Here’s One Reason America’s Youth Is Increasingly Progressive

In the United States, different social groups have different perspectives of the nation’s history. Race, gender, or sexual orientation largely determine one’s view of history. Marginalized social groups remember the horrors of the past and the murdered ancestors. On the contrary, when people of dominant social groups look at history, they see the successes, and thus they want to “make America’ great’ again.” The vast differences between minority and dominant social groups’ perspectives of history help explain a lack of older generations’ progressiveness. Additionally, this also explains why America’s youth is increasingly progressive.   

Considering that 76.3% of the United States population is white, the trends in the nation are influenced the most by the white community. Additionally, at least 80% of Black people already identify as Democrat — and 29% identify as liberal. So, as you read about how America’s youth is increasingly progressive, it is rightful to assume that the white community’s perspective is most prominently changing.

Older Generations

The Silent Generation, Boomers, and the Gen X’s are the oldest generations still alive. The people who comprise these generations were alive to see the past 100 years or so. The things that younger generations look at as “history” are just the past moments for the older generations. They remember times when society was even more opportune and beneficial for white people than marginalized groups. A majority of the dominant groups’ members don’t think of the horrible history our country has, and so, therefore, the country was never anything but great for them. 

The other side of the society, however, sees a not-so-great American history. Older members of disenfranchised social groups personally, or through stories, remember segregation, Jim Crow, and the KKK. From this perspective, the United States has never been great. Indigenous American, Hispanic, and Latinx people share this not-so-great perspective of American history. For the Indigenous Americans, it’s the mass genocide of ancestral tribes and hundreds of other horrors. It is the enslavement, murder, and eviction from their land along the southern United States border Hispanic and Latinx people.

Younger Generations 

A protester in Washington DC holds a sign featuring George Floyd.
Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

Younger generations, such as Millennials Gen Z, are more progressive than their older counterparts. According to research by the Pew Research Center, the views of voters throughout the different generations have become increasingly progressive over time. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported percentages on generations’ approval of Donald Trump. The numbers were as follows, 54% of the Silent Generation, 43% of Baby Boomers, 38% of Gen X, 29% of Millennials, and 30% of Gen Z. Overall, we can see a downward trend on average of 6% per generation. Despite an overall downward trend, Gen Z rose 1% from the previous Millenial generation. However, it’s important to note that Gen Z has the least number of eligible voters, which means significantly less of a sample size. That aside, since older generations experienced a different era of the United States, their perspective is different.

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The younger white population in America doesn’t remember when it was socially encouraged and accepted to overtly abuse people by the color of their skin, their orientation of sexuality, or any other identifying factors. Don’t confuse this with the eradication of racism or other prejudices. While the United States has mostly shifted away from blatant abuse of minority social groups, that does not mean that discrimination doesn’t exist through more inconspicuous forms. However, as I said, the younger white generation grew up in a seemingly more accepting society. So they are more likely to interact with a more diverse group of people and be more empathetic towards minority social groups.

Future Generations

As the less empathetic generations pass on, the newer generations will only become more and more progressive. I like to think about how my generation’s — Gen Z — kids will look at us and our parents as much more conservative than their views.

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We can see proof of younger generations becoming increasingly progressive in upcoming political leaders. Older generations think of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as too far left. However, ask anyone just out of college or younger, and they’ll most likely know AOC, and tell you how much they like her. She may have incredibly out-there ideas, but that’s what we, the United States, need. Because everything was impossible ‘til someone did it.


Here’s The Issue With Toxic Gender Roles

The problem

It is common nowadays to go out to run errands or turn on the news and notice an array of socially toxic behavior. When most people hear something racist, homophobic, or sexist, etc., it’s brushed off and ignored because this is what we’re used to.

Unfortunately, children receive their significant dose of toxic behavior from their parents. It’s not noticeable from most parents’ point of view because society has deemed this behavior to be “normal.”

Toxic Masculinity

When parents allow their male child to only play with toys that they have considered to be a “boy” toy, it begins to create a stigma in the child’s mind. If the child experiences sad emotions, they’re told to “toughen up!” If the child expresses emotional pain, they’re told to “take it like a man!” These examples of toxic behavior are how society has developed a social expectation of how a male presents himself, thus contributing to the toxic gender roles of society.

Erika Cosinera — outreach coordinator of LGBTQ Youth Space and writer of Toxic Masculinity and Gender Roles — organizes society’s expectation of men in a box which she calls, “The Man Box.” Inside “The Man Box,” Cosinera lists:

  • Do not cry openly or express emotion (except anger)
  • Demonstrate power and control (especially over women)
  • Don’t ‘be like a woman’
  • [Be] Heterosexual
  • Do not be ‘like a gay man’
  • Make decisions
  • View women as property/objects

Each of these toxic expectancies forces males into a dilemma, either conform to social norms or stray from the standards and face social outcast. However, males aren’t faced with the issue all at once.

According to Cosinera, society begins to enforce gender roles as soon as one hits preschool. In this stage, “children begin to learn how to ‘perform’ gender,” she states. Followed by the progression into middle school and high school. Which is a “demonstration of heterosexuality and dominance over girls’ or women’s bodies to claim masculine power and identity,” says Cosinera.

Society requires a repetitive display of masculinity – among other things – through social media, word-of-mouth, and upbringing, to identify as a “man.” This repetition is a significant factor in solidifying the toxic masculine gender role.

Man in gas mask

Toxic Femininity

The same concept of toxic masculinity applies to toxic femininity. This process — like toxic masculinity — begins the minute the parents or guardians start to associate material objects and their manner of speaking with gender orientation.

Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Ph.D. — a psychology professor at Cornell University — defines toxic femininity as, “Women expressing stereotypically ‘feminine’ traits,” in an article for Psychology Today.

Savin-Williams lists the following traits as “feminine traits”:

  • Passivity
  • Empathy
  • Sensuality
  • Patience
  • Tenderness

Such traits are what society expects from a woman. If they show any anger, they’re considered aggressive. If they fight for equal rights, they’re labeled as radical. These “requirements” of women are a male-dominated society’s effort to render women powerless and ineffective.

Impact of toxic gender roles

Sexual violence –

The belief that a woman’s sole job is to be sensual and a sexual mate endangers females everywhere. This belief is enabled through objectification, which allows one to commit immoral sexual acts such as rape without questioning their personal morality beforehand.

Homophobia –

Through means of media, like television and social media, the stereotypical version of a male is deemed the only acceptable way to be a “real” man. The idea that you must be heterosexual to be a man is dangerous to those who identify as homosexual. Homophobia leads to increased rates of depression, murder, and suicide of individuals who identify as homosexual. This is because modern culture essentially outcasts those who don’t fit the mold.

Photo by Crawford Jolly on Unsplash
Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

How to change this

Future generations must break the way society creates toxic standards. We need to alter the way we introduce our children to gender orientation. The means that the way parents speak to their children needs to become gender-neutral. This means no more asking your son if they have a girlfriend or your daughter if they have a boyfriend. It’s as simple as asking, “Are you dating anyone?” When your child needs some clothes? Let them pick out the clothes, allow them to express themselves. Permit your youth to choose the toys they want without you associating them with gender.

Society doesn’t need some significant change or a new policy. It needs you and everyone else to treat everyone equally.

Always remember that the smallest efforts make the biggest changes

"What lessens one of us lessens all of us' sign.
Photo by Michele Henderson on Unsplash