A recent article in the July issue of Vogue, titled Insider Trading, got me thinking. The article documented a life swap: 40-something Gen X editor-in-chief, Tiffanie Darke, exchanged lives with millennial freelancer, Nellie Eden, for an inter-generational social experiment.
The double-page spread compared the pressures of motherhood to the tribulations of Tinder, the aspirations of 90s ravers to the disappointments of a 21st century girl. It opened up lots of questions about our wildly different perspectives on modern, London life. From work, to drinking, and home-owning to marriage, the piece investigated whether millennials are ‘delicate snowflakes’, or if Gen X takes its ‘considerable advantages for granted’.
As I read, I began to wonder if, as Tiffanie says, millennials are ‘over-entitled, riven with anxiety… [and] low on humour’. Can it be true that Gen Y ‘drink less, have less sex, go out less’, or, put simply, have less fun?
And if that is true, when did generation-party-girl, give way to us?
Unlike the Kate Mosses and Carrie Bradshaws of yester-year, sipping cosmos till 6am, millenials idolise Kayla Itsines for her steel abs and Madeline Shaw for her well-stocked pantry. Perhaps, in this social media obsessed culture, with every inch of us photographed, documented and served up for peer-to-peer comparison, we are more afraid to be wild and stupid, for fear that our mistakes will live online forever. Our youthful idiocy won’t be kept secret, it will be shared and retweeted to the world (*insert shameful pics from Freshers week here).
However, there’s more to it than simply fearing social judgement online. I think that many of my generation have grown up with a weight of expectation on their shoulders. Increasingly, employers look for university degrees. After uni, our social feeds are brimming with #backpacking posts. Then, to cap it all, we expect to land our dream job as soon as we turn 22. Andrew Hill writes, ‘Dreaming of fulfilment, autonomy and progress at work, graduates are putting themselves under immense pressure to succeed and be content’. Putting pressure on yourself to not only succeed, but also have loads of fun whilst doing it, can be a total paradox. The gap between our expectation for success and the reality of life’s difficulties, can quickly lead to discontent and anxiety.
Far from being entitled, we expect perfection from ourselves – a quality that no one can ever possess. Perhaps this mentality goes some way towards explaining the difference between us and our cool-girl, care-free, rebellious 90s predecessors.
One such predecessor, Tiffanie Darke, writes, ‘We who lived in through the Nineties…mainstreamed liberal values, worked for passion not money, and supercharged the arts and creative industries’. If she attempts to use this against us millennials, she forgets the leaps and bounds are generation is making in environmental issues (veganism is up 360%), gender equality (#HeForShe) and gay-rights (see Pride 2017!), to name just a few ‘liberal values’. We’re busy supercharging the digital industries and creating new types of careers to be passionate about. If we’re insistent on pointing out our differences, we stop recognising all the ways in which we are striving for the same things, but in a different era.
When I think about the Vogue article’s life-swap, I am hit by all the differences it places between two generations of women. However, my generation, of which I’m mostly proud, is not one thing, or another. We’re all wildly different, each muddling through this mad life in the only way we know how. Whether Gen Y, or Gen X, of Gen-whatever, society presents us all with vastly different opportunities. But, I don’t want to focus on our unlikeness. Instead, learning from each other is the only way forward, to make life better for women in generations to come.
Perhaps millennials, with all our quirks, are entering a new phase of life like every generation before us; breaking new waves and riding out the confusion of young adulthood, waiting until we can sit back, and judge the next in line.
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