Isa Duque: "We have the same prejudices about Generation Z that Aristotle already had about youth"

He says that it is the generation that we criticize the most but without fully knowing it. Psychologist, sexologist and feminist therapist, Isa Duque (Zaragoza, 1985) wants to remedy this and, to do so, has turned everything she has learned after more than 15 years in contact with youth into 'Approaching Generation Z' (Zenith editorial) . Better known as La Psico Woman, her alter ego on social networks, Duque tries to decipher who today's young people are, their desires, their fears, their codes, their way of relating. They are called Generation Zthat of those born from the mid-90s.

Who is Generation Z?

We speak of Generation Z to refer to people born between 1994 and 2010. A generation, as INJUVE shows, increasingly diverse and heterogeneous, that is why it is always important that we are critical of homogenization. Broadly speaking, we could say that they are the first generation to be born with a body extension (the smartphone) that gives them access to a lot of information in a globalized world and to TRIC (information, relationship and communication technologies) that will change substantially the way of relating, of creating their identity, of acquiring learning and of being in the world.

Lazy, irresponsible, who are allowed to do everything, defiant…Are they stereotypes about young people or is there some reality?

It is a reality for some people, but of all ages. What happens is that they are behaviors that we usually apply to youth in a homogeneous way. It would be interesting if many of the studies we do with youth, we also do with older people and we would be surprised. In fact, there is a very interesting fact that appears in an INJUVE report: that 91% of young people had complied with the pandemic measures even if they considered them inconsistent. It shocked me because the messages that were launched during COVID went in the opposite direction, but it also makes me wonder what would have come out if people from other generations were analyzed.

He assures in the book that when we talk about youth, we tend to fall into the idealization of the past and of what we were...

Yes. There is idealization and there is adultcentrism. That leads us to have prejudices, which in reality society has always had with the younger generations. The same since Aristotle, who already said that the young people of that time had no control, were always in a bad mood, that they had lost respect for their elders, did not know what education was and lacked all morals. What has happened with Generation Z is that adultism has been joined with technophobia and neophobia, which is the demonization of the technological and the rejection of the new. It is a special combo that has caused us to revile this generation even more.

Names adultism a lot throughout the book... What is it?

They are a set of behaviors based on the difference in power based on age. It is interesting that, just as we talk about putting on purple glasses with feminism, we put on these other glasses and see that it is a totally established thing and we reproduce it all the time. We place ourselves in front of childhood and adolescence in a position of superiority without paying attention to what they are or their needs. It is an example, but the other day a young woman told me that her father had gone to do the tax return and had come back saying that the person who attended her had not done it well "and that she was not young."

We usually talk about them as if they were on the sidelines, as if they didn't project everything that is happening in society, for which we are responsible. We are worried about the bottle, but how do we adults naturalize alcohol? It is also that we have data to confirm that they are betting on different leisure patterns, that they have reduced drug use or that they give us a thousand turns in what has to do with the acceptance of diversity. It does not mean that everything is positive, not at all, but this is not usually talked about.

It is common to say that they have it easier...

It is not like this. Generation Z has grown up in systemic crises since 2008. That is, their entire lives. Educational systems have not changed, although we know that their way of learning has, we keep telling them to forget about their tastes and talents, that there are things that are going to have more opportunities, when the vast majority of jobs they go to to dedicate the smallest creatures we do not know them. There is enormous precariousness and we are the country in Europe with the latest rate of emancipation and it is not because they want to continue living in their father's and mother's house. Wages have gone down and life has gone up and all this adds up to a global pandemic. And they are still called the "crystal generation"...

It is not uncommon to criticize that before, the same purchasing power was used in another way and previous generations were deprived of certain things...

I'm talking about survival. Of people who do not have a family that supports them financially and who are exploited in their jobs without stability. We are not talking about trips or parties, but about what the rent costs right now in the Spanish State. Another thing is the analysis of what we mean by living well, and for each person it will be one thing or another.

It is the generation of the Internet and social networks. Does your massive use of screens disconnect you from reality?

The first thing I would say is that we talk all the time about how attached they are to screens, but how is the majority of the population? It is obvious that it can serve to evade us and it is true that the algorithms are made so that we are there as long as possible, but what we cannot do is say how bad they are and look the other way. What we must do is do a good pedagogy and focus on digital care so that they do not design our lives.

In addition, we do not know well what they do with the networks. When we see a group of young people all with their mobile phones, we usually react thinking that they will be wasting their time, but it depends. We don't know if at that moment they are mobilizing, talking, looking for information, uploading a class assignment or seeing what Rosalía is doing this morning. But the thing is, if I had been a teenager and had been able to see what the Spice Girls were doing on a daily basis, I would also have been glued to the screen.

It seems that with social networks there is a greater obsession with image, the search for social approval and aesthetic pressure. Is it taking a toll on them?

Yes, to Generation Z and in general. Hence the much-needed digital pedagogy. When I talk to the kids I realize that they know that these lives are lies and that the bodies are fake, but constantly receiving messages about standards that we do not have and will not have, permeates unconsciously. It is important that we put our batteries to try to design our networks and follow accounts that help us to the contrary. For example, with the subject of fatphobia there are profiles that show bodies, cellulite or stretch marks that have more to do with who we are. And that has also been brought by social networks.

They are a generation crossed by mental health problems. Do they suffer from them or make them more visible?

We do not know. We do have words to name discomforts that we didn't before, but we also know that since 1989 the levels of pressure and perfectionism have not stopped increasing in youth, especially in women. It has a lot to do with neoliberal society, individualism and competitiveness. With being successful and standing out. That is seen daily. And there is a great feeling of insecurity, little stability and uncertainty, which is added to the existing precariousness and on many occasions causes them to stop finding meaning in life.

They are more feminist and open to LGTBI diversity, but at the same time we are witnessing a rise in denial discourses. The boys who do not consider gender violence a problem and an ideological invention have grown up. What's going on? Are the two trends coexisting?

Yes. Just like in the rest of society. We are in a moment of great polarization and it has to do with a certain political context. This is happening and is reflected in the youth. Having said this, what interests me is to consider what we can do and, for me, it involves trying to get closer and convincing those boys who are having references on Youtube or TikTok sending false messages. What I try to do is bring data, testimonies and be strategic. Four or five years ago I introduced myself, I said what the workshop was about and that I was a feminist cyberactivist, but now I don't say that anymore because I know that then a part of the room will cross their arms and not listen to anything.

the far right tends precisely to demonize this type of equality and sexual education workshops. From what age is it necessary and for what?

We are at a time when, on the one hand, we are very clear about the need for a comprehensive, critical and quality sexual education because we know that, if not, they are being educated by massive porn or the most mainstream romantic films. But at the same time, never before has it been so complicated to make formations on this subject because it is totally instrumentalized and politicized. Sex education has to do with everything, it crosses all spheres, it talks about emotional intelligence, feelings, how we relate to each other, bodily development... I wish they would tell us about this, adapted to each evolutionary moment, since we are small and little. Above all because we think that sex education is to give certain content, but all the time we are educating, even from silence.

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