We need a new term for anti-youth bigotry.
Professor Anthony Bernier
10 November 2022
Sit down in an airport terminal, stand in line at the grocery store, lounge around drinking wine with friends, watch any media (especially Bill Maher’s self-righteous “Real Time”), attend a Library Foundation function, or just pay attention at the Thanksgiving table – the story is the same: casual, unmitigated, unrestrained, and unqualified epithets launched against young people.
Since the First Wave of feminism in the late 19th-century and carried forward through each successive advance in civil rights, American society has gradually learned that disparaging remarks against an entire social group comes freighted with social liabilities – accusations of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitic, ableism.
The one group, however, somehow never included in this learning trajectory has been, and remains, our own young people.
This universal and bigoted practice prevails under all social circumstances and is applied to any young people – though, of course, there are also different “flavors” of this bigotry depending on race, gender, nationality, etc. of the youth in question.
But in nearly all social situations, one can pretty much say anything about young people and feel confident nobody will challenge or call you out as they would for generalizations about any other social group:
– “Youth are dangerous.” “Of course, everyone knows that.”
– “Teen brains…. this. Teen brains that…” Can’t question “science.”
– “Kids are entitled and lazy.” “Oh, let me tell you about my nephew!”
– “Kids are manipulated.” “What are those teachers filling them up with now!?”
– “I’m raising 3 teens…” Oh, you poor thing!
– “Kids need this. Kids need that.” They need discipline, or respect, or just fill-in-the-blank.
YouthFacts’ own Dr. Mike Males (inventor of ephebiphobia – fear of teenagers – way back in the 1990s) has cobbled together his own attempt to answer this current question: misoephebe (from the Greek for youth hating).
Certainly, some adults do manifest hatred of young people with their casual epithets. Many adults either say they do, or do actually, “love young people.” Either way, though, they engage these age-based slurs, too. In neither instance, however, are they called to account for them.
It was either Molly Ivins or Ann Richards (both Texans) who called George Bush the Elder out: “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”
Adults, like powerful people in general, deny their sources of power and simply assume, as in the instance with adults and youth, that mere age bestows talent or virtue.
What more evidence do we need today to demonstrate how adults are not, by any stretch of the imagination, inherently virtuous?
We need a new term to refer to this behavior. The mic is open…