Our Whiney Generation

To my sister, the women’s study major:

Dear Becky,

A few months ago, Nik and I went to a feminist socialist talk at a café con bookstore. It’s one of these cozy places with comfy chairs and organic coffee and baristas wearing t-shirts. I forgot to look at the map as we drove so we were at least 15 minutes late. When we arrived, the room was overflowing with people. We posted ourselves at the door and peeked in: millennials of all stripes with a sprinkling of aging hippies filled the room, pouring into the aisles and lining the wall. The speaker was a short woman around 55 with curly red hair covered by a beanie. She wore snow boots and had a confident, wide stance with her feet slightly turned out. As she spoke, she waved her arms and moved her body, as if had too much passion to gesticulate with her hands. She spoke with an unpremeditated freeness that is so rare in this political city. It was captivating, and in a way, reminded me of how mom speaks: from the heart, with such a dynamism and energy that it takes the movement of her whole body to make a point. It was touching to see someone express themselves so genuinely in such an uncalculated way. Looking around the room, I wasn’t the only one shocked by how uncontrolled she was. Everyone was mesmerized, which is unique to see these days, when people always seem to crawl into the safety of their phones. “I want to be like her,” I thought. “I want to speak vibrantly and be unafraid to stand out.” But I don’t even think she was unafraid to be different. She was simply confidant and passionate about what she said.

Which was socialist feminism. The only real type of feminism, she said.

After she spoke, there was a discussion, which turned to how to have a socialist feminist revolution. To have a socialist feminist revolution, the working class and middle class need to unite and rise together against corporations. It takes collaboration and dialogue to work together for one cause.

Not everyone liked this idea of working together. A girl in the front row raised her hand. “I don’t have time for non-feminists. I’m sick of them. I’m at the end of my rope. This guy next to me, for example,” she pointed at one of the few guys in the room, “had asked me if anyone was sitting in this seat before he sat down. I told him ‘not that I know.’ But what I should have said is, ‘why don’t you ask one of the 10 girls that are sitting on the floor. Why don’t you offer them a seat.’ I’m sick of this rudeness. I can’t deal with it anymore.” She burst into tears.

Nik and I had paid strict attention to the discussion as it was going along, but at this, we both turned to each other and I couldn’t help lifting my eyebrows up in terror. Let me reiterate: this girl was in the front row. She called out a young man sitting next to her, one of only a few men. He had come, it seemed, to learn, to join the conversation, to hear from knowledgeable people. She burst into tears because he had politely asked if anyone was sitting in the chair, and because none of the 10 girls sitting on the floor had taken it. The young man looked slightly confused.

The conversation continued in agreement until it reached a blonde girl in her early 20s in the corner. “All we have is our words,” she said. “If people want to join the conversation, they need to use the right words. They should be mature enough to respect the conversation and shouldn’t join if they don’t.”

Other people in the room looked at each other and nodded in agreement. One black girl chimed in, “Yes! I just don’t have time to teach everyone. I don’t have enough energy to do it. If you don’t know the right words, I will not talk to you.”

Finally, the speaker jumped in. “What I hear is troubling. You shouldn’t see conversing with someone as teaching them. Treat every conversation like a two way street, you can learn from them, and they can learn from you. When we share perspectives, everyone can learn. Everyone has something to offer. You should be excited to converse with someone about a topic like feminism. These people are just learning, how can you expect them to know the right words? How do you get anyone to join a cause if you frighten them away?

“You millennials,” she continued, “have never seen a real revolution.”

“Not true!” Said the black girl. “Black lives Matters is from our generation!”

“No.” The speaker shot her down. “Black Lives Matters is a fringe awakening in comparison to the civil rights movement that swept the nation in the 60s, when people from all walks of life united for one cause. You have never seen struggle or severe discrimination. You have never seen a revolution where backgrounds don’t matter, vocabulary doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are there, you care, and you are ready to stand up for your rights and those of your fellow citizens.”

Becky, I agree with her. I am so tired of people completely invalidating others because they don’t know the right words, or are ignorant of the cause. Our generation frustrates me often. We’ve grown up with such ease and luxury that all we do is complain and whine and find reasons to judge. We have never seen struggle. We have never fought tooth and nail for something. We just sit in our armchairs in comfy coffee shops and wail at those that don’t share our beliefs.

I wish we had more people like this woman around to jolt us back to reality and help us be vibrant, shake off society, reach across the aisle, and listen to those who come from different schools of thoughts.