The Go-Nowhere Generation. Trophy Kids. The Peter Pan Generation. For a group that’s over 80 million strong, Millennials sure do take a lot of flak sitting down.
Or at least they used to. Today, Millennials—the generation born in the 80s and 90s—are increasingly standing up against the mass media bully pulpit. More Gen Yers are stepping forward to pen op-eds, articles, and blog posts to defend themselves against their prolific, powerful critics.
If the media won’t quit taking jabs at Millennials, it seems Millennials are going to start fighting back.
This past September, 28-year-old Salon reporter Drew Foster penned an article titled “Millennial entitlement is a myth.” In it he wrote, “Everybody’s down on Generation Y these days. … [But] Gen Y didn’t invent being optimistic and naive; these are facets of being a young person, not of being born to baby boomers who told us we were special.”
One month earlier, 29-year-old blogger and entrepreneur Maude Standish authored an op-ed for Media Bistro called “My Generation – Stop Describing Us and Start Listening to Us.” Standish had this to say: “[Y]ou Boomers and Gen Xers are all so busy describing us that you have forgotten to listen to us. Even if we are all those things that you think we are, that’s not how we see ourselves. And until you see us as we see ourselves you are not going to connect with us.”
Think they’re overreacting? Consider this sampling of headlines run by major news outlets within the past six months: “A generation of idle trophy kids” (The Boston Globe); “Why Millennials Annoy Their Elders” (Forbes); “20 Things 20-Year-Olds Just Don’t Get” (also Forbes); “Gen Y managers perceived as entitled, need polish” (CNBC); and my personal favorite, “We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists” (Fox News).
And it’s not just Millennials who are leaping up with an exasperated excuse-me-but-we’ve-had-just-about-enough-thank-you-very-much. Some news organizations seem to be abandoning the long-waged media war on Gen Y, jumping ship to defend the very kids they once put down.
Just think of Time, whose famous May 2013 cover story, “The Me Me Me Generation,” highlighted an increased incidence of narcissism (not to mention laziness, entitlement, selfishness, and shallowness) in Millennials. Last month, the same magazine sang a decidedly different tune when it published “The Millennials Are All Right,” a hopeful article with this (almost) repentant subtitle: “Whether this is or isn't a generation of narcissists, it's hardly the first to be shaped by media.”
The fight against Millennial-bashing isn’t a Web-only movement—Gen Y authors are also taking to the books to get their message across. By way of example is David D. Burstein, whose debut book, Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World, argues against the negative stereotypes suffered by Millennials. Drawing on extensive interviews with his Millennial peers and on compelling new research, Burstein instead reveals Generation Y’s unique blend of civic idealism, technical prowess, and savvy pragmatism that endows Millennials with a strong potential to change the world for the better.
Fast Future—first published by Beacon last year and now available in paperback—is part of this larger phenomenon we see unfolding: Millennials taking ownership of their generation’s story and refusing to let other people tell it for them.
That sounds like a fight worth fighting.
Stephanie Mann is a civic minded Millennial, and current publicity intern for Beacon Press.