Adultism is pervasive throughout society. The bias towards adults happens everywhere, all the time, from our families to our institutions; our economies to our cultures. This isn’t inherently bad; it simply is.
The Roots of Adultism
The social roots of adultism are supported by the belief that society exists in order to promote overconsumption, the accumulation of wealth, and increased status/perception. If you want things to stay the way they are and for our social system to continuously reinforce the power of the powerful, while making sure the powerless don’t get that power, then adultism is good, right, acceptable, promotable, and necessary, everywhere, all the time.
Young and older people who are struggling against adultism are not failed consumers or social miscreants. They’re not just low-income youth, youth with single parents, or youth that live in segregated neighborhoods who don’t have adult guidance from parents, teachers, social workers, or other adults. They are people who are resisting predominant social values that ensure compliance and reinforce blind adherence to social norms that don’t reflect their perspectives.
They’re standing against discrimination by others who’d have them become blinded by systems of alienation and segregation that reinforce negative social perspectives and demeaning cultural norms. They are demanding through action that the old boxes that used to bind our society be broken through. They’re struggling against racial segregation, socio-economic isolationism, the corporatization of individualism, and age-based discrimination.
Our Role In Struggling Against Adultism
Adultism is bias towards adults, reflected by society’s addiction to adults. If you believe that decisions throughout society should be made by adults just because of their age, you are supporting adultism. I DO, so I am an adultist, and I acknowledge that. All adults are, simply because there are many things we agree adults should run. But that’s because we’re adults. I’m not saying it’s inherently wrong or bad; I’m just saying it exists at all, and I’m working to raise awareness of it.
However, just because a person benefits from a discrimination doesn’t mean they can’t struggle against it, and it doesn’t implicitly make them a hypocrite; instead, these are the very people who should struggle against it. This is particularly true of adultism, as adults have a distinct and necessary role in struggling against adultism.
Understanding the social roots of adultism is merely a first step towards re-envisioning our society. From there, there are concrete and actionable steps every adult and every young person can take.