Gender Politics & Generations: the Difference Between Disdain & Self-Awareness

So between generations, there’s always some sort of agreement or disagreement on the way we maneuver the world and the way we live our life. Gender roles change from decade to decade and the value of women in the world will always be a hot-button topic (until all genders are truly equal). In a time when it seems as though it’s cool to pick on millennials and tell them they’re worthless (yet are quick to ask us how to work the latest iPhone), people have so much to say about millennials and our views on dating and gender roles. Many from the older generation believe that the gender roles and thoughts of millennials are wild, out of control, and too much. Some even took it upon themselves to say that millennials are being too harsh on the older generation’s gender roles and politics.

Chicago activist and BRIJ Embassy founder, TeQuila Shabazz, posted a quote from Chicago author, Obari Cartman, stating this: 

"I think the millennial disdain for elders' gender politic is unfair, they believed in the popular ideas of their time. You not better than them, the times just evolved. You would've believed the same things if u were born then. How do I know that you ask? Because that's what you're doing now."

So you know I gave the ultimate side eye to this, right? 

Why do people feel the constant need to shit on millennials, especially when it comes to gender roles and politics?

Let me begin by saying (although we will never know what we would do or think unless we experience it), but there is a strong chance that, no, we wouldn't have believed in that "popular opinion" of the time, and if we did, we would probably regret it, like our elders have. Also, I would like to say yes, millennials have a disdain for the elders and their gender roles, proud of it and with good reason. Also, I️ would like to start off by saying, just because something is a popular opinion, or a popular thought, doesn’t make it any better, nor does it justify it. Remember, public lynchings, segregation, concentration camps, and many other problematic things were popular opinions too but was it right? I’ll wait...

Anywho...

Although most people believe millennials are just reactionary, arrogant, and rude, the truth is we’ve actually learned from our elders and shape our cultural strategically. The reason why millennials have a disdain for the elders and their gender politics is due to the fact that we’ve learned (and in some cases) witness how problematic and damaging their views are to the black community. Our elders have used gender politics and religion to dictate relationships and determine someone’s worth as a man or a woman. Our elders used patriarchal viewpoints to shape households and to raise children. Our elders have used to gender politics and gender roles to cast judgment, make others feel insecure, promote gender conformity, and promote homophobia. 

Our grandparent’s and parent’s generation gender politics are based on patriarchy. Their teachings are based on the view that men are the superior, men are the ones in charge, and that men can never do wrong. Their teachings are also based on the view that women need to be submissive and do whatever a man says to keep him from cheating, women need to dress a certain way to be seen as classy and to attract the right kind of man, and women should focus on marriage more than education or her self-esteem. The gender politics of previous generation taught women to not think for themselves and taught men to submerge their feelings and emotions in anger and misogyny. Our elder’s gender politics didn’t allow men or women to be themselves sexually, as many elders hid their sexuality because other elders used Christianity and gender roles to discriminate and outcast others, including their own children and grandchildren. 

When we talk about the millennials and the disdain of the elder’s gender politics, I don’t think anyone considers what we’ve witness and the things we had to unlearn coming into our 20s. We in a world where we judge millennials for their views on relationships and gender roles, yet we romanticize the relationships and dating standards of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, but don’t discuss the male privilege of our grandfathers and fathers, nor do we discuss the manipulation and abuse (whether it be emotional, verbal, or physical) our grandmothers and mothers faced. We love to throw in the face of millennials the question, “how do you think your parents and grandparents stayed together?”, and we love to throw out how millennials don’t know a date, don’t know how to court, yet ignore all the flaws of the generations before us. Behind all the romantic films and examples of strong relationships, the reality is (no disrespect to anyone) that our grandmothers and mothers were pick-me’s and our grandfathers and fathers were fuck boys no matter dapper and ladylike they were. 

On that note, I️ think we should also point out people from previous generations have a tendency to be hypocritical of the younger generation when it comes to gender roles and politics. Many elders tell millennials to be themselves, but what they don’t tell you is that they don’t have a problem with you being yourself, as long as you conform to cisgender normality and you’re not gay. People from generations before love to joke about millennials and their gender expression and the clothes many of us choose to wear, yet most of you, growing up in the 70s and 80s, are big fans of the artist who’ve iconically made gender-bending fashion cool and encouraged the next generation to be comfortable with their sexuality. On top of that, a lot of you don’t want to admit that your husbands and wives hid their sexuality in the 50s and 60s.

Tea anyone? 

It amazes me how people are quick to tell millennials to learn and respect the elders, yet in the same breath don’t respect or learn from us to even formulate an opinion. You want us to learn from the elders and take everything they say as the gospel truth when everything you all have been taught was destructive. On the season premiere of Married to Medicine, the opening scene (which also led to the topic of the show) talked about Dr. Jackie Walters and her husband's infidelity. She talked about how many took to social media to blame her and her work schedule for her husband’s infidelity, instead of blaming and attacking her husband...you know...who was actually doing the cheating. Lord and behold, who were the ones doing the blaming? Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation. The ones that question and judge the gender politics of millennials. The ones that still some who judge women for not being married or find ways to blame women for marital problems. I️, personally, like to call some of them the “Pick-Me” generations. 

So before you judge millennial’s “disdain” of the elder generations and their gender politics, ask yourself, “what are they seeing that led up to this ideology?”.

The next time you judge a millennial and their gender politics, ask yourself, “would my mother be stronger if she had the confidence millennials had?”.

“Would my parents and grandparents still be together if they had the gender politics of today?”.

“Were the elder generation’s gender politics helpful or did it set me up to be a pick-me or a fuckboy?”.