What is the 20-something experience? Everyone seems to think that their site, show, or blog is the depiction of the millennial experience. At least, I think they do. I mean, what else are all of those whimsical lists and accompanying gifs of “10 things a 20-something does when they can’t afford anything” for? You must mean all 20-somethings, otherwise you would have specified right? Aren’t these posts meant for us to feel some type of unity when we get to the end of the e-quiz and say “wow, that’s like, totally me”? Because, if that’s your goal, then you are failing.
The 20-something experience is more than what you depict. Not all 20-somethings are city-dwelling white girls who worship mainstream feminism and ignore the way that it does not encompass the concerns of women of color, gay women, cisgendered women, poor women, and more. And while we’re on that topic — when I say “poor women,” I mean actually poor women. Not the 20-something writer who thinks that their struggles to pay rent means that they know the true meaning of poverty. Because let’s not forget, this writer is still getting monthly allowances from their parents in Connecticut.
Is the 20-something experience really a GIRLS episode? Is it truly devoid of real consequences, people of color, good writing, and reality?
I know that you think it’s weird that I am harping on these meaningless lists, gifs, blog posts, and cable TV story lines. But this is bigger than me feeling excluding from your material as a woman of color. Your lack of representation of a diverse millennial experience is just another example in which the way that the wealthy, white, and straight experience is constructed to be society’s mainstream. Through commercials, movies, television, and music, the wealthy, white, and straight experience has been forced to be the standard that everyone must to adopt. And now, your lists, gifs, blogposts and Lena Dunham plot points have joined the cause.
And maybe you realize this. Some of you have an awareness about your content more than others. You strive to include content outside of the mainstream. And maybe you really are trying — maybe you have a severe lack of writers who come from other backgrounds because these writers won’t submit anything.
However, regardless of your excuses, here’s what you can do to keep readers like me around:
1. Stop marketing your sites (unintentionally or not) as the depiction of quintessential 20-something experience. Stop beginning your posts with “All 20-somethings” and “All women.” This is damaging to those whose lives do not reflect your average content. Your progressive hub of millennial voices becomes a silencing reflection of greater society.
2. Stop allowing your writers to be careless with the way that the categorize their experiences. A writer wants to write a list/post where they write about how they are poor because they spend too much money on wine? Call them out on it! This is offensive. (By the way, what is your collective obsession with wine? I would say it’s an Olivia Pope thing, but based on your writer demographics, I doubt that they watch Scandal like the Womanist Musings crowd) At least, encourage these writers to flesh out the meaning of poor. I know that takes away from the “funny” aspect of the article, but in reality, the article wasn’t funny to begin with. Nobody is laughing at your misuse of weighty words like “poor.”
3. Diversify your content. Reach out to writers who are not within the mainstream. Post content that has a wider audience and don’t treat this content like it’s a “pet” issue. When you section off posts into site folders such as “Black Issues” or “Gay Issues,” you are compartmentalizing things that are too important to compartmentalize. You are telling blacks, gays and more, that their issues are not interesting or important enough to be in the general section. Finally, you are perpetuating the myth that minority issues are not everyone’s problem.
And they are. Because depending on how you look at it, to someone somewhere else, you’re the minority, too.