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Can we really have it all? White-washing and Gentrification of the Twenty-Something.

Updated: May 5, 2021


How can we expect the twenty-something to have it all when we’re not all treated equally?


Society has convinced us that our 20’s are our defining decade. In years before, this included bar work and sharing a shoe-box flat above a corner shop. Then relationship hopping and making major mistakes with fleeting regret. But now, the inundated expectations have reached fever pitch.


Now, we want a two-bed-furnished apartment with an onsite gym and 24-hour concierge, in the city. Paired with being self-employed and finding your husband at 23-years old. Thanks again, Love Island. If you travel quarterly, skydive on your lunch break, and have 5k followers, then you’re winning. Ridiculous, right? There’s no wonder why so many of us think that we’re running out time. When I was fighting to fit someone’s idea of success, I suffered from overwhelming anxiety, too.


The game has changed and with that, so has the goal post. It’s hard to notice at first, but gentrification has snatched our twenties away from us. Gentrification is altering a subject to conform to the middle-class taste. Working-class and BiPOC neighbourhoods are often subject to this. Modified to be palatable for the middle-class, thus serving white people’s values.


It’s difficult to see yourself as successful when your age-mates are landing 500k brand deals. Or the local socialite has become CEO of a social media start-up. These careers have altered how young people view their success. And if you want to start a career in these fields, then it feels as if you should’ve started yesterday. These lifestyle choices have aided in creating disparity and anxiety among young people. Example – some people are fresh out of university whilst others have started families. These are on different ends of the spectrum but one might disapprove of the other’s choices or lack thereof.


The “influencer” is a gentrified career because the top earners are more than often white. Their content is then promoted as they are palatable to the white audience and good enough for the rest. Youtubers Nella Rose and Annie Drea are well accustomed to this procedure. They revealed that their white counterparts received better brand deals and more money, even if they had fewer followers and lower engagement. This white-washes our view of the twenty-something. We then compare ourselves to the white influencer image that Instagram’s algorithm pushes.


Unfortunately, this isn’t new. Anyone who is an avid film and TV consumer will recognise this stereotype from a mile off. Legally Blonde, Devil Wears Prada, Eat Pray Love and Sex and the City. These had a cultural impact and related to the white audience. Because of this, it loses credibility for representing a universal twenty-something.