Cultural Blog: Tying The Knot!

Marriage is an important moment in the majority of people’s lives. It marks the ultimate commitment any couple can make and exists universally. “Marriage” can come in many shapes and forms, depending on the society. It is often marked by various rituals that are extremely unique to the specific group of people. While different customs dictate how the marriage is conducted and what is expected of the bride and groom, the purpose remains the same. The goal of marriage is to create a serious, even sacred, agreement between two people that indicates their eternal commitment to each other. Marriage acts as a contract that binds the couple together forever, and is intended to never be broken. However, contracts occasionally get broken.

A divorce is the breaking of the marriage, and is one of the aspects of marriage that varies greatly between cultures. Some communities do not allow any divorce, while others have specific stipulations that dictate the divorce. Some populations have very stringent rules for when a divorce can occur, and even who is able to initiate one. While other cultures are much more relaxed and simply charge a variety of fees for dissolving the marriage. Additionally, some people view marriage as an important business agreement and others view it as a spiritual one. Regardless of the individual customs, marriage is always an important undertaking. I believe is is a significant decision for any couple and it can be a great indication of a culture’s values. As a result of its cultural importance and high variability, I thought it would be very interesting to explore how humans tie the knot around the world.

Marriages can range from joyous parties to small and intimate events. The ceremonies are usually dictated by a medley of various rituals. For instance, in China the bride often has three different dresses she wears throughout the event. The first being a traditional red dress symbolizing food luck and fortune. This style of dress is called a Qipao or Cheongsam and is form fitting and sleek . She then changes to a poufy, Westernized white wedding dress. Finally, she will wear cocktail dress for the reception that can be completely personalized to her tastes. Chinese marriages were traditionally arranged by the parents; however, that is much less common now days. Parents still have a huge influence on their children’s marriage though. After the couple is engaged the groom’s parents are expected to send grand gifts to the bride’s family. The groom’s family is also likely to pay for the majority of the wedding. A lot of pressure is also put on the newlyweds to quickly have a child. This shows the emphasis on the family unit.

Traditionally, Indian weddings are bright and festive. They also are known to last 3 days, broken up into specific parts. The first day is an intimate ceremony called ganesh pooja, which is only for very close relatives of the couple. The second day is marked by relatives introducing themselves to each other and mingling. It is called the sangeet. One of my favorite wedding customs also takes place on the second day, in a ceremony called mehndi.  During this time, the bride and her female friends and family paint intricate designs on their hands and feet with henna. While being an aesthetic part of the ceremony, the henna is also believed to be medicinal so its application is intended to relieve stress and fatigue caused by the wedding and the planning. Sometimes the groom has a separate ceremony at the same time as the bride, which has the men apply henna to their hands and feet as well. They often have a much simpler design. Aside from usual Hindu Indian weddings, mehndi painting can also be important in Muslim weddings as well. Finally, the last day is the major wedding ceremony and reception. The bride, groom, priest, and parents are all under a mandap, which is a ceremonial covered structure. This is very similar to a Chuppah used in Jewish wedding ceremonies.

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Female henna painted hands right after an Indian Mehndi ceremony.

I believe that marriages are very important parts of human development because they are so very “human”. People are the only organisms that go through such elaborate ceremonies binding themselves to a “mate” for eternity. The ultimate goal of marriage also effects how we develop as people. Most people know marriage is the final relationship goal, and that’s what they are striving towards throughout their lives. I remember being one of those girls that planned their wedding in elementary school, and that had pretend weddings with my friends. I’m sure many kids do thing like as they grow up, and that undoubtedly affects how they develop their views of relationships.

I also think that the gesture of marriage is very sentimental and has a lot of meaning. People vary greatly on their interpretations of marriage, and how permanent they see it, but I take it very seriously. I don’t think it should be rushed into, or forced for the sake of appeasing family members. I think it is the ultimate commitment between two people (of any gender), when they feel they are with their soul mate; a person they know inside and out and are completely happy spending the rest of their lives with. (I know, pretty sappy, haha). I would like to hope I will only be married once in my life, but obviously, unforeseen things can always happen. While many marriages, especially in the west, seem to be ending in divorce, I don’t feel like that is how they were intended to be. I’m an advocate of waiting until you are entirely positive you want to marry a person, before actually committing to it.

U.S. Cultural Fun Fact!!

A common wedding tradition usually practiced in the United States is “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence inside your shoe”. It refers to things a bride should wear on her wedding day to bring good luck to her marriage. This phrase dates all the way back to the Victorian era, but is still commonly practiced by brides in the U.S. Although now, it’s mostly just a fun tradition. Every woman in my family has incorporated some form of his tradition into their weddings, and I think it is very lighthearted and fun.

blue-heels

You’re Never “Too Old” to Enjoy Life

Many of the past few lectures in my developmental psychology class have been about old age. This has really got me thinking about what it truly means to be an older adult and how our society perceives older adults. When people think of old age, they often accompany it with negative feelings. They assume older people are lonely and sad, likely fretting over their approaching death. However, as I’ve read articles and watched interviews on older adults, I’ve discovered nothing could be further from the truth. While old age is accompanied with many challenges for the individual, it is also a liberating time in their life.They have more free time and less responsibilities. They are enlightened from a lifetime of experiences, while still being able to make new experiences everyday.

I feel like it’s very unfortunate people begin seeing older adults as done with their life, while they are still living it. Just because their “youth ” may have passed, it does not mean they are already dead. This is backed up by a short video I recently watched called “Not Dead Yet”.

I don’t think it could be any more perfectly named. It focuses on a famous 93 year old producer named Norman Lear. We watch as his does a casting session for a comic series he hopes to produce about older adults in a retirement community. The 70 and 80 year olds that show up for casting are delightful and not at all self-conscious or nervous about being watched. Mr. Lear also makes a good point about how older adults are often ignored by the media, despite the huge amount of people that fit into that category. Older adults form a major audience base that is essentially being untapped.

This overlooking of older adults seems to be an unfortunate trend that I would like to see change. When I first started thinking about what my life would be like when I’m 70, I was filled with dread and apprehension just like many other young adults, I’m sure. However, the more experience I started to have watching positive older adults embrace their age, the more relaxed about the future I started to feel. I think having older adults come out of the shadows and start to speak up about themselves, like Norman Lear did, would help change the perception our society has about aging adults. It’s important to remember that old age is a gift, not a curse.

Cultural Fun Fact!respectforagedday

In Japan, there is a national holiday called “Respect for the Aged Day” on the 3rd Monday of September. Unlike Grandparents Day in the US, Respect for the Aged Day is a paid holiday that people get off from work. Bento boxes and other gifts are given to the elderly and families are expected to celebrate and have a special meal with their elders.

 

Blog Post 7 – Aging Workforce

I recently read an article about Judith Lister, a 71 year old kindergarten teacher, that highlighted a current trend in our workforce. Aging adults are staying  in the workforce longer and not retiring as early as they previously had. In addition, people that were previously retired are coming out of retirement and rejoining the workforce. I thought this was both surprising and interesting because I never really gave much thought to the amount of elderly adults that chose to forego retirement, and instead continue their careers.

Apparently it is a trend that has been steadily increasing over the years, and not just in the United States. Other countries like Japan and the UK are also experiencing an increase of “grey beards” in their workforce. Since May of 2000 to May of 2016, the percentage of people over 65 that are employed has increased from 12.8% to 18.8%. I feel  like that is a significant increase in just 16 years, especially when you consider out aging population is also expanding because people are living longer.

Personally, I think this trend does make a lot of sense though. The age of retirement has increased, and many older adults are living longer and healthier lives. As a result, I would imagine many of them would want to stay more active and keep busy. One productive way to do that is to have a job. Jobs are great tools to help adults find new acquaintances and remain social. For example, an elderly man I worked with loved talking to customers when he worked at a retail store with me. He enjoyed work even though he was in his early 70’s because of the social interactions. Additionally, jobs require mental and physical stamina, which can be very beneficial for fighting off signs of aging in elderly adults.

Another reason I imagine older adults may want to stay in the workforce is simply for the money. It is very hard for an elderly person to retire and live solely off of a social security check. Especially when you factor in an increased life expectancy and increases in medical bills as they age. Additionally, many people do not have adequate savings funds established to help cover the costs of daily life after retirement. This creates a situation where older people have to keep working into their retirement age because they can’t afford to not work.

I can definitely see where having more elderly people remain in the workforce could affect the availability of jobs for younger people entering the workforce, but also I think it’s a natural effect of our aging population. It seems logical that having people live longer will also cause them to work longer as well. I don’t believe people should be too concerned about our changing workforce dynamics.

Cultural Fun Fact!

In 2007 the German car company, BMW, spent $50,000 remodeling one of their assembly lines in Bavaria to accommodate older employees. They made small changes, like adding chairs for elderly employees to sit on as they worked, and installing larger fonts on their computers to make reading easier. These changes increased productivity by 7%, so the older employees became just as efficient as the younger employees. It also dropped absenteeism by 2%.

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Blog Post 6 – Emerging Adulthood

Emerging adulthood can be a time filled with anxiety and confusion for a lot of people. It is the stage in life where you’re not quite a full adult yet, but you’ve also left adolescence behind. Many new adults, including myself, feel like they are “in between” stages. I think a lot of that can be contributed to suddenly having so many new responsibilities, but also still having parents available for stability and guidance if things start getting too messed up. For the vast majority of us emerging adults, we’ve spent most of lives up until this point relying on our parents for practically  everything.

Blank Road Sign

Depending on our individual childhoods, I’m sure we’ve all had varying degrees of experience managing responsibilities. In my senior year of high school I got my first look at the real world when I had to balance school, cheerleading, a part-time job, and a medley of random clubs. (In retrospect, that is still nothing compared to my current obligations in college). However, the people primarily in charge of keeping us alive and cultivating  successful futures for us have been our parents. Now, in emerging adulthood, we’re expected to earn money, pay bills, keep ourselves healthy and clothed, maintain a social life, and complete college or work a full time job (in some cases, both). This can seem like a daunting, if not impossible, task to get through.

Luckily, emerging adulthood provides many benefits to offset the stress of the new responsibilities. Emerging adulthood is a blossoming of identity and confidence. Most of us are beginning to lose the crippling self-consciousness and anxiety that plagues adolescence. We realize that we aren’t the center of the universe and that people aren’t constantly focused on us.While still trying to decide who we want to become, we are at least more accepting of who we currently are. With more freedom, many people in emerging adulthood are able to try new things and branch out, especially in a college setting. You see new people and gain new experiences. I think this really helps in creating a well rounded adult.

Additionally, we also benefit from having optimal health and fitness in emerging adulthood. Our immune systems are strong and we usually aren’t affected yet by the major health ailments that start showing up further into adulthood. Athletes often find they hit their peak performance in emerging adulthood. While this stage of life is definitely a big transition and can often seem overwhelming; I think it is also a very exciting time in human development, filled with opportunities and self exploration. I’ve really enjoyed my experiences this far in emerging adulthood, and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come.

Cultural Fun Fact!

Traditionally, there are only 4 life stages that are observed in Hinduism. They are called Ashramas. The first ashrama is Brahmacharya, the student stage. The second is Grihastha, the householder stage. At this point the man gets married and starts a family. The third is Vanaprastha, the hermit stage. When the man becomes a grandfather he passes off all his duties and possessions to his adult children and becomes a hermit. The fourth and final stage is Sannyasa, the wandering ascetic stage. om

Blog Post 5- Women in the STEM Workforce

I recently read a really good, thought-provoking article by Claire Cain Miller called Technology’s Man Problem. At first, I prepared myself for another male bashing article that missed the point and contributed little insight to a very real and serious problem. However, I ended up pleasantly surprised by how the author presented real concerns, backed by woman who experienced sexism first hand in their technology career fields. Some major issues women experience in male dominated career fields include everything from lewd comments and jokes, to unwanted romantic advances and threats, to even missed career opportunities due to not being taken seriously. The article focused on women in computer oriented fields, but these same issues are universal in all male dominated career fields. This unfortunately encompasses all of the STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The more I thought about the article, the more frustrated with the situation I became.

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As a woman entering the science career field, this is clearly a distressing situation that particularly hits close to home. I find it completely ridiculous, and inexcusable, that in 2016 women are still judged in their careers simply for being a woman. I’ve had female friends and acquaintances at various universities mention how rampant stories of sexism in STEM programs have chased them away from pursing careers in those areas. That deeply saddens me because I know they could have done great things in those fields if they hadn’t gotten chased off. Several women I’ve talked to that are already established in those career fields experienced sexism within their first few months of employment. No one should have to be subjected to harassment in their workplace, and no one should have to give up their career goal because they believe they wouldn’t have a fair opportunity to thrive.

This problem affects everyone in our country, men and women, because our economy and everyday lives are dependent on advances made in STEM programs. Plenty of innovations come from the minds of women. By creating hostile work environments where women feel uncomfortable and like they are not being treated equally, we are hindering our own success as a country. Those women are likely not going to stick around in a field they are unappreciated in and we’re all going to miss out on what they had to offer. All people should be encouraged to pursue the career they are most interested in and I feel our schools and businesses need to do more to address the inequality. It is a very real problem that should not be tolerated. An additional article, written by Dr.

Cultural Fun Fact!

norwayflagIn 2003, Norway created a law that required all company boards to be at least 40% female. If a company does not comply with this law, it’s shut down. As a result, Norway has the highest percentage of female CEO’s out of any country in the world. Additionally, a Norwegian study has shown that boards have become more professional and diverse since the change. Other countries like France, Belgium, and the Netherlands later followed suit and created similar laws.

Blog Post 4 – When Puberty Hits

One of the biggest changes that everyone everyone experiences during their lifetime is puberty. In countries all over the world, puberty symbolizes the start of transitioning into an adult. The actual definition of puberty is the point in an adolescent’s life where they become sexually mature and capable of reproduction. However; when most people think of puberty, they often think of so much more than just being able to create children. For both males and females, there are plenty of physical, mental, emotional, and social changes that are brought on by puberty. Puberty in males focuses on the release of testosterone, while estrogen is the important hormone for females. Physically, males begin to experience a deepening of their voice, growth spurts, increases in muscle mass, enlargement of the testes and penis, and and increase in body hair. Female physical changes include the development of breasts, the start of menstruation, growth spurts, weight gain, and the growth of body hair. For many people, myself included, puberty was filled with anxiety, fear, and excitement.

'Soon, you will start to notice changes in your body... massive, horrifying changes.'

Earlier this week I was reading over the sections that cover puberty in my developmental psychology textbook. I couldn’t help but go down memory lane and think about what I went though as an adolescent experiencing puberty. I was definitely a bit of a drama queen during that time, and I remember my emotions being like a tornado whipping around. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was a control freak and would feel like the world was ending every time something deviated from its expected path. If I was able to make it through puberty, I’m sure anyone can.

The textbook I was reading mentioned several times about late versus early bloomers. The more I read about the topic, the more interested in it I became. I never really thought about the subject much because I was pretty average. I also remember a lot of my friends were experiencing the same things as me, so that helped convince me I was “normal”. Globally, the ages that puberty hits have been consistently getting younger. Why is that? The  major factors that have been suggested are the increase in availability of food and health care. Kids are eating more and experiencing less diseases so they are healthy enough at younger ages to start puberty.I think it’s great that healthcare is improving, but it does create problems by leading to earlier puberty. Adolescents are going to be able to be able to reproduce sooner, and they are likely to attract the attention of older partners.

Additionally, there is significant variation among individuals and the age they start puberty. Adolescents living in the same country, in the same state, in the same family, even in the same house; still have a range of ages that they can reasonably expect to begin puberty, not an exact number. This leads to the issue of “late” and “early” bloomers. I think it’s really interesting to see just how much the timing of puberty can impact the rest of someone’s life. I also really want to know why there is so much variation and if there is a way to have ore control over it. I remember from middle school that the early and late bloomer were very easy to differentiate; which probably caused them considerable anxiety. The early ones were much more “developed” and generally towered over the other students, while the late ones were often more shy and the smallest kids in class. Of course, this wasn’t always the case, but it was the most common one.

Puberty is a beautiful, messy, and mysterious event in everyone’s life. While I definitely wouldn’t want to experience it again, it does make me happy to reflect on it. There is almost an irrational sense of accomplishment for making it though puberty and living to tell the tale. I feel like I was a completely different person before puberty versus after it, but I appreciate the experience.

Cultural Fun Fact!!

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An Apache girl during a Sunrise Ceremony. She’s being covered in a spiritual mixture of cornmeal, clay, and pollen for fertility.

Many cultures practice various ceremonies to mark puberty. One cool example is the Apache Sunrise Ceremony (na’ii’ees), which is a celebration of puberty in female Apache Indians. The summer after a girl has her first menstruation, she participates in a 4 day ceremony getting her in tune with her spiritual healing abilities and preparing her for womanhood. All the girls participating are covered in a cornmeal and clay mixture, then receive and give gifts. The ceremony is physically and spiritually strenuous because the girls dance, run, sing, chant, and pray for hours at a time. On the last day of the ceremony, the girls bless their community and provide healing to anyone who requests it.

The girls and their families spend months preparing for the ceremony because it is taken very seriously. A godmother is also chosen for each girl to help them build endurance and guide them through the celebration. The ceremony is expensive for the families to create, but provides the girls with special blessings and teaches them what it means to be a woman in that culture.

Blog Post 3- Gender Socialization and Identity

I recently had a conversation with a few of my friends about how parents influence the development of gender identity in their children. The conversation was sparked when we saw a woman at a store pull a doll away from her son and say “Only girls can play with those. Let’s find you a boy toy”. The boy was upset, but also seemed to to believe his mother and the pair went on their way. This situation really annoyed me because I knew that interaction was likely going to have an impact on the rest of that boy’s life. He believed his mother was telling the truth and that boys couldn’t possible play with dolls because it was against some backwards rule.

My Pearson textbook on Lifespan Development indicates that kids start to get a good understanding of gender identity and gender roles in early childhood. Parents and the child’s environment plays a major role in showing kids what is expected of boys and girls. This is so significant because everything from their personalities, their hobbies, their careers, and how they interact with other kids can then be influenced by their perceptions of gender. As a result of this, I feel like more care should be taken in they way we help kids understand genders.

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Pictures of a girl and boy aisle taken at a store in the Bluewater Shopping Center in Kent.

I think a child should be told what biological sex they are, but they shouldn’t get rules that limit the development of their interests and personalities. Especially with regards to something as trivial as what toys they can play with. It’s 2016, boys and girls should be given a variety of toys; from dolls to books to monster trucks. I would want my children to be well rounded and not stunted by antiquated gender roles. When I was growing up my favorite toys were remote control cars and Barbies; and no, the cars weren’t pink.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not saying girls shouldn’t like stereotypical feminine things and boys shouldn’t like stereotypical masculine things; what I am advocating is allowing kids to play with whatever, and supporting those decisions. There are so many more important things to stress about. One of my family members once said they wouldn’t let their son play with dolls or stuffed animals because it would make them gay. It made me so angry that she honestly believed playing with those things would suddenly make her son like males when he’s older. And even if it did, would it really be that terrible? I feel like more education should be given to help parents change those perceptions and not limit children.

If you get a chance, be sure to watch this super cute video on a girl name Riley who’s very upset with companies making gender-specific toys:

 

Additionally, an interesting article about the effects of Disney princesses on children can be found here. I really enjoyed how it addresses positive and negative aspects of the princesses and how it teaches lessons to both males and females alike. I agree that the positive lessons  in these stories should be pointed out to kids to make sure they’re understanding morals of them. However, I feel the most important part of this article is when the author notes that ostracizing feminine girls is just as bad as not letting them do masculine things.

Cultural Fun Fact!!

Things that are perceived as feminine in the U.S. can often be perceived as masculine in other countries. For example, pink is traditionally used for boys is Belgium and men hold hands to signify friendship in various Middle Eastern countries, like Saudi Arabia.

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