconciled after the pair was spotted together on multiple occasions fresh off her split from Alex Rodriguez in April.
"Unfortunately, so many people in our culture do believe that women who are 'too sexual' are deviating from their stereotypical gender role, and I think we have to remember that this is incorrect and binary thinking. This is not OK," Tanenbaum says.