What social expectations would you change?

Shaniqua looks back on a thought-provoking and entertaining conversation at The Kickback, which focused on social expectations.

The Kickback returned for the first time in August since 2016 for another big conversation, this time on the topic of Social Expectations.  Leading out on the 20th was Vanessa, as this was the topic of her choice.

Vanessa started by asking us to share what comes to mind when she said social expectations.

  • Pressure – Derrick
  • It depends on the person and where you are. – Shaniqua
  • “I guess I thought about society’s influence on how we behave as a generation.” – Rhianna

Vanessa stated that social expectations are subjective, before giving us a definition of what social expectations are, which led on to her next question of where social expectations come from.

Rhianna shared that she wondered where trends and influences come from, as she thinks a lot of it is “making you look a certain way on social platforms.”  Vanessa responded by saying that having a platform on social media leads to social expectations.  I, however, thought these expectations come from different eras, cultures and the media, with trends being set by hidden powers that be.

Vanessa then played a quick game with us, which was definitely my favourite part of the evening and caused me to think a lot harder than expected.  Each of us had the opportunity to introduce ourselves, based on society’s expectations of who we are, before then introducing ourselves as who we really are.  We had a lot of fun with this, but it also shone a light on how easily society can view you from the outside looking in and put a label on who they think you are.

After playing the game, Vanessa said, “Expectations and trends are always changing.  Trying to keep up with society is a race you will never win… Success is subjective.”

Vanessa then asked if society places different expectations on genders, to which Mhairi immediately replied with 100%.  Mhairi also expressed, “No one focuses as much on how men feel they have to meet an image.  There’s a lot of focus on women.”  Chantae responded to this by saying, “It’s different between men and women.  You don’t think about men as much as women when it comes to mental health stuff, when it affects everyone.”

When Rhianna said, “I think that expectation that women have to cook is still there,” – which annoyed Mhairi, who cannot cook – this led on to an interesting dialogue about men and women cooking at home.  If Derrick were to get married, he told us that he would cook if he came home first, and he hoped his wife would do the same.

Derrick then went on to ask, “Is it bad, that expectation that women should cook and men should bring home the bacon?”  I expressed that I didn’t like it, while Rhianna shared that it was the expectation she didn’t like, which linked to an earlier point she made about men having an unfair pressure of having to make a certain amount of money – “I think men have it ingrained in them that money is their career.”

We spent time speaking about the expectations on how we should look – touching on men feeling the pressure to be muscular and women often feeling the pressure to wear makeup – as well the expectations for men and money.  Some of us didn’t mind if a man was to make less than us, while others would prefer their man to make more money than them, but it was Mhairi who gave the most entertaining response.  Mhairi spoke about the idea of having a sugar daddy, which made her feel unwell as it turned out, and expressed that she would rather have someone on her level.  “Let’s talk about the struggle together,” she expressed.

After gender, it was time to speak about different expectations based on age.  Aneah told us that the school she went to expected you to go to university and have everything together by 30.  I spoke about the horror and upset I felt about turning 25, because of all the expectations I had unfairly put on myself, because society seems to have unknowingly set 25 as this weird benchmark for a lot of milestones.

Rhianna then stated, “There’s this expectation that you have to know what to do with your life at 16… Being expected to know what you want to do at 16 is unrealistic.”  She emphasised that there isn’t enough information about the options available, and that if the expectations were taken away, then it would make things much easier.  “Your life is your life, your journey is your journey,” she said.

When speaking about her educational journey and the pressure young people are under, Chantae made the most intriguing statement: “It’s like we’re robots, expected to go from one stage, to the next stage, to the next stage.”  It’s disturbing and sad how accurate this statement is, especially as we’re supposed to be humans with feelings and the capability to make mistakes.

Vanessa’s final question was: “If you could change any expectation or norm, what would it be?”

  • “The body image one is doing too much… A lot of people don’t even know themselves, so they don’t even know what they do or don’t like.” – Rhianna
  • “That young people don’t know what they’re talking about and are incapable of doing big things.” – Shaniqua
  • Stigmas and stereotypes. “These negative stereotypes are what cause a lot of mental health problems.” – Mhairi
  • “Women on TV – they’re all straight hair and not natural.” – Dorothy

Vanessa rounded up with some lovely words of encouragement, which I’ll leave you with:

“Don’t look to the left or look to the right.  Stay in your own lane… You need to do what makes you happy.”

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