Pressures of Social Media
Today, it is not so much about what role a gender is going to play once they grow up, but more so how adolescents are expected to behave and the pressures being placed on them to conform to their typical gender behavior. Since the advent of social media, teens have been struggling from the pressures of trying to fit in and there has been a rise in mental health issues. It is something that is constantly in our lives - all we have to do is pick up our phones and instantly we are made aware of the impossible standards society puts on us. According to a CNN article by Emanuella Grinberg, the effects of forced gender roles leave teens more susceptible to certain physical health issues: girls may marry young, become pregnant, drop out of school, and be more likely to experience violence. For men, they are at a higher risk of substance abuse, have shorter life expectancies and a greater tendency for suicidal behavior, which is even more likely if they do not conform to traditionally masculine characteristics (Grinberg). Because masculinity is associated with power and dominance, girls are more likely to challenge norms, as women who adopt masculine traits are perceived as more powerful than men that adopt feminine ones. Even though people are still bullied for behaving differently, there is obviously more freedom today for people to act how they want to compared to the 1900s. What it means to be a man or a woman is slowly but surely changing, becoming more fluid and less restrictive. Despite there being more options today on who we choose to be and what we can do, there is still massive pressure put on kids to conform to how the majority of the world is behaving. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to go against the norms of society. People are constantly struggling with the burden of stepping outside of the evolved, but still very institutional, confines of gender roles.
We Need to Continue to Change
Stereotypes associated with gender will most likely always exist, but over the past century we have made monumental steps forward regarding how women are viewed and respected. Changes such as these were done through the challenging of norms and the hard work of the women who have fought for equal rights. With the next generation comes a wave of proactive, strong minded people who are not afraid to speak out on issues that matter to them. I encourage more people to find what they are passionate about and to inspire others to do the same. Young Americans have grown up in a country where their mothers very well could have been a full-time employee while their fathers were in charge of the home life. Even though this generation is filled with examples of subversive gender dynamics, it still has had to suffer through the constant reminder of those norms through the media. We have to continue to be more accepting of everyone, no matter how they choose to define their gender.
A Happier, Healthier Society
Our long-lasting battle for gender equality has not ceased, yet we have since made remarkable advances concerning our notions of how we are “supposed” to act. Traditional gender roles have limited the opportunities for both men and women for far too long. People let it determine both major and minor life choices without even realizing it. It has also been used as a way to shirk responsibility: saying things like, “Oh, boys will be boys.” Behaviors that traditionally have been deemed acceptable for a specific gender were created by society and are not objective rules of reality. Social norms were constructed by humans, and therefore exist within the collective consciousness of humans. When people realize that there is no real, tangible definition of femininity and masculinity, then there will be less pressure to act how we were raised to believe in gender behavior. Fighting for our freedom from stereotypes will result in people living happier lives, especially for men who do not fit the strict gender code. Mental health for young teens will improve and it will be one less thing for growing individuals to worry about, since they will be able to freely express themselves.