The visibility and impact of young activists is evident in 2020 more than ever, most clearly in the Black Lives Matter movement, but also among climate strikers, water protectors, March for Our Lives organizers, and even TikTok users and K-pop music fans. The ambivalence with which adults have responded – from pride to dismissal to demonization – has its roots in implicit yet pervasive assumptions about young people stretching back to the early nineteenth century. Through a brief historical sketch, I demonstrate that the contemporary concept of the “American teenager” is the product of a series of social, economic, and political changes in the United States and that this concept undermines youth activism and gives license to adults to dismiss young peoples' justified anger at injustice. This essay contends that adultism, and specifically ephebiphobia – the fear and loathing of young people – dominates today's cultural perceptions of youth in the United States and contributes to policies in education and law enforcement that have domesticated and criminalized young people, undermining their political power. Understanding of the historical factors that shape adults' attitudes toward young peoples' capabilities as activists is a first step to improving and sustaining collaboration between youth and adults in social movements.
Corrie, E.W. (2021), "Fear and Loathing: The Rise of Ephebiphobia and Its Implications for Youth Activism", Solomon, J.A. (Ed.) Four Dead in Ohio (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 45), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 33-56. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-786X20210000045003
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