randombio.com | commentary
Sunday, March 10, 2019; revised March 27, 2019

Is there hope for millennials after all? (revised)

The key fact about millennials is their dislike of negativity. Libertarians and conservatives need to engage with their ideas.

T wo weeks ago, Breitbart published an article criticizing actor/activist Emma Watson for her tweet wishing people a “wonderful International Women's Day.”

Now, I have to admit I thought International Women's Day was supposed to be next Thursday. But I too have been wondering about millennials, of which Watson is one, and although the commenters on this tweet were uniformly negative, to be frank I'm having trouble figuring out what's wrong with it. Since when is wishing people a wonderful day a bad thing?

Millennials are not just a bunch of NPCs marching unthinkingly in lockstep with each other. The key fact about millennials is their dislike of negativity. There's a huge divide between the average millennial and the fanatical twitterers we keep hearing about, and conservatives ignore this at their peril.

Millennials are defined by Harry Potter. This comprises eighteen hours of back-to-back movies, in which a group of children grow up before our eyes. They start out collecting baseball cards, and by the end they're sophisticated, intelligent adults who figure out how to break ridiculously strong objects (something every parent with teenagers and a Volvo can identify with), ask what happens after death, accept painful truths, and risk their lives—and sometimes sacrifice them—to pre­serve their culture and their freedom.

The immense popularity of these movies shot Watson to stardom. She became an informal leader of the millennial faction of the feminist movement, primarily as a result of a remarkable speech at the UN emphasizing the importance of males as potential allies. I've studied many arguments in my lifetime and written many more, and whether we fully agree with the content, it is one of the most effective arguments I've ever seen. And it was written by a millennial.

A study done in 2000[1] claimed that most college-age females shared a belief in “liberal feminism” but believed less strongly in “radical,” “socialist,” and “womanist” feminism, the latter being what we would today call intersectionalist feminism. By contrast, “cultural” feminism, which makes claims such as the claim that rape is a part a “male-oriented culture of violence,” is generally rejected.

Whether or not these views are universally shared, it is clear that millennials are far from monolithic in their beliefs. Some are exhibiting leadership by putting newer, better ideas into their ideologies. We libertarians and conservatives would have greater success by avoiding blanket condemnations both of feminist ideology and of millennials. General expressions of negativity would be rightly interpreted as having little information content and could even be counterproductive by deterring them from considering alternative opinions.

There are many things to question about feminist ideology. In particular, many websites supporting it are rife with logical fallacies, flawed statistics, and unwarranted or unstated assumptions. But blanket criticisms, especially personal ones, would only convince millennials that we are uninterested in constructively engaging their ideas and that our opinions can therefore be safely ignored.

[1] Liss M, Hoffner C, Crawford M (2000). What do feminists believe? Psych. of Women Quarterly 24, 279–284. Link

Mar 10 2019, 4:01 am. Revised Mar 27 2019, 11:05 am. An earlier version of this article contained a screenshot of the tweet and plot summaries of three movies. It has also been revised for brevity, and a discussion of the 2000 survey has been added.

Related Articles

Femzilla versus the sexbots
Feminism will permanently change how humans reproduce. We might not like it.

The APA vs Psychology
The APA's guidelines on masculinity mark a downturn in the quality of science in psychology

How long can a crazy ideology riddled with contradictions survive? An interesting new article explains it.

On the Internet, no one can tell whether you're a dolphin or a porpoise

book reviews