How to Wear Your Millennial Stripes: Policy Party in the Club

By Vass Bednar, Echo guest blogger

I don’t go to clubs. But if you’re born between the 80s and the early 2000s then you’re already in one with me. It’s generational (free cover!). We’re the “Millennials” or the “Echo Boomers” and no, I do not believe we selected the name.

From what I can gather from the media, we’re a bunch of egocentrics jammed under one amorphous sociological tent that’s about as tight as our pants. United by birth year bracket, facing a common set of economic challenges and increasingly uncertain career prospects, armed with acronyms, smartphones, and devalued Bachelors degrees as we rapidly inherit a wackload of ever-wicked policy problems[1]. So hip it hurts.

Here’s the thing: I’m not sure I can empathize with my (our? your?) generation because I’m too (comparatively) successful. Yeah man! I said it. Though my glasses are thick and round, don’t be deceived: I haven’t and don’t suffer in the way that many of us do. I’m not un- or under- employed, I’m not bogged down with student debt, I’ve never slogged through an unpaid internship, I don’t live with my parents (though their Greek hospitality is tempting) and I’m not over-credentialized or suffering from an obscene incarnation of labour market mismatch. It’s *almost* embarrassing.

And that’s the source of my Millennial anxiety - that I’m part of the club without paying any of the dues. It’s weird to feel like you don’t belong when you have to. Is it legit to lament precarious employment when you have benefits? Can I advocate for pension reform when I already have one? Is it cool to champion better bridges between post-secondary education and the labour force when I’m the asshole buying a multi-syllabic coffee from an MA-wielding barista? Mind if I cheer for women to Lean In when I’m already sitting at tables?

So what’s the source of my Millennial legitimacy: That I have a blog? My uncanny ability to locate bars with no signage? My ironic wicker bike basket? Nah. Perhaps it’s my thirst for authenticity.

I think this kind self-awareness (being shy about being a Millennial because I don’t feel Millennial enough) is healthy and characteristic of all of “us.” Unlike booming and busting generations prior, our personalities and sense of selves have been largely shaped and projected online. We’re always placing ourselves in the world, contextualizing, and proclaiming our preferences (Facebook “likes” and “dislikes,” Twitter “favourites”). This self-consciousness has been powerful in a marketing context and has no doubt helped us stake out our coveted individuality.

And guess what? I think it’s gonna be totally off-the-chain when we’re able to concentrate those predilections on a coherent policy agenda. Independent of our respective socioeconomic statuses, we are generally hyper-aware and passionate - a powerful marriage. Our next step, and what I believe will come to define oursocial-media-loving squad is successfully translating that collective energy to shape public policy trends instead of just fashion, food, technology, slang, and LOL-worthy acronyms.

These policy priorities will be what bind us - a common set of desires and aspirations that we define and pursue. This articulation is how we can (finally) move beyond the unfavourable “Peter Pan” caricatures.

And that’s why it’s not just legit, but critical, for gals like me to care about generational challenges that might not impact me directly. Because being a part of a generation and chilling in this ‘club’ means that it’s not “all about me,” but rather: us.

Let’s ditch the identity-related anxiety. We are born into this post-boom brethren and whatever this emerging cohort is (and isn’t), we’re in it together. However divergent or perilous our Millennial membership, we are no more or less Gen-Y than our hashtag-hashing groupies.

And me? Maybe I haven’t jumped through any major Millennial hoops just yet. But I’m an unmarried, overworked and hyper-engaged 27-and-a-half-year-old woman with a Master’s degree who lives alone and I’m pretty sure that has MILLENNIAL! written all over it. Perhaps I haven’t earned (or Insta-grammed) any stripes through Millennial strife. But for now, I am still going to wear them. I think that’s a trend we all can (and should) get (and stay!) behind.

Vass Bednar (@VassB) is an enthusiastic Queen’s Park staffer and a 2012-2013 Action Canada Fellow. The tidal-wave feminist hopes to  make public policy more fun and look good doing it.  

[1] Oh you know: rising health-care costs, major public deficits, climate change, child care challenges, lack of affordable housing options … the usual.

Ryan Vandecasteyen
A full service digital creative agency that's all about working with the people and organizations that protect our planet and make the world a better place.
How to Wear Your Millennial Stripes: Policy Party in the Club
How to Wear Your Millennial Stripes: Policy Party in the Club
Check out Generation Squeeze. I just joined.
Read the blog at Generation Squeeze
Latest News & Resources (archive)