Daughter Goals and Socialization Via Social Media
By Christian Ostler
The other day my wife and I were getting ready for bed by participating in what has become our unintentional nightly tradition. We relax for a few minutes by getting on the social media of choice (Facebook for me and Instagram for her) and scrolling through the endless sea of entertainment. Perhaps it’s for relaxation, perhaps it lulls us to sleep. Who knows. In any case, we do it mindlessly, not learning or noting anything unusual (discounting the past week’s election, about which I will not weigh in). That night was unusual.
I watched a short video on Facebook titled “Daughter Goals”. This video shows a little girl, who couldn’t be more than 6, explain her desire to have a job before she wants a husband. She says “This is my life! I’m not going to do anything for you until I have a job. I don’t care if I marry you, I don’t care if I marry another man. I care if I do something that’s special.” While I applaud the child’s desire to be independent and strong, maybe this generation thinks that marriage entails giving up your life and that it is something unremarkable, far away from true achievements.
There have been many discussions of gender roles on my mind lately, in part from social media and classes and in part from the election. Coming from a conservative, religious background and trying to be consistently open in my views, I have been battling back and forth a bit. The topic even came up in church and I found myself agreeing but disagreeing with the thoughts expressed there. Confusing, I know.
My wife and I do not have any kids yet. She works full time and is the bread winner while I go through school and work part time. She is beyond talented as a violinist and dancer. She has made a career out of those talents and has put on productions, choreographed for the church we belong to and is regularly asked to do shows or musical numbers. She is amazing. Despite her incredible abilities, she dislikes work and hopes to be at home someday soon with our children. When people as her what she wants to do in these next years she says “I want to just be a mom”. I have heard many use that same phrase; “just a mom”. Motherhood was viewed in advice literature, particularly by the 1890s, as one of the most important contributions women could make to her family and to the nation. What has changed this?
To get at the important agent of socialization, I must acknowledge some of the immense disparities in childcare and housework at home, what seem to be two of the main responsibilities of motherhood. The University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households recently conducted a survey to show how much housework mothers and fathers participate in. On average, women spend 31 hours a week and men spend 16 hours a week taking care of household duties. This includes averaged statistics from households where just the father works, both work part time, just the mother works and both work full time. In all scenarios, the woman spends a disproportionate amount of time doing housework when compared to the man. Childcare follows the same pattern only magnified.
So, in searching for fairness, the best scenario is that where the woman is working at home as a mother and the man is working full time. This is not to say that there isn’t quite a bit of improvement to be had in the other areas and in general, but my point in citing this survey is that this misrepresentation of time spent in the household shouldn’t place a woman’s role inferior to a man’s. It should do the opposite; women should be praised for the work they are doing in the home because they do the majority of work around the house and with the children in all situations!
Furthermore, women face an opposition called the double bind. This phenomenon basically communicates that as women display more femininity (being a mother is a key indicator of femininity) they are views as more likeable in running for some kind of political office. But, oddly enough, their level of competence also decreases significantly when they display more femininity. So, together with the last statistic, how has our view of woman become so misconstrued that becoming a mother is uncelebrated and related to incompetence? Why do we say “I’m just a mom” when it seems women simply do more?
I said at the beginning of this blog post that our participation in social media was a mindless pastime. This may true for me, but this doesn’t mean that social media itself holds a passive influence. While it, perhaps, cannot answer all of the questions above, social media is one of the most powerful tools in the world for change and interaction. Its influence is shifting how we face feminine issues and is truly a powerful agent of socialization. Facebook reports having 1.23 billion active users with 747 million using it daily while Instagram has about 500 million users. Through these mediums, about two thirds of adults ranging from 18-24 years of age reported using social media to learn about or express political views. Social media is truly a force to be reckoned with. It has, however, recently come to light that some of the news posted to social media outlets like Facebook is completely fake. The “Denver Guardian”, for example, published completely fake news and is reported to reach wide audiences just as easily as the New York Times and Fox News. Because of this ability to include false information, social media has the ability to direct us a socialize us as it wishes. This means it has the ability to affect our view of motherhood and women.
Motherhood and women in the workforce is very much a political issue. The first two sources cited are both from political journals or articles. The level of underrepresentation is obvious on all fronts. While this has warranted significant attention, it has also perhaps ostracized women who would prefer to remain with their children at home. A few predominant “hashtags” in cyberspace are “#dontneednoman” and “#independentwoman”. These seem to be accompanied by a great amount of praise for someone breaking stereotypes and becoming their own person. But how does the person feel who enjoys having a man and working together with her partner? She feels overly traditional. She feels like another sheep that has fallen into years of “same old, same old”.
On the other side, “hashtag activism” is a very effective instrument to help pressure companies and politicians to make changes for equality. Social media effectively removes the distance between people and allows for open dialogues about difficult subjects. These dialogues don’t only raise awareness; they have also lead to significant changes in the culture surrounding women. For example, in 2013, the Women, Action and Media (WAM) targeted Facebook to change policies regarding images of women being abused. Many other issues including rape, sexism in the work setting and Planned Parenthood have been greatly affected by social media. Companies now actively monitor how their activities are viewed on social media.
None of this is to say that social media has a positive or negative influence. This is all to say that it has some influence. So, whether you are a mother or a woman pursuing a career, know that how you use social media will affect how you perceive yourself and others. If you love the “Daughter Goals” video, love it! But may social media help you always become more tolerant and understanding of the choices of others as well.
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· Bohjalian, Chris. The Double Bind: A Novel. New York: Random House Large Print in Association with Vintage, 2007. Print.
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