Dear Stephanie Williams,
You recently posted “An Open Letter to Talia Jane” on Medium, and in so doing, you made several points about Talia Jane’s story wherein she was fired from a job at Yelp/Eat24, and you told your own story at the same time. Several times in your open letter, you leveled accusations at Talia Jane (and in fact the Millennial generation en toto) of having no work ethic, and of being ‘too good’ for a job at a restaurant or fast food joint.
In short, you made up a story that you didn’t like, and then you responded to it as though that story was not only real, but was the whole story. And you’re reaping the rewards, because the things you said resonate with a large body of people in America who very much want to tell themselves that the 18-25 crowd are lazy, entitled good-for-nothings. (Why? Because they don’t want to contribute to the well-being of the next generation, and in order to justify not doing so, they have to dehumanize them. It’s really that simple.)
So let’s look at your story in comparison to Talia Jane’s. You obviously resent the fact that you had to get a job at a restaurant because the economy crashed — but you openly admit that you got the job from a family friend. You lived at home (presumably meaning you paid little to no rent and split the bills). You go on about how you worked long, hard hours and made sacrifices…guess what? So does every other person who isn’t lucky enough to be born into a rich family. Including Talia Jane, and she didn’t have cheap-to-free rent and a family friend vouching for her to his boss.
You hold yourself up as “gracious and thankful” as though people like Talia Jane aren’t — and that isn’t just presumptuousness, it’s outright hubris. (And, in fact, Talia’s response to your article on Twitter shows exactly how wrong your implication was.)
Ms. Williams, you were incredibly lucky to have a family that was willing and able to support you and a family friend who could get you a job right at the worst point in the Great Recession — but the only things you talk about are how hard it was to swallow your injured pride and how you cried to yourself over how successful some of your high school friends are. Your lack of gratitude is staggering — and then you compound it by literally inventing reasons to hate on someone you know almost nothing about.
To call this young woman “a young, white, English speaking woman with a degree and a family who I would assume is helping you out at the moment,” who is “asking for handouts from strangers while you sit on your ass looking for cushy jobs you are not entitled to while you complain about the establishment, probably from a nice laptop” is nothing more than lying to yourself. You don’t know that Talia Jane’s family is wealthy enough to support her in any meaningful way. You don’t know what kinds of jobs she’s looking for, or how. You made that whole story up. Why? Because you were offended that this girl posted a picture of a bottle of bourbon to her Instagram account?
Do you know who paid for that bourbon? You’re like a cranky old man shouting at a burger-flipper about the crime of owning an iPhone on a burger-flipper’s income. That iPhone was a gift, cranky old man — because even people who can’t pay their rent have family and friends who love them. Your assumption that Talia Jane having a thing means that she’s lying about her financial struggles is Donald Trump levels of ignorant bullying.
For the record, Talia Jane has already accepted a position…as a traffic reporter at a local radio station, where the guy she was taking over for described it as a “dungeon” and told her to beware the fleas. Yeah, it sure seems like Talia just wouldn’t settle for anything but the cushiest!
— Patrick With Traffic (@useless_weirdo) February 23, 2016
But here’s the real point behind all of this: Stephanie Williams, you have gotten caught up in a trap. It’s a trap of lies that starts with the very notion of ‘entitlement.’ You accuse Talia Jane — and in fact, you openly accuse the Millennial generation as a whole — of being entitled. And you feel the need to ‘reveal’ (as though it’s not obvious) that “Work ethic is not something that develops from entitlement.” Way to miss the point.
There is absolutely nothing ‘entitled’ about asking a company that is posting $300-million quarterly profits to pay it’s front-line workers enough to live on. Particularly not when you’re making so little that you have to choose between going to the doctor and buying gas to drive to work.
Yelp/Eat24 knows full well that the Bay Area is absurdly expensive. Their CEO said so…
1/5 Late last night I read Talia's medium contribution and want to acknowledge her point that the cost of living in SF is far too high.
— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) February 20, 2016
…but their response isn’t to pay the Bay Area workers more. It’s to move those jobs to Phoenix so that they can pay less.
5/5 entry level jobs migrate to where costs of living are lower. Have already announced we are growing EAT24 support in AZ for this reason.
— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) February 20, 2016
And Talia Jane, like most Millennials, understands that the problem she’s living with is a problem that is pervasive. Living wages are an issue across the country — they’re just particularly bad in the Bay Area, because the minimum wage isn’t nearly as high over the national average as the cost of living is.
the need for living wages – regardless of where you are, circumstances, or background – is real and it is imperative that we seek change.
— talia jane (spooky) (@itsa_talia) February 22, 2016
to say this is about millennials and not about poverty-level wages in the tech industry and across our country is nearsighted & wrong.
— talia jane (spooky) (@itsa_talia) February 23, 2016
If you want to focus your wrath on the people responsible for the “entitlement” of the Millennial generation, there’s exactly one group to blame: the people who separated productivity from income, starting around 1975.
See, the entire notion of “entitlement” is born out of the idea that Millennials expect to get something more than they’re getting for the work they’re putting in. But every single piece of economic evidence shows that they are actually not getting the same amount of income per productivity than their parents got for doing essentially identical jobs.
That’s not ‘entitlement.’ It’s ‘getting shafted by an economic system that has steadily diverted more and more of a company’s profitability away from the workers and toward the executives and shareholders.’
Talia Jane isn’t a whiny little softy who needs to buck up and work harder. She’s a self-aware member of an entire generation of people who aren’t incentivized to work the way their parents and grandparents were. She — and everyone like her — produces vastly more than they get compensated for, and yet she struggles every month to pay rent and buy groceries.
Is there more she could have done? Certainly — but there’s always more that someone can do. You, Stephanie, could have spent your downtime when you weren’t waitressing learning how to make money as a dropshipper on eBay, or writing inflammatory articles on Medium for profit. There’s always going to be something you can point at and say “But you could have done this! Or this! And you didn’t, so obviously you’re not working as hard as you can!”
But that completely fails to recognize the actual problem here — which is that working for a company that brings in hundreds of millions per quarter in profits should mean you don’t have to.
That’s the point Talia Jane was trying to make. It’s one of the most significant focal points of the Millennial generation. And it’s probably the single most important point anyone is making right now.
Why did you think Bernie was so damn popular?