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Breaking the Mold: Gen Z's Unconventional Approach to Life, Challenging Misogyny Passed Down Through Generations

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In a world shaped by TikTok trends and digital connections, a millennial woman's eye-opening experience working with her Gen Z intern sparked a reflection on the stark differences between generations. The viral TikTok highlighted lighthearted lessons, from decoding Gen Z lingo to delving into the mystique of Alix Earle. Yet, it also delved into more profound subjects, such as the slim homeownership prospects for Gen Z and the impact of social media on their relationships.

As the lens widened to encompass the broader Gen Z experience, it became evident that their journey unfolds against a backdrop of unparalleled challenges. From enduring active shooter drills during childhood to navigating the complexities of education in a pandemic-stricken world and witnessing the immediate effects of climate change, Gen Z faces a tapestry of unrest unlike any previous generation.

Curious about how Gen Z is rewriting the script, I turned to the BuzzFeed Community to hear directly from the source. Members of Gen Z shared their distinctive perspectives on life, challenging norms set by older generations. Here are some compelling insights:

Reframing Special Education: "I don't see special education as a bad thing. I am dyslexic. As a kid, my parents wouldn't let me have in-school reading-intervention services because they were scared of the stigma attached to being a special education student. While they seemed to be trying to do me a social favor by not having me singled out, it made my life so much harder because I didn't have the extra help I needed to learn reading skills."

Asserting Worth in the Workplace: "I am much more likely to fight for what I deserve, especially in a workplace. I know I am smart, educated, and worthy of much more than they offer. If they aren’t willing to meet me, they can find less."

Reshaping Family Planning: "I know deep down that I’ll never have kids. I’ve started preparing my family for it, just joking that they won’t have grandkids and blowing off comments of, 'Oh, you’ll change your mind.' But it’s legit. We can’t/won't have kids because of finances, healthcare, childcare, mass shootings, and environmental concerns. My fiancé and I want to have kids so badly, but unless things change, we’ve just had to resign ourselves to the fact that we can’t bring a person into this much mess."

Prioritizing Experiences over Homeownership: "I've accepted that I'll never be able to afford a house, so I'm choosing to center my life and my spending on finding meaningful friendships and on life experiences instead."

In a world marked by uncertainties, Gen Z is forging a path that challenges conventions, embraces authenticity, and redefines success on their terms.

Redefining Femininity: "The major difference I'm having to unlearn is all the misogynistic ideas my parents taught me. Like being forced to marry early, have lots of children, be quiet and shy without any strong feelings. I'm a very strong, opinionated woman. I am indeed getting married, but not young, and I won't be having any kids."

Breaking Taboos on Money and Life: "When I was growing up, my parents never talked about money or finances. Politics and sex were also taboo topics, and because of that, I am becoming an adult and have had to figure it all out on my own. I will be raising my family with no off-limits questions."

Prioritizing Mental Health: "Investing money in my mental health is the biggest difference I see. I have suffered from depression and anxiety since I was 8. Finally, I found a therapist I really connect with, and I have made great progress. It is $68 per appointment, once a week, even with insurance. My mother, who has seen me in three different psych wards, cannot believe that I am spending 'that kind of money' on therapy."

Acknowledging Global Issues: "Older people just think everything is going to be okay, but I am well aware that climate change and capitalism are making the Earth worse off. When I say this to older people, they scoff as if the problems of the world will just be reversed magically."

Embracing Healthy Boundaries: "I’m not afraid to give up. If something is causing more harm to me mentally than the good it will achieve, I’ll give up. If I am so frustrated I could cry, why am I still trying? I can come back to it, and if that doesn’t work, it’s okay. Someone else can give it a go."

Rejecting Tolerance for Bad Behavior: "I’m a woman and I’m very close to my mother, but the thing I would do differently from what she did is, I would not tolerate bad behavior from men. My mom made one too many excuses for my deadbeat father, and she would tell my sister and me to get over it when my brother hit us. My brother now has a history of domestic violence because he was not taught to keep his hands to himself and control his emotions. I’m learning from these mistakes, and I’ll be sure to teach these lessons to the next generation."

Normalizing Informal Language: "I think we've normalized slang, cussing, and informal language a lot more than previous generations."

Navigating Adulthood with Anxiety: "I feel I'm more scared of adulthood than previous generations were. I have no experience with much of anything; nor am I exactly a master at certain skills that I'd need to survive in today's workforce. I have four anxiety disorders and very little people skills. My 'dream job' is fading because of how expensive it would be to get there, with inflation and my mom's wage not being raised to help pay for college."

Choosing Sobriety and Thrift: "I don’t drink regularly, or smoke at all. I don’t need to drink to have fun or to cope, and I also don’t need to deal with a hangover. I save money, and as long as I get enough sleep, I feel fine the next morning. Alcohol does not equal fun."

Shying Away from Teaching: "I'm Gen Z and I’ll never be a teacher. My mom’s a teacher, and I see how she is treated by the administrators, other teachers, parents, and even the kids. What was once a great job for people who love children and want to make a difference in their lives is now nonexistent. They don’t make enough to survive. About four out of five teachers at my mom’s school have a second job, maybe a third during the summer."

Reevaluating the College Path: "Older generations really prioritize college, but I feel more of us have started pushing it aside. I think more of us are seeing success with small business and quick ways to make money."

Declining Religious Affiliation: "As a whole, we're a lot less religious. I think it's because a lot of us have religious trauma and experiences that have caused us to have little to no interest in being associated with organized religion. It also may be the general despair of a world that seems to be headed nowhere good that has led us to feel that religion isn't beneficial."

Embracing Internet Dating: "I view internet dating more positively than my parents and grandparents did. It sucks in a lot of ways, but it's also helpful if you're up front about what you want. I'm not a very social person, so I don't really have meet-cutes. Tinder and other apps let me sort through the people I definitely DON'T want, and meet people I otherwise never would have come across."

Facing Uncertainty and Despair: "My parents got their shit together a lot earlier than I have. I guess I’m just hopeless about my future and the future of the world in general, so everything seems pointless."

Mastering Workplace Boundaries: "As an older Gen Z who's out of college and fresh in the workforce, I am so much better at setting boundaries at work than my parents are. As long as I get my stuff done and treat others kindly and professionally, it shouldn't be a big deal if I come in a few minutes late or take a longer lunch break than the employee manual allows. I do enjoy my work, and I gladly put my best foot forward during the workday, but if I don't have anything to do? I'm out."

Distinguishing Gen Z from Millennials: "Millennials often try to relate to Gen Z by lumping us into the same group, but we're not the same. Millennials were able to go to college and find stable employment afterward, cultivate early careers, pay off loans, and buy homes. Meanwhile, much of Gen Z's college and early workforce experiences were stripped away from them by the pandemic."

Share your thoughts: If you're Gen Z, how do you approach life differently from other generations? If you're another generation, how is it different for you? Let me know in the comments below!

In conclusion, the diverse perspectives shared by members of Generation Z reflect a profound departure from the norms and experiences of previous generations. From challenging ingrained misogynistic ideas to navigating the complexities of mental health, Gen Z is forging a unique path marked by resilience, adaptability, and a commitment to redefining traditional paradigms.

The narratives touch on significant shifts, such as the prioritization of small businesses over traditional college paths, the rejection of societal norms, and the sober evaluation of the challenges posed by a changing world. Gen Z's approach to work, relationships, and societal issues showcases a generation unafraid to question, reshape, and assert its identity in the face of unprecedented challenges.

As the generational landscape continues to evolve, these voices highlight the importance of understanding and appreciating the nuanced perspectives that shape each generation's journey. It's a reminder that the narrative of each generation is a unique and evolving story, and the insights shared by Gen Z serve as a valuable glimpse into the ever-changing tapestry of generational experiences.