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The Young and The Feckless: An Intro to Generational Angst and Analysis

Hey Bitch readers,

Welcome to The Young and The Feckless! I thought I would take this inaugural post to do a little table-setting, namely to introduce myself and to give you an idea of what the next eight weeks will have in store. My name is J. Maureen Henderson (ask what the J stands for at your own peril) and I write extensively about Generation Y/Millennial issues and youth culture more broadly, both on my own site and for True/Slant, with an emphasis on personal development (the former) and current affairs (the latter) for those of us in our twenties and thirties (or the quarter-life crisis set). I want to use this column to dig a little deeper into issues at the heart of the intersection between young adulthood and cultural, political and economic influences.

I've told this story before, but in grad school I had a professor who would respond to every intervention or speaking point from his students with, "So what?" Although it seemed rude at the time, I eventually took this response as a challenge to connect the dots behind a superficial observation, to analyze the implications beneath a factual statement and to keeping turning given information over and over like a Rubik's Cube until I could make the small picture – big picture link. That's exactly what The Young and The Feckless aims to do for the burgeoning field of generational analysis and demographic armchair quarterbacking. But in a totally pithy, popcult referential way, of course. I wasn't born in the 80s for nothing.

Much of the writing, commentary and analysis about Gen Y simply takes the quick-and-dirty character sketch of a cohort of entitled, coddled, technological prodigies as a given, but often fails to question the assumptions inherent in painting an entire generation in such broad, homogeneous (and privileged) strokes or to make linkages between socioeconomic/sociocultural reality and its concrete and lasting effects on youthful identity and aspirations. And that's a can of worms that absolutely needs to be opened. When you combine a failure-proof upbringing, an indefinitely grim economy in which to launch one's career, a revere-scorn relationship with authority/fame and expectations of inheriting our American Dream birthright despite evidence of its increasing implausibility to the contrary, in addition to a heaping helping of existential angst, you also end up with a damn fascinating analytical powder keg. One that surely deserves to be poked with a long, pointy, intellectual stick. And who could object to a good (consensual) poking?

Check back Wednesday, when we'll discuss unpaid college internships and the lose-lose Sophie's Choice they present between padding one's resume and paying the bills. What Would Meryl Streep Do (WWMSD)?

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Comments

4 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I'm excited for this column!

I'm excited for this column! This is something I think about a lot, and I'll be interested to read your observations. =)

Right On!

Just when I was thinking that there wasn't enough places to find J. Maureen Henderson on the web! I think you've got a focus here that's right up my alley, with the focus on cultural, political and economic influences. I'm mighty excited to see how this series develops!

(Meanwhile, anyone know why my math captcha always equals 4?? Should I play the lotto or something? Or is it like that time when Next Generation was caught in a time loop, and Data programmed himself to find the number 3 everywhere?)

How are you defining generation Y?

I've been interested in this subject for a long while. Mostly because I feel what I have read about my generation is not what I observe. I'm curious as to what time period or age group you are defining as generation Y. I think generation differences are mainly defined by what events we can remember. I look forward to your articles.
Eli

sa-weet

this sounds great! i've been thinking about this kind of thing a lot recently (namely, professional pressures for young people in an economic situation that cannot accommodate them) and i'm excited to read your next post. Every time I think about it, it becomes clearer that it's a feminist issue... i.e. I graduated at the top of my department, and now I'm cleaning houses and babysitting! Because I can't afford to have an unpaid internship in the field I studied! I'm sure you'll be discussing this article on Wednesday but if anyone has been thinking about this stuff too, here's a NYT article about internships: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/business/03intern.html

sorry if i spoiled! Look forward to reading your generational thoughts.