Gender roles are societal roles that represent a range of behaviors and attitudes that are considered acceptable and desirable for a person based on their gender. The role of women specifically has changed drastically from the 20th century. Women were expected to stay at home and raise their kids without access to education. Their role was to make sure that they were obedient wives and mothers without any identity of their own. Fortunately, we as a society have changed our views of women’s roles in society.
Today, women’s roles are no different from those of men. They are expected to work in any industry while having a co-parenting relationship with their spouse. In the past, father figures were not too involved in raising the children - it was primarily the responsibility of the mother to do so. Now, children can feel that they have a strong bond with both parents equally. And while this is prominent in the U.S., Asian societies are not quite there yet. Many wives are expected to stay at home and take care of the children and household. In the workforce, most of the women are in their 20’s and early 30’s where they work before getting married. Another path that some women take is not getting married and devoting their lives to their careers. It’s uncommon to see a woman in a high position who is also a wife and mother. And even if they are, they face a lot of backlash from their coworkers. They may feel that she should be at home raising their kids rather than working. It’s unfortunate that societal standards and expectations dictate how women should act, especially in Asian societies.
Because I am a second generation Korean American, I like to analyze the parallels of women’s roles in both U.S. and Asian culture. I enjoy listening to my parents talk about their experiences in Korea as well as learning about societal expectations, especially for women. My father always mentions how women should act and how he disapproves of the new trend that women in Korea are not getting married. I don’t blame my father for thinking the way he does because that’s the way he grew up. It’s interesting to learn about the differences between individualistic and collective cultures. I’m glad to know that Korea is becoming more individualistic where women are focusing more on their independence and happiness.
It’s important that we as a society teach the younger generation about healthy societal expectations. Young girls need to understand that they are their own person and that they have their own voice. They should not have to feel pressured or limited in any of their opportunities to grow as women. Fortunately, our society is progressing in the right direction. Soon, there will be no need to differentiate between men and women’s roles because we know that gender is no longer binary. There is a wide range of genders that people identify with because gender is a social construct. We can no longer say what women’s roles should be because there are no differences between genders in terms of skills and intelligence. All genders should be treated equally and should have the same expectations as human beings.
Blossfeld, H. & Kieman, K. (2019). The New Role Of Women: Family Formation In Modern Societies. New York, NY: Routledge.
Social media is an interactive technology that facilitates the creation and sharing of information through virtual communities and pages. Information can be in the form of text, pictures, videos, etc. Popular social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Youtube. While the creators of these platforms had genuine intentions of allowing people to connect with each other online, they were unable to predict the negative effects that social media has on the younger generation. “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix does a great job of explaining these effects and how they came to be.
In general, mental health issues are proven to have a high correlation with social media usage, especially among teens. They primarily experience body image related disorders as well as depression, anxiety, and suicide. Suicide among teens has gone up more than 90% compared to the last decade. As stated in the documentary, around the time social media platforms were established, depression and suicide rates skyrocketed among teens and pre-teens. Because they start using social media at such a young age, they are exposed to unrealistic portrayals of beauty and self-worth very early on. Girls grow up believing every negative comment about them and don’t realize that most of the people they see on Instagram have doctored their pictures in some way. They start hating how they look and wonder why they can’t look like that naturally. It’s imperative that parents don’t expose their children to social media at a young age, and if they do, they should be having regular talks with them about healthy social media behavior. Having a strong support system can help reduce the likelihood of mental health issues.
Almost all studies about this topic state that particular social media behavior could have been seen as warning signs of suicide. One example is vaguebooking. This is when a person creates a post online that is intentionally vague in order to elicit responses. This can be seen as a cry for help and should be taken seriously. It can make all the difference in the world to simply reply with something positive so that they can feel they’re not alone. Social media can be considered a double edged sword - it can both connect people with others while also alienating them at the same time. I highly recommend watching the documentary “The Social Dilemma” for an in-depth review of how these social platforms work and the ethical concerns that come with them.
Berryman, C., Ferguson, C. J., & Negy, C. (2018). Social media use and mental health among young adults. Psychiatric Quarterly, 89(2), 307-314. doi: 10.1007/s11126-017-9535-6
Toxic positivity can be defined as the excessive overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across situations. It consists of denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience. Just like anything done in excess, when positivity is used to cover up the human experience, it becomes toxic and allows us to fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions. We know that humans are emotional. We get jealous, angry, resentful, and greedy. By pretending that we are always optimistic, we deny the validity of a genuine human experience.
When a person is being overly positive, it means that they are exhibiting insincere positivity that leads to harm, needless suffering, or misunderstanding. It minimizes the genuine emotions that other people are feeling. It tells them that somehow what they’re feeling is wrong and trivial in the grand scheme of things. This is an important topic to mention especially during the pandemic. The common theme nowadays on social media is “Positive vibes only!” which implies that if you’re not being positive, you’re doing something wrong. It’s contradictory to what people are actually feeling due to worries about unemployment and personal health. And while these people on social media may have good intentions about spreading optimism, it’s important to express healthy levels of optimism without being ignorant of other people’s feelings.
Toxic positivity can take on many forms - it can manifest in both personal and professional life. One specific example is in domestic abuse cases where researchers from London found that misdirected or overgeneralized positivity exacerbates harm and abuse. An optimistic bias can put victims in danger rather than help them out of the situation. In cases like this, the victim must try to get out of the situation with the help of friends and family rather than having a positive outlook for change. With friends, toxic positivity can hurt the friendship because friends may feel that they can’t share how they truly feel without feeling minimized. They must fake happiness and positivity all the time while ignoring all other emotions. At work, toxic positivity can impact efficiency and productivity because problems are not dealt with. Leaders who are overly optimistic create a false sense of security and don’t teach employees how to deal with issues when they arise. Employees who share this toxic trait can be in denial of their weaknesses and be overly confident. Organizations like these cannot last long. Across all situations, when positivity is used as the only means of expressing emotion, it starts to seem fake and unnatural. People need to be able to express their emotions while displaying healthy amounts of optimism.
So, what’s the right way to be positive? Well, the most important element of a healthy mindset is balance. We must accept both positive and negative emotions and try to balance them out. One way to do this is to think of something negative then combine it with something positive using the word “and.” For example, you could think, “I hate being stuck with my family AND I appreciate my family.” This contradiction helps our minds to balance and accept both emotions. We can then open ourselves to a wider range of emotions rather than being stuck only on positivity. By communicating this to our loved ones, we can encourage them to do the same and to have healthy conversations about how we feel. I encourage you to try this easy exercise so that you can start balancing your emotions.
Fisher, M. (2019). How the "culture of positivity" debilitates fear studies. University of Calgary, 1-11. https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/110207
Sinclair, E., Hart, R. & Lomas, T. (2020). Can positivity be counterproductive when suffering domestic abuse?: A narrative review. International Journal of West London, 10(1), 26-53. doi:10.5502/ijw.v10i1.754
Weitz, K. (2011). Positivity (happiness) in the workplace and organizational change. International Journal of Management Review, 12(4), 384-412. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2009.00270.x