Ageism? Ok, boomer.

Baby boomers are held to a double standard


Collegian File Photo

By Emma Garber, Assistant OpEd Editor

Across the internet, millennials and members of Generation Z are retaliating against generations before them with one simple phrase: “OK, boomer”. Born out of TikTok, “OK, boomer” encompasses the frustration youth feel towards baby boomers. Many have taken to social media, posting jokes about baby boomers with the hashtag. “When [your] grandpa who went to Yale when tuition was $6.50 tells [you] you should’ve gone to a 4 year university straight out of high school,” posted one TikTok user. One image shows a sleeping Eminem, next to the caption “Boomers seeing the planet getting destroyed.”

Naturally, not all boomers have taken to the meme. Many have accused millennials of “ageism,” comparing the term “boomer” to hate speech. Radio host Bob Lonsberry referred to boomer as “the n-word of ageism”. In an interview with Axios, Myrna Blyth, the senior vice president of the AARP stated, “Okay, millennials, but we’re the people that actually have the money.”

When 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker Chlöe Swarbrick was delivering a speech on climate change in early November, her older colleagues began to heckle her. Swarbrick responded simply with “OK, boomer,” before returning to her fiery call for action. Older Twitter users condemned Swarbrick, once again citing ageism. One user chimed in, “How do you demand respect but then refuse to give it?” with another adding, “It’s become fashionable to berate the old.”

The hypocrisy here is palpable. Elderly people have always gotten a free pass when joking about younger generations. Who hasn’t been told they have it “easy” compared to when their grandparents were in school? In recent years, baby boomers have coined the terms “snowflakes” or “trophy generation” to target millennials’ individualism. Just this month, Ellen DeGeneres brought a 17-year-old on stage to poke fun at the fact that the girl was unable to fold a map or dial a rotary phone. Audience members roared with laughter, as if a child not knowing how to use technology that became obsolete decades before the girl was born is comedy at its finest.

Baby boomers’ frustrations would be understandable had “OK, boomer” been born out of pure hatred and ill-will. This is not the case. Millennials and Gen Z-ers began to post the meme after a video surfaced of an elderly man ranting about his poor opinion of today’s youth. “[Millennials and Generation Z] don’t ever want to grow up,” he said. Being told that your generation suffers from “Peter Pan syndrome” and that your ideas “are not sustainable” naturally angered many, and the light-hearted “OK, boomer” was born.

Of course, divisive rhetoric should not be condoned. Youth should aim to include their elders in their activism whenever possible. Simply dismissing a person’s ideas or opinions based on their age is not acceptable on either end of the spectrum. But while baby boomers are complaining about being the targets of alleged ageism, they are missing the bigger picture.

The truth? “OK, boomer” forces baby boomers to face a tough reality. Millennials and Gen Z-ers have a lot to be frustrated about: rising student loan debt, a ruined housing market, not to mention the looming threat of irreversible damage to the environment. And despite youth activists like Greta Thunberg, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Malala Yousafzai, our generation is repeatedly called lazy and self-centered. So “OK, boomer” offers millennials and Gen Z-ers a lighthearted approach to highlight the wrongdoings of previous generations. It isn’t hate speech, it is a challenge to do better.

Younger generations holding the elderly responsible for their actions is not ageism. Younger generations defending themselves is not ageism. Younger generations standing up for what they believe in is not ageism. Instead of laughing at the youth or citing hate speech, baby boomers should swallow their pride and start listening to the future leaders of tomorrow. We’ve got a lot to say.

Emma Garber is an assistant Op/Ed editor and can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @EmmaGarber1.