Gender and Gen Z
3 minutes read
- Written by Yubo Team
Definition: what is gender?
Gender is the socially constructed qualities, roles, and characteristics historically associated with being a man or a woman. In the many discussions about gender on Yubo last year, our users largely viewed gender as “fluid, and can change, and can be both interpreted and expressed in various different ways.” They saw gender as a spectrum that, according to Coach Woodzy who came to Yubo to speak about trans identity during pride month, “is not only representative of various degrees of feminine and masculine, but holds space for the presence of both femininity and masculinity all at once, and also holds space for us to identify with and express neither of those qualities.”
What is the Gender Binary?
The Gender Binary is the classification of gender into only the opposing categories of masculine and feminine. It is the traditional view of gender that is being replaced with the gender spectrum. Our Gen Z users told us that they see the gender binary as “outdated and often harmful” because it forces people to only embrace their qualities that align with stereotypes of masculinity or femininity.
Coach Woodzy disagrees with the gender binary because it does not “hold space for people to be whoever they want to be, on their own terms, and not because society says they have to be a certain way.” As our society moves to a broader definition of what “gender means,” individuals who are stuck in a binary idea of gender have a difficult time wrapping their brains around individuals who do not fit into a strict gender dichotomy, or do not identify with any gender at all.
What is a gender stereotype?
A gender stereotype is an overgeneralized assumption about the characteristics of a man or woman. Gender stereotypes create widely accepted biases and perpetuate the notion of the gender binary. Gender stereotypes are dangerous because when individuals don’t conform to our gender stereotypes, they often face discrimination and unequal or unfair treatment. While gender stereotypes are still pervasive in our society, our users say that they are “slowly but surely” becoming less common and they see a great increase in “changing government documents, physical spaces, and social movements” to be more inclusive. For example, at Yubo we offer 35 genders and 50 pronouns to make sure our app is a safe and inclusive space for everyone.
Our users also told us that gender stereotypes make it difficult to express their gender and pronouns to others. Coach Woozy, a binary trans man, says that it has taken him many years to feel enough “comfort and security within myself and my masculinity that I now feel safe to enjoy my femininity while being a masculine individual.” Even for someone like him, who has embraced the fluidity of gender from a young age, he says that “sometimes I just want to be me and I’m still learning how to best describe that.” The pressure to conform to gender stereotypes makes that learning process even harder.
What does Gender Fluid mean?
Gender fluid is when someone, in their gender identity, does not feel they are either completely male or completely female. People’s gender identity can often change over time. That change might be in expression, but not identity, or in identity, but not expression. Or both expression and identity might change together. Coach Woodzy says that while he feels “affirmed by doing traditionally masculine things,” and that while he lost many of his “feminine behaviors and qualities” throughout his gender transition, he has recently regained them. He attributes this shift in his gender expression to feeling more safe and secure in his masculinity. However, shifts are natural and can happen for no reason at all. For some people, gender fluidity may continue indefinitely as part of their life experience with gender.
Some people describe themselves as gender-fluid, which as an identity, typically fits under the transgender and nonbinary umbrella. Gender-fluid applies to people whose gender identity doesn’t match the sex assigned to them on their original birth certificate. (Nonbinary means a person’s gender identity doesn’t fit into strict cultural categories of female or male). Not everyone who experiences changes in their gender expression or identity identifies as gender-fluid. Nor does everyone desire gender-affirming medical treatment to change their body to better align with their gender identity. Ultimately, anyone who identifies as gender-fluid is a gender-fluid person. Often, the term is used to mean that a person’s gender expression or gender identity — essentially, their internal sense of self — changes frequently. But gender fluidity can look different for different people.
Gender Neutral: what is it?
Gender-neutral means that something is not associated with either women or men. It can be both an identity or a way of referring to things without dividing them into genders. As an identity, gender-neutral falls under the nonbinary and transgender umbrellas. Gender-neutral individuals have a neutral gender identity or expression, or identify with the preference for gender-neutral language and pronouns.
As a way of speaking, being gender-neutral means using gender-neutral pronouns like “they” instead of “he” or “she,” or saying “everyone” instead of “ladies and gentlemen.” Using gender-neutral language can seem like a trivial thing, but for those who don’t fall neatly into the male or female categories, these constant references to the binary male and female groupings can be alienating. Even for those who do identify as male or female, these constant reminders of gender have an impact. By constantly dividing everyone into male and female categories we make ourselves perceive men and women as more different than they really are.
What are the thoughts of Gen Z about gender roles and gender in general?
Gen Z does not subscribe to traditional gender roles and sees gender as a spectrum that allows for multiple genders. When we asked Coach Woodzy this question, he said that “When [Gen Z] considers traditional roles and their place in today’s society, we think it’s important to let people be whoever they want to be, and do whatever they want to do. If someone enjoys aligning with gendered norms, that’s great. If someone doesn’t, that’s okay too.” They prioritize people being their most authentic selves over fitting into clear cut gender categories, and see any pressure to conform to gender categories as destructive.
What are the differences between Gen Z and Millenials about the topic of gender?
Gen Z grew up surrounded by less gender stereotypes than Millenials, so they are more accepting of multiple genders and less likely to subscribe to the gender binary compared to millennials. According to a Pew Research Center Study, Gen Z respondents were more likely than Millennials to say they knew someone who prefers that others use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to them: 35% say this is the case, compared with a quarter of Millennials.
Coach Woodzy described first learning about gender spectrum in the third grade when his teacher put a string across the classroom that on one end had images of highly feminized things, like makeup, flowers, dolls, and the color pink; and masculine images like trucks, sports, and the color blue on the other side. The teacher asked the students to put their hand somewhere along the line, based on their hobbies and interests. According to Woodzy, “Not one single student was entirely feminine or entirely masculine” and showed that “it is okay to embrace the things we enjoy, regardless of what genders we assign to certain things.” Millennials were less likely to have been exposed to the gender spectrum at such a young age, and as a result, grew up internalizing more gender stereotypes than Gen Z.
How can parents help their children in their personal journey about gender?
Parents can help their children in their personal journey with their gender by avoiding gender stereotypes, using the correct pronouns, and embracing gender fluidity. Doing activities like the one Coach Woodzy described above, or encouraging them to embrace their interests that do not traditionally align with gender stereotypes, are great ways to subvert gender norms and make sure they feel comfortable being themselves. Coach Woodzy says that parents support their children in affirming their gender identity by asking themselves about their preconceived notions or biases about gender. He says that “It’s one thing to memorize the way that someone would like to be seen and acknowledged, it’s another to challenge your headspace about WHY you struggle to affirm someone else in the first place.”