Working on my final edits for the Washington Youth Voice Handbook I stumbled across a connection that I want to share with you. In my past rants against commercialism, I have had a difficult time making clear connections between adultism and commercialism. However, I think I’m getting closer:
Young people know things about young people, and that much cannot be disputed. With that in mind, marketers first tried to capitalize on this in the late 1940s when they were first trying to sell products specifically to youth, and then directly to children. Since then young people have been seen as a great source of information about youth.
Connected to that is perhaps one of the most cynical thoughts about young people today: “Who better to sell stuff to youth than youth themselves?” That quickly explains why mall stores can pay so little to workers – they want youth to work there, and presumably youth can live on less because of their reliance on their parents.
Adultism allows marketers, store owners, and many parents to harbor these sentiments, and promote them to young people. Remember my earlier post about the article on Adultism in Wikipedia? Well, the definition offered there is:
Adultism is a predisposition towards adults, which some see as biased against children, youth, and all young people who aren’t addressed or viewed as adults.
That bias comes apparent in the poor pay, bad hours, terrible working conditions, and lack of benefits facing youth workers today. In turn, adultism is extended towards the young consumer as well, as they are routinely offered poor service, shabby products, and mass-marketed products.
This fosters their indifference towards the effects of consumerism in their lives, as well as a general tolerance for lesser-quality products that cost more. In turn, that reinforces the belief of many adult marketers that youth are fountains of money, waiting to pour their dollars into the next flashy band/electronics/clothes/thing that comes along.
There are countless alternatives to this approach, which I hope that DK and Phatnat are exploring in the UK. I know others are trying here in the States, including some youth-led media programs. More on this later.