I have written in previous posts about my experiences with sexism, including the bias that has been expressed toward me as a female bass guitar player. As I have stated, sexism is alive, but not well. I have also mentioned social psychological research on racism and racial prejudice and the negative impact these forms of bias have on members of racial and ethnic minorities. I have been reading numerous accounts of the catchphrase, “OK Boomer,” which is increasingly being used to mock attitudes and ideals of people within the age cohort of 55 to 75. Although there have, historically, always been divisions among generations, it seems to me that the “OK Boomer” movement has taken on a new level of negativity in our already fractured existence. Many writers, social scientists, and media personalities have condemned the use of “OK Boomer” as both ageist and as promoting a general cultural acceptance of age discrimination. While I agree that the Baby Boomer generation (of which I am a member) has created and/or done little to improve many negative situations (climate change comes to mind), I do not believe it is acceptable for all of us to be grouped together or “called out” for expressing our viewpoints, which might be vastly different than those of younger people, but nonetheless containing validity. As with racism and sexism, ageism is a dangerous practice. Ageism can lead to age discrimination in the workplace, abuse of senior citizens in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and many other negative outcomes for people who are dismissed merely because they have lived a long life. I am waiting for the time when someone responds to me with “OK Boomer” when I have provided my insight about an issue. I only wish my retort to this mean comment could be printed in this post! In all seriousness, however, it is important to remember the negative impact that is made by a singular, dismissive mocking of someone because he or she is older than someone else.
It is interesting to think about “Ok Boomer” in the concept of discrimination. Certainly, sometimes it is said in a joking way, light heartedly, but there is an underlying dismissal of the boomer in saying it no matter how funny the speaker thinks it is. And, of course, sometimes it is not said in jest. But, what strikes me as I write this is that the same thing is true whenever any attempt is made to dismiss someone from the population at large. Attempts to explain a behavior, a comment, or a perspective by labeling the person is both demeaning and ignorant. Blonde jokes come to mind. Or, “you millennials” or any other stereotypic description of a group of which one is not a member pushes people apart. And, the world has had enough division recently, and throughout history. It is much better to consider another person’s opinion, and the wisdom thereof perhaps, before speaking a dismissive epitaph. Ask why of the person with the opinion, and of yourself. Dismissing others in this way reminds me of the wise words of Red Forman on That 70s Show – “dumbass” was his dismissive term.