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Create a link to share a read only version of this article with your colleagues and friends. Please read and accept the terms and conditions and check the box to generate a sharing link. This article presents the analysis of personal narratives of Mexican and Japanese single and childfree cisgender heterosexual individuals to explore how people who do not comply with heteronormative gender roles related to marriage and parenthood build their gender identities as adults.
It draws on in-depth interviews with 24 informants who were raised and lived in these two countries, amid hegemonic discourses on adulthood, masculinity and femininity that emphasize some form of heterosexual partnership and reproduction. It is found that, men interviewed from both countries were able to narratively defend their adulthood and gender identity through other attributes that are part of hegemonic masculinity.
On the contrary, women had difficulties constructing themselves congruently; they recurred to external traits of hegemonic femininity to defend their womanhood, but to personality and lifestyle qualities related to hegemonic masculinity to construct their adulthood. In this article, I present the of a study focused on the personal narratives of Mexican and Japanese single and childfree 1 cisgender heterosexual individuals. The objective was to explore the ways in which people who do not comply with traditional gender roles related to marriage and parenthood make sense of themselves and build their identities amid social pressure to fulfill them to be considered complete adult men or women.
I chose to examine cases in these two societies, because their hegemonic discourses of adulthood, masculinity and femininity are intrinsically related and emphasize some form of heterosexual partnership and reproduction; however, their ideological backgrounds are different—one is related to religious discourses and the other to national duties.
Also, while in Mexico single and childfree people in their 30s, 40s, and older are a marginal portion of population, in Japan, the phenomenon has been a social and political concern for at least two decades, as the proportion of single childfree adults increases rapidly. Thus, I aimed to expand the discussions about singlehood and childfree literature, by presenting a comparative study stressing similarities and differences on the experiences and perspectives of men and women across two different cultural settings.
The phenomenon of single and childfree adults can be analyzed along with the changes in the patterns and duration of transition to adulthood seen in industrial and postindustrial societies since the end of the 20th century. Although adulthood depends on different parameters in each society, in legal terms, there is an age established to grant an individual the full status of an adult—for example, in Mexico it is 18 years and in Japan, it is 20 years. Thus, socially, adulthood is not only connected to age or biological attributes, but also to the fulfillment of diverse expectations related to attitudes, behaviors, and roles that align with the norm of the adult world in each society.
Aiming to expand this debate and to understand the ways in which individuals negotiate with hegemonic discourses of adulthood and gender in patriarchal societies and pronatalist cultures, I explore how 24 cisgender heterosexual single and childfree Mexican and Japanese people construct their gender identities as adults.
Based on in-depth and semistructured interviews, I unveil some of the narratives they employ to define themselves as being adult men and adult women, as well as similarities and differences between countries and genders. The definition and duration of youth, as well as the border that exists between it and adulthood, have never been as vague as they are for recent generations in industrial and postindustrial societies.
Arnett,suggests that some individuals are experiencing a stage before complete adulthood, which he calls emerging adulthood. They experiment with multiple options of professional activities, places and forms of residence, and interpersonal relationships, as they continue constructing their identity well into their late 20s. In his studies, he has found that individuals who are in this stage are ambiguous in defining themselves as adults, because they consider that adulthood is related to the acceptance of full responsibility for themselves, as well as financial independence, and not because they have not completed the normative transitions into marriage and parenthood Arnett, He says that emerging adulthood is not universal, but it is more commonly found among middle classes in urbanized sectors and cultures where beliefs and values are not intrinsically linked to the formation of a family Arnett, According to this approach, people who experience this extended period do it empowered and they eventually complete their transit to adulthood either by taking the expected adult roles, or by rejecting them and redefining adulthood for themselves Crocetti et al.
However, researchers have also found that not all individuals who linger more than the socially expected time in youth do it by choice. Structural lack of opportunities to enter the adult world—i. It is undeniable that, if dominant ideologies and academic discourses continue to put marriage or some sort of heterosexual partnership and parenthood as natural transitions to adulthood, people who do not follow such life trajectories may struggle to construct themselves in a positive way not only as adults, but also as men or women.
Regardless of the existence of diverse versions of masculinity and femininity, gender hegemony is embedded within identities, imposing normative social practices for male and female individuals, naturalizing myths and values that serve as maps for people to locate themselves Bonino, Thus, particularly for cisgender heterosexual individuals in patriarchal societies where hegemonic discourses on masculinity and femininity are essentially linked to heterosexual coupling and parenthood, not fulfilling those expectations can have an impact on their self-perception and identity construction.
As the phenomena of extended singlehood and childfreeness expand in contemporary societies, a growing body of research has appeared aiming to address these issues. In studies focusing on societies where they usually present together—e. Nevertheless, in patriarchal societies with a highly pronatalist culture, people who do not comply with the social expectations of being in a heterosexual couple and becoming a parent are still prone to suffer social backlash, despite educational, professional, economic, or other personal achievements.
But, they also have their ways to negotiate with social expectations and hegemonic discourses. Sometimes, they may reject them and try to create positive alternative identities; other times, they may justify their deviations from the norm and try to compensate in other ways. It is in this context that I locate the present study, bringing to the debate of transition to adulthood a focus on gender identity construction when the normative gender and adult roles of parents and being in a romantic heterosexual relationship are not fulfilled.
Japan and Mexico are two patriarchal societies and pronatalist cultures where adulthood and hegemonic masculinity and femininity continue to be strongly linked to roles derived from a traditional family model, involving heterosexual cohabitation and procreation. The general objective of this study is to explore how cisgender heterosexual single and childfree legally adult Japanese and Mexicans construct their adult and gender identities amid the prevalent social expectations toward adult men and women in their countries.
I relied on documental research to define the hegemonic discourses on gender and adulthood of Japan and Mexico. Diverse studies dealing with what adulthood, masculinity, and femininity meant in those societies were revised, and then contrasted with the opinions of informants to find whether the characteristics stressed in the documental sources were also perceived as socially expected by them. Because this was a qualitative and exploratory study with limited resources available, it was decided to follow a critical case sampling. A small of cases that were considered to provide relevant information to answer the research questions were selected to help find logical generalizations Suri, In this case, 24 informants aged 25 years to 49 yaers, evenly distributed by sex and nationality, were chosen and contacted through acquaintances.
At the time of the research, all informants declared to be cisgender and heterosexual. They also stated never had been married, not being cohabitating with a romantic partner and, by choice, not having children yet.
I focused only on cisgender heterosexual people because my interest was to understand how individuals who considered themselves part of the norm in terms of gender identity, but not complied with relevant gender roles, negotiated their adult and gender identities. Gender identity construction in LGBTQIA people implied many more psychological and sociocultural elements to be analyzed, falling beyond the scope of this research.
Informants were residents of urban areas in Mexico or Japan, were economically self-sufficient, and self-defined as belonging to the middle class of their country. Sound was recorded with the permission of the informants and field notes were taken. Transcripts from the interviews were produced for analysis. The excerpts from interviews used in this article were translated by the author. Field observations were performed in urban contexts in both countries, between March and June Japan entered modernity in the second-half of the 19th century and, as part of the ideology to build a national identity, the government promoted—through education, laws, and practices—ethics, morals, and gender models, and discourses based on Neo-Confucianism.
During the first half of the 20th century, Japanese men had to enlist and go to war, so many women had to work outside their homes, but their ultimate duties continued to be good wives and mothers. Then, in postwar Japan, as the government set the goal to turn the country into an economic power, men and women dedicated their energies to rebuild the nation. Their arduous effort paid off and the country entered rapid industrialization.
The salary man embodied the leading male figure of Japanese economic miracle and, as such, became a national archetype of postwar masculinity Dasgupta, ; Hidaka, These men were part of an economic structure and corporate culture that allowed them to complete their transition to adulthood by their mids. A typical life trajectory for a salary man was as follows: By his early 20s, he finished university and was recruited by a major national corporation, getting the financial freedom to leave his parental home and the economic stability to begin looking for a wife; by his late 20s, he got married and had his first child, elements that completed his transition into a respectable and socially responsible adult man; he left the raising of the children and the housework to his wife, who could dedicate to these shores because of the security of his job and his good salary; and, he worked for the same company until his retirement Vogel, Young women, on the contrary, continued to be raised to be wives and mothers.
And, the ideological sustain for this was national duty. Marriage and parenthood in Japan have historically been promoted in terms of their social value for the reproduction of the nation. However, by the beginning of the s, Japan suffered an economic crisis followed by two decades of stagnation. This affected the employment opportunities for young people entering the labor force. The unemployment rates for age groups 15 to 24 years and 25 to 34 years were 4. But, unemployment is not the only structural problem faced by people below years in Japan.
During the first trimester ofa These statistics show that a high portion of generations raised or coming to age since the s have found it difficult to achieve financial independence and economic stability at the time generations did. These factors may have affected their decisions regarding leaving the parental home, getting married, or having children. In fact, although the birthrate in Japan had been slowly declining since the mids, it was from the late s that it began to be linked to an increasing rate of single people in their 20s and 30s.
As Japanese population pyramid inverted—and the economy has continued struggling—a persistent and pervasive discourse from official, media, and intellectual elites has tried to persuade single people to follow the traditional gender roles.
On the other hand, media spread narratives and imagery stressing marriage and parenthood as essential elements of ideal femininity and masculinity, as national duties to fulfill, and as keys for happiness and personal success Mandujano-Salazar, ab This has created a dominant discourse that intrinsically challenges the adult, gender and national identities of single childfree Japanese. Mexico, on the contrary, is a society in which morals and values have been greatly influenced by Catholic beliefs since its origins as New Spain. After its independence, leaders continued favoring many aspects of Christian ideology to build the nation.
Among them, those that supported patriarchy and the establishment of a sexual division of domestic and remunerated labor.Adult personal Mexico
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