Thursday, September 11, 2014

Double Standards

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If you don't already know, I grew up in a large strict Catholic family consisting of 3 boys, 3 girls and 2 parents.  Oh, and a whole lot of double standards.  It's not that we weren't generally all treated the same, because we were for the most part.  It's just that we girls were always monitored more closely than my brothers were.  And I hated it. But, now that I'm a parent, of 2 boys and 2 girls (3 of which are teenagers), I too have double standards.  

I see more of them every day.  Especially this week when I had one son and one daughter enter the world of social media.  I have dreaded this event for years.  I tried to prolong it as long as I could, until I couldn't prolong it anymore.  Because social media, while fun, comes with responsibility and stress.  Lots of stress.  Who to follow, what to write, what to post, how it can be misconstrued, how to rectify it and when to sever on-line relationships and real life ones.  And everything in between.

But it's hardest on girls.
It just is.

The need to look picture perfect 24/7 because everyone has a camera nowadays and at any moment someone could take a photo of you and blast it into the cybersphere for everyone to judge.  And they will.  And they do.  It's human nature.  This of course feeds the insecurities all of us have, but especially teenagers who are just starting to figure out who they truly are.  Am I skinny/pretty/witty enough?  Why didn't someone favorite my photo?  Doesn't anyone like me?  Why?  What's wrong with me?  And which sex is more prone to over think these kinds of things more than the other?  

It's biology. 

Last month I read the book Whipping Girl:  A Transsexual on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano.  Who can tell you the differences between what it is to be male and be a female more than a person who has been both?  The thing that really struck me in her story was not the physical transformation, but the emotional transformation that began soon after taking estrogen.  Flowers looked more beautiful and smelled more fragrant.  Not only that, she noted that she felt everything deeper, as if a veil were lifted from her emotions.  See?  We females are biologically programmed to be neurotic over thinkers.

It's not our fault! 
Blame our hormones.

Probably the worst thing you can give to a neurotic over thinker is constant access to beautifully filtered photographs of how happy other people appear to be on social media.  Because who takes ugly, unhappy looking photos and posts them?  No one.  And I'm saying all this because of course, I have social media accounts.  And I will tell you right now,  I'm guilty as charged.  And recently I have made a very concerted effort to try to reduce the amount of time I spend on them.

Because there is a direct correlation between time spent on social media and depression.  

What can we do as parents to ensure that our kids, especially our daughters, don't succumb to the low self-esteem that can occur as a result of social media?  I wish I had a step by step plan guaranteeing  we could all keep our kids safe on the internet.  But of course I can't.  And, cutting our kids off entirely isn't a realistic option in this day and age.  However, getting them involved in sports and keeping them busy with real life activities they enjoy is.   Thus, naturally reducing the amount of time  available for social media.  But, here's the pill that's probably going to be the toughest to swallow as parents, monitoring our own social media use and the signals we're really sending our own kids is also vital.
Not to mention all the double standards.

For more on teenagers and gender inequality here's another post I wrote, titled  Sexual Equality.

P.S.  Would it be poor timing to announce that I'm now on Instagram @misadventures_of_marie?


BLissed-Out Grandma said...

When my stepdaughter was a young teen, she and her friends had crazy intrigues and escapades using phone calls (to boys, to each other, to girls they decided to confront) and notes passed in school. It would have been so much more dangerous if they'd had cell phones and internet access. I'm sure your kids will come through it just fine, but you have my sympathy! said...

I think social media has made adolescence more prone to anonymity, but it's about the same as it was when I was a child and vicious rumors, innuendo, and gossip was passed along.

Muriel Jacques said...

It is a tough world and social media isn't easy to master. That said, you can't protect your kids from everything all the time. It seems to me that you are doing a good job by educating them...

Joy Page Manuel said...

Oooooh, what an interesting book you mentioned! In a way it's comforting to know it's not all our socialization's fault; that it is partly (or mostly?) biology too. However, that makes it even harder to deal with I guess. But you're right. Females need to know that they are truly worth more than their appearance and having the confidence in their skills and inner selves truly help. And what's worse than a neurotic overthinker?...a neurotic overthinker overachiever! ;-)

Janine said...

I would hate to be a teenager in the age of social media. It was so much easier when we had paper diaries...


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