Monday, October 23, 2006

Generation Warfare

I had a minor meltdown at Pandagon this morning, and while I probably went off the handle a bit more than was needed, I do think it needs to be pointed out exactly how much many people in the older generations don't get anyone under 30.

Yeah, I know, it's nothing new; neither is their constant complaining that we just plain suck compared to every generation that has gone before. However, in the interest of fostering understanding, I offer an abbreviated list of ways in which we are not what you think we are. A list that I'm sure many will disagree with and ideas that very few people who bother to read this blog - young, old, or in between - are ignorant of. (But it'll make me feel better, so...)

We Do Not Believe In The American Dream

It's a lie.

It was not our Manifest Destiny to cross the Great Plains; it was greed that drove us.

Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, The American Dream does not exist, especially for us. There are very few jobs out there and even those are fading fast. And they all need college degrees and experience. There are no homes for sale as well - not at prices we can afford, anyway. We started our adulthood deep in debt and we will always be in debt. Our friends and older siblings that bought houses they couldn't afford during the soon to burst housing bubble will be joining us in our parents basement - provided they still have one. There will be no two door garage and white picket fence for us.

We don't even want it, anyway. We grew up in suburbia and would rather not have to live and die there, thank you very much.

We don't like cars, either. Not the way you do. Road trips are fun and some of us do love driving but we don't revere it the way you do. Even in Southern California, Land of the Almighty Automobile, we are starting to wait until we need to drive to work or college before we learn to drive at all. There's just so many better things we could spend every fourth paycheck on.

We Believe In the American Dream

Not the kind with white picket fences and freeways across the Grand Canyon, but the kind that Langston Hughes wrote poems about. We may not believe in Norman Rockwell's America, but we yearn for the Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Want, and Freeedom from Fear that it promises. We believe in equality, opportunity, democracy, variety, morality, the common good, and above all our right to pursue happiness.

We're just not sure how to get there - or even if it's possible. Nirvana sounds nice too, after all. I'm not going to skip this week's episode of Lost to go looking for it, though.

We Don't Understand the Meaning of Civic Duty

We say we believe in Democracy, but we don't know what it means. Our parents taught us that all politicians - no all leaders - are born shifty and corrupt and that our pathetic attempts at protest range from a cute phase we'll grow out of to destructive behavior that comes from lack of purpose and responsibility. Our high schools taught us that history was always set in stone, so our actions cannot shape the future, and that democracy is a popularity contest for positions that don't really mean anything anyway.

We believe without question that we have a right to our opinions but we don't understand that voicing them is crucial to a healthy democracy. Democracy is something you do in the voting booth and occasionally something you do by signing a petition or volunteering for your party of choice. The truth that it is a way of life escapes us in terms of day to day practicalities.

When some of us do figure it out and do try to engage in democracy, our parents throw their mistakes and failures back at us - usually as proof that we are not needed nor are we reliable. We quickly learn that we aren't wanted at the grown-ups table anyway - because that means less pie for everyone that is already there.

Constantly rebuffed, we instead spend much of our time debating and reading and watching TV and learning more and more, pondering how to put our vast current affairs knowledge to practical use.

We Are Dedicated and Passionate Volunteers

We volunteer more than any other recent generation. We believe strongly in our causes - with all the fervor and conviction that is characteristic of youth.

We drift from job to job because we search for meaning, purpose, and respect - not an easier paycheck. We refuse to commit to a career because we either like all of them or like none of them. But most of all because the only ones that pay the bills sabatoge the causes we are so dedicated to.

We watch our parents and grandparents struggle more and more, rather than less and less, and wonder: if we jump from cage to cage, will we mind the bars less or more? If we just spend all our time spinning on the wheel, will we learn to forget that we are trapped?

We know that you think that we are lazy, unmotivated, and ignorant. We also know that you only see what you want to see. It's always easier to blame others for your own mistakes. Besides, it takes one to know one.

And a few extra special bits about younger feminists

We Aren't Feminists

Feminism is a dirty word that that angry, ugly girls call themselves. We believe in all the things (er, well most of them) that feminism has acheived, but we are already equal to men, thank you very much, we don't need a movement anymore.

Of course, lot of us know that isn't true, but even we aren't quite sure what to do about it most of the time. Especially since, as hard as it is to get anyone to listen to us because of our age or lack of experience or childlessness, it's even harder to get them to take feminism seriously. (see above) We are feminists, but we are often invisible ones.

We Have Been Feminists Since Before We Could Remember

We don't understand that Amherst opened it's doors to women after the troops came back from Vietnam; we figure it must have been in the dark ages because the thought of not having the chance to go to an ivy league just because we're girls is as alien to us as being told we can't vote. Same goes for the pill, female astronauts, and Barbie dressing up as a doctor, just to name a few.

Our mothers tell us that when they were allowed to play sports, they had to to do so under weird rules - like basketball players having to stay on one side of the court instead of both offensive and defensive players being able to run from one end to the other, like they normally do. A part of us doesn't really believe them, though; people couldn't possibly be that stupid.

When we learned to call ourselves a feminist varies. Some of us proclaimed in kindergarten that "tomboys don't exist, just girls." Some of us came by it gradually, becoming more and more comfortable with the name and dedicated to the cause as we grew older. Some of us still think feminism is over and done with already, even if we can't imagine a world without it.

We've Always Known the Boys Are Being Neglected and Treated Unfairly

We fought the battle of the sexes with our brothers and classmates from grade school through high school and bore the brunt of their bewlilderment and anger as they saw the little things they took for granted, like being called on in class, happen less and less. We looked around at our high school honor rolls and wondered where the boys were. They angrily replied that they'd been forgotten because mom and dad and teacher and coach were too busy spending time with us.

Any complaint of sexism was quickly met with a complaint of reverse sexism (as if reverse discrimination was an idea that made sense) and sometimes we had to admit they had a point. Along with all the traditional trials of adolescence and being a female, we had to deal with our male peers blaming us for feminism's mistakes. The boys lashed out more and more as they became increasingly angrier and stronger - and many of us learned to hate feminism ourselves because of it.

We Know That Feminists Aren't the Ones Who Have Been Neglecting and Mistreating Them

Many of us also became frustrated at our male peers insistence that, on the one hand, every objectionable act they committed was programmed into them through testosterone and, on ther other, it really wasn't fair for everyone to think less of them because they were boys.

We emphathized with their plight but became scornful when many never outgrew their childish reactions. We learned to put the blame where it belonged (on the patriarchy) when practically every effort to help was rebuffed with cries of man-hating. Like Mae West we learned we were feminists though experience: every time we tried to stand up for ourselves or our boys, we were called the F word.

We learned to carry the epitath "feminist" proudly. We knew that it was proof that we loved our brothers as much as we loved ourselves, even others thought differently.

1 comment:

Léa said...

I'm surprised nobody ever commented on this. I find it a great post as I can identify with almost everything that's written in there. I'm not the only one! Thank you.