ONTD Political

Kids these days! The “Generation Y” panic, privilege, and erasure

11:39 pm - 06/08/2010

By Annaham on 7 June, 2010

Recently, I read this odd article, penned by Judith Warner, in the New York Times–one in a stream of many that detail how excessively awful the current generation of young people (read: young workers) is at putting its collective nose to the grindstone, sucking it up, and generally not acting like a bunch of brats, or something.

Many of us have heard about, or come into contact with, some of these bright young things. They are heralded — or, more commonly, blasted — as naive, entitled, too optimistic, and over-confident. In many of these articles, their numerous faults are listed: They don’t know how to dress professionally! They expect to march into the workplace of their choice and immediately start making a six figure-salary! They think they are perfect! They want praise all of the time! (Does no one who writes these sorts of articles stop to consider that many human beings want praise when they complete a task to the best of their abilities?) They have tattoos, dyed hair, and iPods! EVERYBODY PANIC, because the American workplace is apparently going to be dragged down by Generation Y’s entitlement, narcissism and laziness! This narrative, however, seems to apply mostly to a very specific subset of the population (and even the picture that accompanies the NYT article reinforces this): young, able-bodied, middle to upper-middle class, college-educated white people.

This erases, or conveniently ignores, a hell of a lot of folks who are not young, abled, middle/upper-middle class, and white. It erases young workers who may not have had the “expected” educational opportunities (such as college), or who had to take more than the expected four years to finish their degree, or who did not finish school. It erases people whose parents or family members may not have been quite so “involved” in their education, or in their lives at all. Of course, it also erases young people with disabilities — both those who cannot work, and those who want to work but who may be bumping up against various narratives such as that of the “entitled” Generation Y kid. Some of us have psychological issues or disabilities that put us completely at odds with the “overly-confident” and “entitled” stereotype that apparently befits the current generation — because we cannot stop worrying despite the fact that we are supposed to be totally optimistic and confident all of the time, always thinking that the roads leading to our perfect job will be lined with rainbows, fluffy bunnies, and gold.

Some of us have physical disabilities, chronic pain, or chronic illnesses that prevent us from working 40-hour weeks (or more); asking for accommodations or disclosing our condition(s), we fear, may make us look “entitled,” or like we do not want to put in the time necessary to work our way up — even if this is not the case. The fact is that many people, and many young people, with disabilities are already at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to the labor market and making a living. Not only are many people with disabilities, at least in the U.S., more likely to face lengthy stretches of unemployment and/or live in poverty regardless of age, but many face additional hostility, discrimination, and unreasonable demands, both in the workplace and from society at large because of their disabilities.

While I am not saying that these over-entitled Generation Y-ers don’t exist (I’ve had run-ins with quite a few of them, myself), I am struck by the fact that the narrative surrounding them is so dependent upon erasing or ignoring certain people whose bodies and experiences do not fit the “expected” attitudes about labor that have been traditionally upheld by American culture. Many of these attitudes, furthermore, rely heavily on binaries that reinforce who “counts” and who does not: You either work full-time, or you’re lazy. You’re willing to be mistreated in the workplace and do whatever it takes “for the job,” or you’re a wimp. Suck it up, or go home. If you’re not making enough money to live on or are poor, you just aren’t working hard enough. If you ask for “accommodations,” you’re asking for too much — just do your job! You have to work hard to “make it,” and if you don’t work hard enough, it’s your fault. If you don’t like your job or face daily mistreatment, you can always quit and find another one, right? But if you can’t, it’s your fault, and why did you quit that job, anyway? These attitudes surrounding work affect people with disabilities in a wide variety of age groups and generational cohorts, and this is a crucial part of why they are so important to critically question and examine.

The message for Generation Y, in general, may be “Get over yourself,” but the message for those who do not fit the characteristics of the “average” Generation Y worker is more severe — and ultimately more dire.


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schexyschteve 9th-Jun-2010 04:00 am (UTC)
Many baby boomers have NO ROOM to talk on the subject of entitlement.
rubric_kolinahr 9th-Jun-2010 04:18 am (UTC)
This. "My parents were the Greatest Generation! How DARE YOU SIR suggest I go to work and not be a hipster with deep ideas, man?"
squeeful 9th-Jun-2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Um, of COURSE the Gen Y image is young, because Gen Y IS A CERTAIN AGE GROUP.

Article has some good points to make, but is shoddily written. Do another two drafts, find yourself a good editor, and submit it to teacher again.
schexyschteve 9th-Jun-2010 04:04 am (UTC)
If it's 1982 to 2002, part of that generation is only 8 years old.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
teacup_werewolf 9th-Jun-2010 04:07 am (UTC)
Same here =.=
myrddin 9th-Jun-2010 06:34 am (UTC)
This, so much. I'm afraid to tell people that I have issues that prevent me from standing and walking for long periods of time, because they just assume I'm lazy, since I'm young and look able bodied, even though I'm in severe chronic pain all the time. I took on a new job that involved walking about ten hours a week and I loved it, but I took my shoe off one night to find my foot covered in blood, I had to take off for a week and go to the doctor three times, which I was fortunate enough to be able to do, to make sure it didn't get infected. It's depressing and disheartening, and I have to listen to people tell me I'm falling behind when it comes to saving up for retirement, well it's certainly not because I want to.

Edited at 2010-06-09 06:34 am (UTC)
lucidatype 9th-Jun-2010 04:42 am (UTC)
You know, the people who are complaining about young people today? They were complained about by the generation before them. And that generation was also complained about by an even older generation. Many of Shakespeare’s plays feature conflicts between older and younger people. Hell, Sophocles wrote plays like that. The entire affair is ridiculously cliché at this point.

How about we all just agree to take for granted that older generations resent the superficial differences that exist between themselves and younger generations. Then we don’t have to vocalize it or write it down or anything. We’ll just know it in our hearts.
schexyschteve 9th-Jun-2010 04:44 am (UTC)
"Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
evilgmbethy 9th-Jun-2010 04:56 am (UTC)
as someone who's right in the middle of X and Y, let me say that I think Y is a pretty solid generation of kids, man. Gen X is materialistic Reagan babies. Gen Y is a lot more socially conscious. they're a good lot.
taiki 9th-Jun-2010 05:16 am (UTC)
Born in '82 myself.

There's a social consciousness gap.

On one hand, I've noticed a lot of smart, politically active, literate Gen Y folk tend to be pretty hip on feminism, and other social issues. On the other hand, I've noticed a lot of dumb, politically inactive and illiterate Gen Y'ers tend to go the other way(I remember a coworker telling me about his shirt that had an icon of a girl multiplied with a martini glass = a bed; that was a pointless conversation; not to mention trying to explain to my coworkers what the hell socialism actually is).
watchsnowfall 9th-Jun-2010 04:57 am (UTC)
Please. If we learnt entitlement and living beyond our means, it was from the previous generation. Unless of course, all us young people are responsible for the recession. *shrug*

taiki 9th-Jun-2010 05:10 am (UTC)
The young, the poor and the brown caused the recession.

Or anyone who's not in the Republican party's voting base.
watermeloncholy 9th-Jun-2010 05:15 am (UTC)
There was a discussion about this in one of my courses once, and I mentioned that race played a big part in expectations and privilege etc. I don't think most people in my small class of 10 understood what I was trying to say tbh
akuma_river 9th-Jun-2010 05:54 am (UTC)
Sometimes I wonder where the most privilege lies...race, money, gender, or sexuality.
akuma_river rants9th-Jun-2010 05:37 am (UTC)
I quit my 'part-time but working full-time clerk job' because my knees were fucked and the pay sucked and I drove 60 miles a day...and that was two months in a three month trial when I'll finally get 'benefits'. It also killed my soul.

I don't think I can handle a 'real' job. Let me be an artist/writer/freelance typesetter who can work at home.

I work hard on stuff I care about. I'm inventive, strong minded, willing to listen and ask questions (ask my professor/boss on projects how many times I send off an e-mail for clairification on items I'm unsure about that is SUPER important), propose ideas etc...but the 8am-6pm work hours kill me. Let me work from home. What I do in six hours at home is 2 days of work at the office. It also helps I'm not losing 2 hours in commuting time.

Right now I'm typesetting a book. A book that will printed through my University. A book that will be released September 1, 2010 written by Charles D. Spurlin and called Port of Victoria: A History. It's a FASCINATING book on barge travel and ports from La Salle's time to present in Texas and covers all sorts of political intrigue and history... Buy it.

This book that I'm typesetting, I'm not getting paid for. This is a freebie offered to me by my Professor in the Publishing Center of my Uni and will possibly count as credit hours. It will look good in my portfolio. Buy it.

I'm not lazy or entitled. Yeah I'm white. So damn white I hide in the house for hours upon hours of the day in the hopes I won't get skin cancer because when I was young I got sunburns so bad I had boils on my back.

I'm not rich...or middle class, I'm lower middle-class to upper lower-class. My family is so poor that we got hit by a hurricane in July of 2003 and we still don't have a roof over a good portion of the house, what was there fell in because s-dad hired shotty non-documented (possibly) Mexicans and when it rains it pours inside the house. Don't even get me started on FEMA.

I'm not really much of anything but the product of the 80's fucking over the new generation but I live on because of computers and internet and seem to ekk out a decent if agoraphobic anti-social life.

I worked my ass off in college to get a 3.08 gpa when it turns out I had 3 c's, a D, and fucking F holding me down. Otherwise I would have a 3.6. I have a full degree in two fields. My first job out of college was being a clerk in a sporting goods store because I wanted part-time work because I wanted to go back to school for my Masters. I'm sooo fucking sorry that I cared about getting a further education that the banks and other places I interviewed and sent out my application for rejected me. I'm sooo fucking sorry that I worked seasonal jobs all my college years because I didn't want to fail all my classes and that it doesn't count as real work.

I am now 50k+ in debt in student loans and no one will hire me. So yeah I'm a bit pissy and want to be praised and so forth...

So sorry to grow up on pc's, playstations, dsi, internet and have this entitlement towards piracy and liking tattoos/piercings and think a person's apperance shouldn't keep them from a job...

All I want is a decent job with pay, health insurance, and the freedom to do what I love.

I may call my ass lazy but I'm not lazy. I work hard (as long as it's not standing up for 8 fucking hours and getting bitched at for shit that ain't my fault (Really? A warning for a shoe size mishap when the person said it was fine? Really? Warnings for accidently missing hidden security tags? Really? And three warnings gets me fired? I'm working this sucky ass boring job for 7 bucks an hour and driving 60 hours a day for this shit?) as long as I care about what I'm doing.
akuma_river Re: rants9th-Jun-2010 05:37 am (UTC)
I'm sorry I feel entitled in that I think I should be able to work from home at 2am when I'm wide awake and bullshit for a few hours on the internet as well (I multitask, studies show your brain can only handle an hour and a half of studying/work before your productive starts to fail and you need frequent little breaks) instead of being in a damn office for 8 hours plus the two hour commute to and fro work.

It's the same job and I do it faster at home! You have no idea how many assignments I have slowed my ass down on so I would get my hours for the work I did instead of being sent home early since they don't have anything else for me. Sure productivity is down but at least I'm getting paid for the 8 hours of work that I can do in 4 hours that I do. So damn sorry I'm fast, triple check my things, and ask questions to make sure it's right on the first time and that I'm singled minded on a task when I care about it and I'm not frazzled out of my mind in boredom.

/end rant of past jobs/bad experience

I'm a gen-yer pissed at the economy, no health insurance, and bad shit that keeps happening. Did I mention I live on the Gulf (Texas side though), it's fucking depressing right now. And shit like this...that I'm some elitest...it kind of pisses me off when I work my ass off (3.889 GPA bitches in GRAD SCHOOL) and the employment sucks and people think we are entitled because we want to be treated equally and not be treated as grunts at a new job if they will even hire us because we've been out of work for a few years in school and/or can't get a job because education don't equal job.

/end second rant

Screw it, I can't reply without ranting.

I need chocolate. Or BL...
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
bluetooth16 9th-Jun-2010 05:45 am (UTC)
The NY Slimes fails at life again. Why am I not surprised?
yunghustlaz 9th-Jun-2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
omg I ironically used NY Slimes in another post to parody people who think stuff like this is legit and hahaha thanks for validating me bluetooth :')

at least you don't use obamatons, then we'd have problems.
blueshirts This comment from the source was dead-freaking-on:9th-Jun-2010 06:40 am (UTC)
"Something I’ve pointed out to people my parents’ age who go off about “Kids today” and how we’re ruining the world: Who raised us? We didn’t, allegedly, raise ourselves. And when people go on about the state of the world today – I don’t see many 23 year old presidents/prime ministers. I don’t even see that many 23 year old politicians, or anything else that influences the way things are run. The majority of them are old enough to be my parents. My parents’ generation are the ones who made the laws that govern us, ran the banks in ways that screwed the economy, and taught us how to live."
mindrtist Re: This comment from the source was dead-freaking-on:10th-Jun-2010 05:32 am (UTC)
Nobody gave a shit in the 70s if you said your mom was abusing you, I'll tell you that much. Now, if she breathes the wrong way you can call 911.
my_private_muse 9th-Jun-2010 07:03 am (UTC)
This erases, or conveniently ignores, a hell of a lot of folks who are not young, abled, middle/upper-middle class, and white. It erases young workers who may not have had the “expected” educational opportunities (such as college), or who had to take more than the expected four years to finish their degree, or who did not finish school. It erases people whose parents or family members may not have been quite so “involved” in their education, or in their lives at all. ... Some of us have psychological issues or disabilities that put us completely at odds with the “overly-confident” and “entitled” stereotype that apparently befits the current generation — because we cannot stop worrying despite the fact that we are supposed to be totally optimistic and confident all of the time, always thinking that the roads leading to our perfect job will be lined with rainbows, fluffy bunnies, and gold.

This. So god damn much.
devil_ad_vocate 9th-Jun-2010 08:23 am (UTC)
As one of the first of the 'baby boomers', I'd like to say all this is crapola. "Gen X" and "Gen Y" - and all of the other generalizations - about people born during one period of time or another are bullshit journalistic inventions. My children are in their 40's now, worked to get through college as I did, and are doing the best they can. Both of them - and their spouses - had to move in with us at different times. My wife and I did the same with our parents.

It doesn't make a good Goddamn when you're born; you deal with whatever situation you're handed, and try to help each other. I don't like it when younger people accuse my generation of 'screwing things up', or 'being privileged hippies'. And I don't like it when older people slam the young for 'failure to launch' or 'being too lazy to work'. They'll get some things right, and screw some things up just like their parents did, and mine did, and other generations did.
lastrega 9th-Jun-2010 10:08 am (UTC)
Seriously, this. I'm the Gen X mum of Gen Y kids and they work as hard as anyone. Sometimes they've worked 2 or 3 jobs to get what they want, and they've certainly never had anything handed to them. I have a lot of Gen Y-ers in my house a lot of the time and, honestly, they're bloody awesome.
(no subject) - Anonymous
yunghustlaz 9th-Jun-2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
no, i'm hanging out there.
lisaee 9th-Jun-2010 11:47 am (UTC)
I'm a soon to be undereducated (there is no way in hell I am going to get into university) Generation Y kid. And honestly? That attitude seems to have been prevalent in previous generations. I could've sworn that "get over yourself" mentality has been there for quite some time.

Perhaps I'm just horribly disillusioned. I'm white, lower middle class and able bodied, but I still know there's no way I'm going to walk into some lovely 50k a year job and be given a four bedroom house. /sob
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