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Month: April 2022

Empowered Millennial Women

Empowered Millennial Women

Four years ago, a young woman gave a victim impact statement against a man convicted of criminal sexual conduct. It was a high profile case, because the criminal conduct had been ongoing for decades and involved hundreds of adolescent girls. The woman, Kyle Stephens, confronted her victimizer and made a powerful statement which included these resounding words: Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world. It was a landmark moment in the history of the #Me Too movement.

Stephens is a member of the Millennial generation, while the man she was confronting is from Generation X. Her statement was like a challenge to the men of older generations: you can’t get away with what you used to do. It was a sign of a new young adult era, with a new young generation on the rise – a generation with high expectations, and one that wouldn’t tolerate bad behavior. A social movement was underway, and the careers of many prominent Boomer and Xer men who were guilty of sexual harassment or assault, even if it had been in the past, crashed and burned.

The Millennial generation had been the beneficiary of protection, regulation, and zero-tolerance policies throughout their childhood, and it was to be expected that this trend would follow them into young adulthood. With all that structure while being raised came boosts to self-esteem, along with pressure to achieve. This is how Millennials came of age with high expectations, which has caused older generations to complain that they are “entitled.” But how could older generations think that Millennials could – or should – settle for less, or be taken advantage of?

Millennial girls, in particular, were raised to believe in their specialness and in their capabilities. They were the high-achievement Lisa Simpsons, in contrast to the slacker older brother Bart Simpsons of my generation (Generation X). In popular kids’ entertainment their role models were empowered: Power Rangers, Powerpuff Girls. The pop superstars of their adolescent years were GenX/Millennial cuspers like Brittney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Beyoncé – independent ladies singing about how they were in charge in their relationships with men, if they even wanted a man at all.

Small wonder that Millennial women have taken the adult world by storm, and asserted their rights within it. True to the spirit of Destiny’s Child and Independent Women, they may be the most financially successful generation of women in American history. They are faring better than their male counterparts in today’s job market, which is not surprising given that they also dominate college enrollments. In fact, one of their hurdles in life is finding a partner who is a good match, given these disparities.

That’s not to say that women don’t still face discrimination and harassment. Nor is it to justify anti-feminist backlash. But where such backlash exists because of the gap in outcomes between Millennial women and Millennial men, that is a problem. The solution is not to disempower women, but to find ways to empower men as well. Raising job prospects for those without a college degree would be a good start. Making life more affordable for the working class in general is also a good bet.

The #Me Too movement was actually started by a Gen Xer, a decade before it grew to prominence. It has come to the forefront of public consciousness at a time when Millennials are the rising young adult generation. In that sense it represents the demand of a new generation of women, raised in a sheltering social environment, that the adult social environment also be safe for them and respectful of them. Only then will they be empowered to achieve their destiny.

My Generation in the Land of Opportunity

My Generation in the Land of Opportunity

NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson (b. 1966)

My last post, about the confirmation of KBJ to the Supreme Court, brought to my mind another African-American woman of my generation: NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson. I hope this doesn’t seem too weird, but I feel a connection to her, even though I don’t know her at all IRL. It’s because her birthday is very close to mine – both the year and the day. We are generational peers.

The fact that a black woman born at the same time as I was could have a successful career as an astronaut is a testament to how far our country has come toward the goals of racial and gender equality. It might not be perfect equality, but at least, for my generation, the opportunities have been there for achievement in any field, for anyone willing to put in the hard work. Seizing opportunity and excelling as an individual is quintessentially Gen X.

It’s also amusing to me to consider that as a boy, I likely dreamed of being an astronaut (and a firefighter, too, if I recall correctly). Clearly I made different life choices than Stephanie Wilson did, and ended up on a different path. Not to have any kind of Frank Grimes resentment energy about it, but most Gen Xers will not visit outer space in the lifetime of Generation X. But it’s inspiring to know that anyone born when I was born clearly could have, as one of my peers has proven. And that at least some Gen Xers have gone to space gives me a heartwarming feeling, a sense of pride, and a vicarious delight in the historical location and experience of my generation.

The Generational Shift in the Supreme Court

The Generational Shift in the Supreme Court

The confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the 116th Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is being hailed as an historic event. From reactions on social media it is plain that partisan blue zoners are relieved that the latest replacement on the Court has occurred during a Democratic Presidency, and succeeded despite the partisan split in the Senate. No one could forget the Republican controlled Senate’s political tactics in 2016 that handed the nomination of Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement to a Republican President. That Jackson is the first black woman to serve on the Court is also rightfully being hailed as an important historic milestone. It reflects the long secular trend of the elevation of women and minorities as equals in our civil society. It is meaningful, in my opinion, that this historic moment occurred during the Presidency of Joseph Biden, who is from the generation of the civil rights movement – the Silent Generation. This moment is a fitting capstone to his generation’s legacy of fairness and inclusion in American life.

There has even been some notice of the fact that with Jackson’s appointment, the Supreme Court will, for the first time, have four women Justices serving on it. This reflects another secular trend of increasing gender equality on the Court. The first woman Justice was appointed in 1981 (O’Connor); this increased to two women Justices in 1993 (Ginsburg) and then to three in 2010 (Kagan following Sotomayor’s replacement of O’Connor). Ginsburg was also replaced by a woman (Barrett), suggesting that not even President Trump could bring himself to interrupt this historic progression.

When Justice Stephen Breyer (circled) vacates the Supreme Court, there will be no more Justices from the Silent Generation serving on it.

There’s another story that seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Take a look at the birth years of the current members of the Court. The Justice who is retiring and being replaced by Jackson is Stephen Breyer, born in 1938. He is the last remaining member of the Silent Generation to serve on the Court (the first was actually O’Connor; only six members of his generation have served on the Court). After Breyer’s retirement, all of the Justices will be either Boomers or Gen Xers. Jackson won’t just be the fourth woman on the Court, she will also be the fourth Gen Xer. This is another historic moment for the Supreme Court: the replacement of the Silent Generation by Generation X.

The other three Gen Xers on the Supreme Court were all appointed by President Trump. It is not surprising that Trump was able to find suitable red zone aligned jurists among this generation, which leans conservative and Republican. These three appointees may well be his administration’s most lasting legacy. They will steer the Court in a conservative direction for a long time to come. Even if, by some twist of fate, Biden should get the opportunity to replace another Justice, the Court will still be majority conservative (5-4 instead of 6-3). What does this new alignment, both generational and ideological, mean for the future of the Supreme Court?

I am not a legal scholar, so I can only speculate from the perspective of an educated layman. One thing I think is certain is that we will see breaks from precedent. This is already evident in the uncertain fate of Roe v. Wade – the dreaded (by blue zoners) overturning of that decision may be coming. One of the Gen X Justices, Gorsuch, reputedly disdains precedence and would prefer to craft his own conservative judicial philosophy. This sort of independence of thought is just what you would expect from Generation X.

Another trend I see is the continued success of the conservative mission to roll back the administrative state (a Silent Generation legacy) in favor of individual freedoms (a Generation X legacy). Case in point: the recent Court ruling that struck down the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate. Given her background as a public defender (the first to be appointed to the Supreme Court), Jackson herself might be inclined to rule in that direction.

Once Breyer has retired this summer, only one Justice will remain on the Supreme Court who was appointed in the twentieth century: Clarence Thomas, who will be the oldest, in his mid-70s. No serving Justice will remain from a generation older than the Boomers, and there will be four from my generation, Generation X, all appointed in the past five years. It’s actually quite remarkable that all of the Supreme Court Justices will be younger than both the President and the Speaker of the House, and that their average age will be slightly lower than the average age of U.S. Senators.

You would think that the Judicial branch would be where the old wisdom of the country resided, but a move to pack the Supreme Court with conservative thinkers has put my generation there instead. This historic generational shift in the makeup of the Court will have repercussions for years to come. Long-standing legal precedents and regimes that have been taken for granted are clearly in for a significant upheaval.