Leibee: What ‘OK, boomer’ really means

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

One of my latest columns titled “You have no business protesting outside of Planned Parenthood” was met with a lot of strong reactions on social media. While not related to the argument, many pro-life comments were met with the response: “OK, boomer.”

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The phrase “OK, boomer” is used when someone younger than the baby boomer generation is attempting to explain or argue a modern social standard, change or idea to a person — usually an older person. In response, the older person is unwilling to accept or open their mind to said idea. Often, it’s used in arguments when the younger person has said all they can say and a baby boomer is unwilling to consider their perspective, and the only thing left to say is “OK, boomer.”

This phrase is not necessarily meant to be offensive, but it’s a recognition that there are some modern social changes the older age group either doesn’t understand or is not willing to accept. It’s not meant to generalize all baby boomers because many, if not most, have opened their minds to adapt to social changes — but there are also a lot of people who have not.

The term might be used when older people are acting homophobic, racist, sexist, classist, etc. and say they were raised that way or grew up with those viewpoints and they shouldn’t have to change them.

Another common example is when younger people try to explain gender pronouns and the pronouns of “they, them, theirs.” While people have always identified with these pronouns, they are just recently being used more and becoming common practice.

However, no one can force others to accept or be respectful of another’s pronouns, and boomers specifically tend to question the legitimacy of gender pronouns outside of “she” or “he.”

A boomer that refuses to use or understand gender pronouns might be met with the response “OK, boomer” as a way for younger people to say, “This is a relatively new concept to you that you are not willing to understand, and I can’t do anything more to make you accept it.”

A lot of social and political arguments are the result of generational differences, and the younger age group struggles to work with a generation that doesn’t seem as socially and politically charged as we are.”

The major problem people have taken with this phrase is that it might be used to dismiss boomers and makes it seem as though a lot of issues are generational rather than just disagreements between anyone. Some say it might distract us from the problems at hand by dividing up those eager for social change and those resistant of social change.

However, I would argue that a lot of social and political arguments are the result of generational differences, and the younger age group struggles to work with a generation that doesn’t seem as socially and politically charged as we are. In fact, a lot of problems Gen Z and millennials deal with are a result of the actions of baby boomers.

For example, climate change was caused and ignored by big oil producing, money hungry boomers. Now the planet is in crisis, and “children,” such as Greta Thunberg, are attempting to reverse the damage.

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Thunberg said at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, “Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”

Gen Z, millennials and Gen X have graduated and will graduate college with outstanding student debt only to begin work in an economy that will not work for them because the baby boomer generation has tailored it to serve the 1%. The younger age group cannot even survive off of minimum wage jobs because of the economy baby boomers have created. 

Modern age groups and generations to come are struggling and attempting to reverse the economic and political damage of their parents and grandparents.  

If the phrase is being used correctly, it will generally only be used when any person is not even attempting to understand new social and political ideas. It’s used as a way to say, “I am busy trying to survive in a world that is tailored to work against me, and I don’t have time to explain the ways in which your generation has hurt mine.”

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.