Millennials are routinely mocked as apathetic and lazy, but what are the real stories behind the misunderstood generation?
How many of the articles about millennials are ever written by one? Maybe we’re just too distracted by making avocados on toast to be able to write. Older generations have been happy to fill the media void, and have written everything on millennials, from employers that screen out ‘snowflakes’, to why we aren’t buying diamonds.
Media content has veered toward the absurd. A browser extension was created to change “millennial” to “snake people” to highlight how little difference to the articles was made, such was their negative bias against the generation already. Yet, the perceptions of millennials are far different to the reality.
“Young people, up until the election, were ignored and patronised in the press,” says Elliot Goat, from Undivided, a youth led organisation that seeks to empower and inform other young people in the wake of Brexit.
Ahead of the election, the organisation held many talks and focus groups to listen to young people’s concerns – the biggest being the stagnation of opportunities. There was huge concern about whether young people would be able to obtain affordable housing, or gain access to higher education and jobs.
“If you’re someone who’s grown up after the financial crash all you’ve ever known is austerity,” says Elliot. “We were brought up to believe if you do work hard [you can get on] but the rules of game have shifted. Now we’re asked to work in a zero hours contract job, in a job that has no benefits, no guarantees, you could be sacked tomorrow and no security and paying half salary on rent and the idea of trying to buy your own house is unrealistic. There’s an idea of intergenerational inequality and intergenerational unfairness. The benefits that other generations have had – free university education, access to a job –they enjoyed those and they’re the ones who are taking it away from us when we’re the ones expected to pick up the bill. There is quite a lot of anger, I think, which has been manifest in people coming out and voting. People are pissed off, people are angry at a system they think is inherently unfair.”
“People are pissed off, people are angry at a system they think is inherently unfair”
The average house price in 1975 was £10,846 but in 2015 it was £192,772, according to Nationwide’s data. House prices have risen to nearly twenty times what previous generations paid. It’s understandable that some feel robbed of any opportunity to experience independence.
“There is a lot of hatred towards millennials by older generations, a lot of people feel that we have an undeserved sense of entitlement but my experience is quite the opposite,” said Kelsey Baxendale, 26, who is working in a call centre, and about to start university.
“It’s young people grafting to be able to afford things that at one time a majority of people, no matter what their background, were able to afford.
“A lot of millennials are trapped at the bottom of the housing ladder. The problem isn‘t just the price of houses but also the cost of rent which prevents people from saving enough money for a deposit. Myself and my partner are currently saving to buy a house and we are fully aware that we are incredibly lucky to be in a position to do this. However, most people I know would love to but can’t envisage a world where they will earn enough to afford it even with the various help to buy schemes that are available.”
Ellana Thornton-Wheybrew is a disabled queer woman and soon to be a post-graduate student who feels that the negative perceptions of millennials clashes with her lived experience as a young adult.
“Millennials from working or lower middle class families are blamed for killing supermarket chains, napkins, diamonds, and a whole ridiculous list of things that we just cannot afford or care about,” she says. “Why would we want to buy diamonds and avocado toast, when we would rather pay the rent each month?
“Why would we want to buy diamonds and avocado toast, when we would rather pay the rent each month?”
“I think common terms used to describe millennials are ‘lazy’ and ‘self-entitled’ and how we are the ‘trophy for participation generation’, but in reality I completely disagree. Millennials were children during 9/11 and 7/7. We have been raised with images of war, terrorism, and all the racism and xenophobia that events like that reveal. We are struggling with student loan debt, trying to find jobs or working at less than a liveable wage, and trying to have our identities acknowledged.
“I believe that, more than any generation of recent times, millennials are more open to people who are ‘different’ or of a minority group; this does not reflect the political climate. In a world where disabled people can be denied healthcare because they are disabled, and where LGBTQ+ people can be denied human rights because they are LGBTQ+, and where people of colour are losing their lives to the police because they are people of colour, no politician is standing up for everyone, let alone millennials. When you have to beg politicians to keep the Human Rights Act, or to vote against something that will kill millions of people, millennials have no chance whatsoever of being heard.”
Ipsos Mori found that age was the biggest dividing factor in the recent General Election since the organisation’s records began in 1979. Young people are battling on in a society set against them as the negative headlines keep hitting the press. Britain’s generations are polarised and there is little being done to address the fragmentations.
This article was featured in issue 2 of Stand Up magazine, which you can download here.