Kids on the margins have long had to deal with societal pressures and the need to conform to certain norms. But a recent focus on bullying and gender norms is a reminder that society needs to do a better job of recognizing and responding to such pressures.
Brian Ach /National Center for Learning Disabilities/AP
In her latest TED Talk, social work research professor Brene Brown at the University of Houston cites the work of psychologist James Mahalik at Boston College: “What do women need to do to conform to female norms?” she rhetorically asks her audience? Mahalik found that, in the US, the top answers were “be nice, thin, modest, and use all available resources for appearance,” she says. “When he asked what men in this country need to do to conform with male norms, the answers were ‘always show emotional control, put work first, pursue status, and violence’.”
Those survey responses certainly gave me pause. Think about these gender norms in the context of youth bullying prevention, whether psychological or physical. Violence is normative in males, we see. “Use all available resources for appearance” is normative in females.
Hmm. Bringing these norms out into the light may help….