They’re young. They like things their way. They don’t like stereotypes and steer clear of conformity.
Because young people ages 34 and younger are legions larger than the dominant-until-now-Baby Boom generation, their likes and dislikes command lots of attention. High on their list is gender identity – a concept they’re increasingly resisting.
“Gender stereotypes are conformity,” says Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer of The Intelligence Group, a consumer insights and strategy group based in Los Angeles whose summer/fall 2013 report about gender paints a vivid portrait of younger generations’ attitudes.
The survey reveals that “gender is less of a definer of identity today than it was for prior generations. Rather than adhering to traditional gender roles, young people are interpreting what gender means to them personally.”
As a result, gender rules and traditional stereotypes are fading. From college housing to clothing, language and parenting, gender-neutral increasingly is the preferred position. Generation Y alone is estimated at 80-90 million in the USA (compared with 75 million Baby Boomers) and 2 billion worldwide. It’s growing because of immigration. And because they think and behave the same globally, experts say these young people will change society in profound ways.
The online survey measured opinions of a nationally representative sample of 900 people ages 14-34, two-thirds of them 18-24 (termed Generation Y or Millennials), and the remainder 14-17 (often termed Generation Z).
Among the findings:
More than two-thirds agree that gender does not define a person the way it once did.
60% think that gender lines have been blurred;
Nearly two-thirds say their generation is pushing the boundaries of what it means to be feminine and masculine. As a result, 42% feel that gender roles today are confusing.
“You can be one thing one day and another the next,” Gutfreund says. “In previous generations, there was no going back and forth. Now, there’s incredible fluidity to everything.”
“Fluidity” is exactly how generational expert Bruce Tulgan, founder of a management, research and training company in New Haven, Conn., describes what he’s observed.
“They would say not just men and women; it’s everyone along the spectrum. Everybody has his or her own gender story,” he says.
“There is no question that some stereotypes that may have been held by previous generations have faded,” says Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, a conservative policy group that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. “For example, no one today disputes that women can be successful doctors, lawyers, business leaders, or public officials. Such a trend is far different from asserting that differences between the sexes do not exist, or that such differences are entirely a social construct rather than the result of innate biological factors.
The evolving role of gender prompted Re:Gender, a network of organizations and individuals based in New York City, to rebrand itself last year, following talks with Millennials. Since its founding in 1982, it had been known as the National Council for Research on Women.
“They (Millennials) want to talk about gender in terms of race, class, in terms of immigration. It’s a more nuanced conversation about gender,” says Ãine Duggan, Re:Gender’s president. “Very often, people use the word ‘gender’ when they mean biological sex. What we’re seeing now is that people’s sense of gender identity is not the same as their biological sex. People want to feel free and open to have whatever mix of masculinity and femininity seems right for them.”
Gabrielle Kratsas, 22, of Pace, Fla., agrees. A 2014 graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park, she spent all four years competing for the school’s boxing club, which ranges from 20-30 members.
“When I first joined, there were only two or three girls on the team, so it was heavily male, but by the time I left, it was at least a third if not half female,” she says.
But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a more feminine side.
“I love doing things like sewing and cooking,” Kratsas says. “My boyfriend will tease me ‘You’re so domestic.’ ”
If you haven’t paid close attention, the rise of gender-neutrality has been inching its way into the culture.
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SOURCE: USA Today – Sharon Jayson