The days of gender dysmorphia – where the roles and relationships between men and women are clear cut and incontestable – are slowly fading away. There’s a new generation on the block. The old rules have changed. This adds a new challenge for the parent or parents already grappling with this new environment. Technology has changed almost beyond recognition, and it looks like there is no going back.
How do I handle this particular issue?
It’s an interesting time for gender. On the one hand, we have movements like #MeToo. These movements have combined with cultural phenomena like the series The Handmaid’s Tale to create an awareness of the dangers and consequences of patriarchy. On the other, there’s a marked turn away from toxic masculinity. In the past, this gave rise to a generation of men who punished their sons for crying.
The dynamics of this generation and space over time are unfamiliar territory. This is especially true for the men and women who were raised by parents themselves steeped in stereotypes that have now become outdated. It’s therefore not surprising that many are floundering.
And it’s not just the social front that is throwing up challenges: biology is in on change, too. Although fertility remains high in lower socio-economic groups, there is a definite slowing down of population growth in developed countries. This is a trend that’s been brought about by decreasing fertility and increasing mortality rates. This is also the manifestation of a move away from passion and animal sexuality to sharing relationships rooted in intimacy. In turn, this is an offshoot of changing male and female roles. Not too long ago, these roles were very much an integral part of our identity. Today, these are becoming far more fluid as women take on more traditionally male tasks, and vice versa.
Some societies have found interesting ways to adapt to emerging dynamics.
In Nepal, for example, there’s a village where children don’t have any ‘parents’ – rather, they are raised by all the adults in the group. At the heart of this is the deconstruction of gender. It is interesting that gender and mortality go hand in hand, while non-gender and immortality are linked. Just think of how an amoeba can go on dividing into new cells ad inifitum.
That’s not to say that the human race is evolving to a point where gender becomes irrelevant, and therefore puts its own replication at risk, because there is still high fertility in certain population groups.
It may sound strange, but the reality is that if you try to rebel, you’ll find yourself coming up against the force of evolution.
The real question, then, is how do you raise your children in this milieu and generation?
- Realize that whatever you try to suppress in your children, they will probably express. Traits that you condemn, they will breed, attract and become. It’s all part of your own growth process because you learn that you love your children no matter what, rather than because of, who they are supposed to be.
- Let go of polarised and rigid notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or how you think things ‘should’ be.
- Appreciate that your children are more likely to be in tune than evolutionary dynamics than you are. This is natural – parents are often stuck in their old ways. But don’t let that keep you mired in a situation where you project your more polarized thinking onto them.
- Let technology be an asset, not a liability. That means you need to understand both the value that it can bring to your life and the danger it can pose to your relationships. This is especially true when it comes to your children. Research is showing that the parents who spend a lot of time preoccupied with screens are experiencing increasingly difficult relationships with their children. Moreover – and this is heart-breaking – children have been admitting they resent their parents’ phones.