If I had a nickel for every derogatory clickbait article about millennials…
…I’d give all that money to aspiring e-journalists so they wouldn’t have to write those articles anymore, and mostly so my newsfeed wouldn’t be subjected to them.
But I am the kind of young creative wannabe-professional that David Infante writes about his Mashable article, “The hipster is dead, and you might not like who comes next,” and I don’t have that kind of money to shell out.
Published June 9th and racking up over 42,000 shares in 12 hours, Dave Infante’s article argues that we’ve passed a point of inflection in the graph that is ultra-contemporary identity politics. Gone are the hipsters, Dave declares: those plaid-shirted and wide-rim-bespectacled specimens on the bike lanes of our metropoli are yuccies, or young urban creatives — the post-hipster proto-yuppies. Yuccies.
While Infante willingly associates himself within this group, it is no flattering portrait: “I am the yuccie, and it sounds kind of, well, yucky.”
But why, Dave? What is it about Infante’s own career characteristics that make him so aggrieved when he notices them blossomed into a broader societal trend?
For clues, we can plumb his guide to yuccie indicators: unconventional career paths, or paths that started conventional and then veered creative or entrepreneurial; taking pay cuts in return for doing what one loves; prioritizing “personal fulfillment” over making gobs of dough.
“Yuccies, by my definition, are determined to define themselves not by wealth (or the rejection of it), but by the relationship between wealth and their own creativity. In other words, they want to get paid for their own ideas, rather than executing on someone else’s.”
Okay, not the emphasis that I would have landed on if somebody asked me to describe young creative professionals, but I’ll cautiously buy it for now. Wait though, what’s that next thing?
“And anyway, ‘hipster’ doesn’t line up culturally with who yuccies are…Hipsters themselves might have scorned me as a yuppie. But that isn’t right, either…It doesn’t capture the sense of creative entitlement that defines the yuccie.”
That crowd favorite: entitled. The how-dare-you that supplants any conversation on Gen X’s job prospects, bank account, career aspirations, work ethic, fashion choices, or behavioral disposition.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I can’t handle criticism, even in Infante’s vague and generational diction. His stance is more so the pisser because he has totally glossed over equally valid (and easily articulable) analyses of why millennials are increasingly opting for creative/unconventional career choices; but instead he chose a cowardly, condescending attitude resembling when I was your age, we had to hike ten miles uphill both ways to a career we could even remotely tolerate!
And where did that get us? Are we a “happy” society?
It is easy to scorn creative millennials for their “entitled” insistence on maintaining “intellectual autonomy” in the workplace. But as Infante himself suggests, we should be more specific with what we mean by criticism. When we say millennials are “entitled” because more and more of them are defecting from being cogs in a corporate machine, we are saying they are wrong for removing themselves from institutions they don’t sufficiently believe in. For choosing to spend their awake hours doing things that may make the world more creative or varied, as opposed to no less homogenous or streamlined.
My bias is obvious here. I think it’s great that more people are leaving jobs that don’t do it for them, whether that’s because it doesn’t stoke their passions, because it compromises their values, or because it’s otherwise soul-crushing. I think it’s great that more people are exchanging that lifestyle for work that potentially allows them to deal more with the physical evidence of life, or at least work in a capacity that brings them closer to real products, events, interactions — whether that looks like farming, starting a small business, cooking, design, whatever. Tangible projects, not abstract floes of capital. In fact, I think it’s especially awesome that people are willing to make less money in order to spend their time doing these things. If the increased visibility of the creative professional/alt-professional is any indication that our culture is s-l-o-w-l-y shifting from wealth-worship to quality-of-life-worship (not the same thing), then I remain all for it.
But doesn’t all that talk of personal fulfillment smack of selfishness? Entitlement? Maybe, but there’s a lot of holes left in that argument: the author’s analysis stops where the individual stops. In focusing on how yuccies allegedly “identify by price and taste level,” Infante paints an incomplete picture of the everyman’s yuccie: a self-serving, profit/status/image-driven “indie” careerist, divorced from a community or a political climate.
That’s a significant omission. For this yuccie (/sarcasm), “anti-ambition” — that sloppy misnomer — is a political statement. Sure, I have ambitions: privileging creativity in my career, practicing non-complicity in corporate harms, and avoiding enmeshment in neoliberal globalized industrial-imperialism. For myself and the others that agree, that means doing things differently, spending time differently, getting by differently. That means entrepreneurship in its many manifestations. What it doesn’t mean is that Instagram plays a primary role in the construction of my life priorities, you condescending jerk (sorry, got carried away).
As millennials — and particularly as privileged millennials, of which I am one — will we remain so paralyzed by feeling guilty about doing what we like to do, that we are never able to strike off for one of those better somethings? It kinda seems like that’s exactly how Infante wants us to feel:
“You cross the yuppie’s new money thirst for yachts and recognition with the hipster’s anti-ambition, smoke-laced individualism, sprinkle on a dose of millennial entitlement, and the yuccie is what you get.”
What is left out is the awareness that not all ‘yuccies’ are the wealth-driven egomaniacs that Dave portrays them to be. Would a young professional in any other industry be lambasted for feeling that they deserve to earn a living off of their hard work? I, too, feel that I deserve to make a decent living off of my creative output, if my work is good enough, if I’m successful at marketing it, and if I focus on where there’s a gainful need. I suppose I would still feel so deserving if I were in a traditional career path, but no one would bat an eye. And no, I don’t think that I’m the only one with special ideas or a precious intellect.
I’ll be honest: part of why I am pursuing a creative career is to try to prove to other people that it can be done! Yes, I’m twenty-one; I realize that there are more people older than me than younger than me. But I still want to be a role model for younger creatives who are scouting out options for the rest of their lives. Just like me and my friends, they will have ideas of their own, ideas with values, ideas with politics. They will intuit that the personal is political; and that the politics of the terms upon which an individual is allowed to earn their keep in the world, is tied up in the worship of wealth and productivity.
How about you, Infante? You’re a writer. Do you think a younger version of yourself would, after reading this piece, feel empowered to follow their dream, their talent? Would they be convinced by your pallid, last-minute reminder that we shouldn’t be “ashamed” of being young creatives? Doubtful.
It seems we’re only allowed to feel good about taking a leap to try doing something we feel good about, if we’ve already “made it.” Our bookshelves, museums, theatres, and app stores would be awfully bare if that’s the way the world operated.
“Almost by definition, yuccies possess enormous privilege,” Infante states as he nears his conclusion, orbiting a cogent point but not quite touching down. It’s probably often true, but definitively? First of all, let’s not erase the presence and the successes of creative professionals of color, creative non-male or non-cisgender professionals, creative professionals who come from underprivileged socioeconomic backgrounds, or other ‘yuccies’ from backgrounds less advantaged than mine or, just for example, David Infante’s. They exist.
Furthermore, ceding privilege is a thing, but I’m not convinced that avoiding an exciting and meaningful career is what that looks like.
Avoiding the career you happen to want because you feel guilty that it is an option for you is not inherently productive. I’d go out on a limb and wager that being a corporate cog is more often harmful than your average self-started or creative career.
Absolutely, it is a privilege to be supported while you struggle to become a self-supporting artist. It’s also a privilege to get an internship at a hedge fund because your daddy has a buddy there, or because you look like the kind of person they typically hire. It’s a privilege to be in a certain pay range by virtue of the industry you work in, especially if the salaries to be had in that industry are wildly out of proportion with the salaries people in other profession are able to earn. (Corporate lawyers vs. teachers, for example. Oops, my Sanders ’16 is showing.)
It’s lazy journalism to lambast young creative professionals for their aura of privilege, without giving fair interrogation to professionals of any age group in other, arguably more privileged industries.
David Infante gets at least one thing right, and that’s highlighting gentrification as a problem relevant to the issue of hipsterdom and yuppiedom and other trendy, bubbly words we can use when talking about people being forced out of their homes by economic forces beyond their control. When affluent folks move into less-expensive neighborhoods and glibly shrug their shoulders as their neighbors start to look more and more white and/or upwardly mobile — it’s a problem. (Checking my own privilege and hypocrisy: as a recent grad living in a pretty affordable apartment in Somerville, MA, I too am among the gentrifiers.)
That being said, blaming the totality of this ongoing phenomenon on those dang entitled kids! is simply irresponsible. It is an affront for armchair theorists to pontificate that gentrification is spurred entirely by individuals, and uninfluenced by policy, governance, housing authorities, industry. When those forces get off scot-free from the obligation to respond and ameliorate out-of-control rent hikes, the problem doesn’t get solved.
Doing what you love is a privilege, but young creatives are right to think it should be an entitlement to do what you love and eat and pay rent, too. And I would argue it’s the rare creative individual who thinks that right belongs to them and them alone — despite what David Infante would have you believe.
It is inconsistent for our society to praise millennials for our talents and our potential for innovation, and to lay upon us the burdens of solving the monumental problems that the boomers have caused, while simultaneously chastising us for attempting to innovate and implement our own visions of what ‘doing things differently’ might actually look like. Broad change starts with individual livelihoods.
So, David Infante, may your inconsistent, poorly-interrogated argument reside forever in the unrespected bowels of Mashable.com. And go forth, young maybe-urban creative aspirants, or millennials in general, or anyone else younger than thirty who’s borne the “entitled” stamp for no discernable reason. Through doing what we love, and empowering others to do the same, we sow respect for the inalienable right to pursue contentment and not just capital. We can change the way society is ordered — one stubborn creative, or courageously independent contractor, or radically innovative entrepreneurial thinker, at a time.