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.

The importance of males and especially fathers to millennials is confirmed by the themes in many of her movies, including The Circle, Beauty and the Beast, and Regression. In each of these movies, the father has been unfairly treated or unjustly maligned. In Regression, for example, a teenaged girl ruins the life of her own father by inventing a false story about rape.

The basic idea in these movies is that human relationships and family ties, not political tribes, are what is important; vindictiveness and making false accusations are harmful. The characters highly value their parents, especially their fathers, which millennials are increasingly deprived of and are treated unfairly. They reject all forms of negativity and they crave a healthy family environment. They deserve a lot of credit for that.

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 the three movies that were mentioned. It has also been revised for brevity, and a discussion of the 2000 survey has been added.

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