Millennial authors strike back with Jennifer Down, Bri Lee and Kayla Rae Whitaker

‘Millennials’ seems to be the buzzword for many politicians, bloggers and more. When they’re not buying smashed avocado on toast or destroying the housing market, millennials are being critiqued and silenced.

But this panel, featuring authors Jennifer Down, Bri Lee and Kayla Rae Whitaker, and chaired by co-editor of Griffith Review 56: Millennials Strike Back Jerath Headwas the exception.

The session aimed to give so-called millennials the opportunity to discuss what it means to be a millennial, focusing on issues such as unpaid labour, post graduate employment opportunities, and sexism towards young women.

Down, author of Fossil Fuels, opened the conversation on unpaid labour by speaking about the experiences of the central character in her short story. In Fossil Fuels, the central character is an architecture student working at a café to pay her bills, and she must undertake unpaid labour in order to get work as an architect.

Down reflected on her own experiences, saying she felt it necessary to undertake unpaid work in order to obtain paid employment.

‘I feel very negatively towards unpaid internships,’ Down said.

She said that students already spend enough money on a university education, and rhetorically asked ‘what else do I need to do?’

Down also spoke about her experiences of being overqualified for jobs and yet still being knocked back, including being rejected for a real estate copy writing job even though she held a Bachelor of Arts with Honours.

Whitaker, author of The Animators, also weighed in on the issue. Her work follows the story of two young female artists trying to live in an expensive city.

Whitaker said that the millennial generation is a generation of freelancers due to the lack of employment opportunities, and explored the sense of shame associated with unemployment.

‘[There is] a real sense of personal failure and shame that is completely unwarranted,’ she said.

The panel also explored how identities are tied up with work, and how unemployment can affect this.

‘When I am not working I feel guilty about not working,’ Whitaker said, to which the rest of the panel agreed.

In particular, the panel discussed how many millennials are overworking themselves, commuting long distances, and living in costly cities due to the lack of employment opportunities for graduates.

Sexism towards young women was also discussed. Lee, author of essay Young lady, that’s inappropriate, led the discussion.

Lee’s work is a reflection on her time working within the legal sector. She said that she began to see a pattern of young women continuously being pitched against older men, both within the workplace and in front of the court.

The panel discussed the sense of anger that many young women feel, and how from a young age their anger is discouraged.

The millennials’ sense of being silenced was an issue that was continuously reiterated throughout the session.

The session was very poignantly closed by 16-year-old Tara Anne, who was presented as the winner of the 2017 Susie Warrick Young Writers Award. She said that just because people are young, it does not mean that their opinions are not valuable.

Cloe Jager is a Southern Cross University Bachelor of Media student.


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