Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Fear for my Generation

It’s typically stated that the current generation of young people, spotlighting adolescents, is ignorant and self-absorbed. It’s a long, winding list of absolutes- that all kids are addicted to their cell phones; that American students don’t study nearly as much as their international counterparts; that they don’t realize all of the social progress that has allowed them to live their lives the way they currently do.

I always tried to ignore this prevalent viewpoint. How could it even be uttered? Many of my friends are caring, wonderful young people. I have one that builds houses in an impoverished area of West Virginia each summer, and another who’s seventeen and has volunteered at her local congresswoman’s office for four years. We’re the kids who invite the kids deemed pariahs to sit with us at lunch. I’m not claiming we’re perfect, of course, but I think that we are good people. And how about all of the lovely, brilliant young teenage bloggers? Julie at The F-Bomb, Danielle at Experimentations of a Teenage Feminists, and Talia at Star of Davida are just a few examples. These girls are taking the time to eloquently express their opinions in a public forum, creating a community for other like-minded people. I’ve never seen an ad hominem attack done on any of these blogs, which is far more than could be said for many adult pundits.

But my last few weeks in the start of school have made me feel that all of the ignorance and apathy associated with my generation might be right on the mark.

Take the conversation I was a part of at an athletic team gathering. A friend and I were sitting on the couch next to a bunch of very recent high school freshmen, who were discussing various females in their grade, branding them as “sluts,” “weird,” etc. It was very The Plastics in Mean Girls. One of the girls there mentioned that she was frequently called a slut, and everyone shouted, “OMG! You’re totally not! Not like [insert name here]!” (I wish I was hyperbolizing.) I tried to profess that your worth can’t be defined by your sexual activity- whether devised on the grapevine or actual- but everyone just kind of looked at me. Anyway. One girl, now Girl A, switched the topic to how Goth was weird. “My dad said that if I ever become a Goth, he’ll send me to female military school.” Alright. A bit weird, definitely. But then Girl B interjected, “Oh, yeah, that’s like when parents send their gay kids to straight school.”


I cleared my throat. “Um, hey Girl B, that kind of doesn’t make any sense at all. What do you mean?” [Fake giggle.]

“Oh, there are lots of them. And they, like, work, too. Because when the kids come out they were gay before and now they’re straight.”

“But… that makes no sense. If you’re gay, that’s it.”

She looked at me like I was completely insane, and then the conversation switched to which belly button rings each of these fourteen-year-olds planned to get when they turned eighteen.

Oh dear.


This story’s off the middle school rumor mill, courtesy of my little brother.

Most people have heard the rather annoying phrase, “Cool story, bro. You should tell it at parties.” It’s now printed on lacrosse pinnies across the country. But my brother told me about a shirt one of his thirteen-year-old male compatriots wore to school, reading, “Cool story, babe. Now make me a sandwich.”

I was legitamitely speechless.

My brother said that when a teacher saw it, she supposedly lectured him in front of the whole class, “but not like yelling at him. He wasn’t in trouble. But asking him if he even knew what it was saying.” (I knew I trained him well.) Obviously, I think that this was the right thing, if not the awesome thing, for her to do.

But really? Thirteen’s a bit young for blatant sexism.


The list goes on and on. Another shining moment is when teammate relayed to me that a kid in her Global History II class asked the teacher, “If you’re Lesbanese, are you automatically a lesbian?” “I just knew that would make you mad,” she said. And she was right.

Why does this make me so mad? Because these kids are SO young. They already have these close-minded views in their heads. I know the last generation was all Free-to-Be-You-and-Me, but I think my generation may have missed some of that acceptance. Our world is progressing so much socially. These kids could have any opinions they want. If this is what they really think, then that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

But… how many thirteen year old guys buy their own shirts? I can’t say very many guys I knew bought their own clothes before high school. I would strongly suggest that this kid’s mom bought him the offending clothing article. What the Hell is that teaching him about how to treat women? And my teammates- it’s one thing to have self-expression stilted by threat to boarding school, but another entirely to say that being gay isn’t a part of one’s intrinsic identity. I can’t help but think that parents influenced this too. In the media this is becoming a far less portrayed view (I mean, Glee, right?) But if kids’ parents are stuffing them with archaic opinions, how much can we blame these kids for their ignorance?

And yeah, maybe I’m guilty of this too. I try as hard as I can to be open- stuck 100% in liberalism is just as bad as being stuck 100% anywhere else. My parents’ opinions on issues such as these wasn’t particularly strong in my childhood, for which I’m glad, because I’m confident that I formed opinions that are right for me personally at this time in my life. But how can my generation achieve social progress when bogged down with no room to think for themselves?

1 comment:

  1. interestingly enough this is the age of self expression its never been simpler to say what you feel think or believe and to find an audience... the trouble is that the kind of people that don't take into account someone else opinion are often the loudest voices are saying the stupidest things and that's true on both sides left and right wing... and when you have people getting scared having some telling them that they are right ... and pointing out a target that is clearly not them it becomes easy to stop thinking and obey... you darn kids