One of the popular ideas today can be summarized as “Millennials are ruining everything”. The recent closing of J.Crew, the struggles of restaurant chains, and many other market trends have been blamed on millennials. Those who are upset over this trend demonstrate a misunderstanding of the indifference of the market. However the more significant problem associated with this thinking is the categorization and stereotyping of people into broad groups. While the “kids these days” mentality has certainly been around for many generations, selecting out one generation, grouping them into one stereotype, and then heaping the nation’s problems at their feet is disconcerting.
This type of stereotyping and categorization are exactly the types of behavior frowned upon as racist, sexist, elitist, or bigoted if something besides birthday is used to categorize people. Insert a race, sex, gender, or social class in for the word millennial in any of these statements and you will see my point. Absolutely there are differences between generations, but in a similar fashion to any other category, the difference within a generation far outweigh the differences between generations. There are extremely hard working and extremely lazy individuals in every generation. There are extremely moral and extremely immoral individuals in every generation. Knowing the date of someone’s birth does not allow you to say anything about them just as knowing someone’s race or gender doesn’t allow you to say anything. Date of birth is a poor way to categorize and stereotype.
Returning to the issue of blaming shifting millennials spending habits for the closure of J.Crew and other industries. This is backwards. This would be the first time that the inability of a company to adapt to a changing consumer base was let off the hook and instead the tastes of consumers was the problem. To his credit Mickey Drexler admitted that he had been slow to shift with the climate. However both in the J.Crew instance and in many others just within the last year, millennials, not a poor business strategy and inflexible corporate structure, was blamed.
Do people in the millennial generation need to change? Absolutely. Each and every one. But that is because they are human, because they, like every other generation is on a lifelong quest to become something more, something greater. If we are to bin people into categories, let us bin them as humans and again as individuals. Anything more or less is inaccurate and destructive.