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Interview: Hilary Bell on her new essay collection and what it is to be a millennial

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Being a millennial isn’t always easy. We live under constant pressure, always being reminded that we are lucky to even have jobs, always warned from asking for better no matter the years of hard work contributed.

Housing is more expensive, wages don’t stretch as far as they used to and society seems to be determined to paint us as the villains, with newspapers running stories about the wicked ol’ millennials far too often. Determined to control the narrative and blame an upcoming generation for anything and everything, they discuss young people with contempt, encouraging others to do the same.

Hilary Bell, editor of upcoming essay collection No Filter, hopes to change this. Her collection of essays are all written by millennials, about what it means to be one. They explore topics such as housing, mental health, sexuality, immigration and class, opening up in an honest way and reclaiming the story from those who would speak for young people.

When speaking to Hilary, it becomes clear how personal this issue is for her, as she admits that the idea of the book came about after she began to struggle at work and noticed that “a lot of my peers and friends were too.”

She recognised the problems they faced and was struck by how their struggles were made worse by the generation they belonged to. She realised how much pressure there is on millennials “to excel in our careers while managing side-hustles, saving up for a house, and making our lives look cool on Instagram, even though we’re the first generation to not be doing as well as our parents financially”. 

This seemed unfair to her, so she decided to write a book “for all the young people who are struggling with the immense pressure of being a young person now and with all the logistical difficulties – the rise of the unpaid internship, the seeming need for a Masters for any job and so on.”

Yet it is not just in the workplace that millennials are struggling but in society itself. It is hard to feel like you belong when national newspapers and social media like to cast you as the ultimate villain. Painting you as responsible for destroying everything from national pride and morals to language and good food.

Millennials often feel like an easy target, especially for those just looking to sell papers and make some quick cash, regardless of the truth. According to Hilary “it often feels like slamming millennials is a story that journalists resort to when it’s a slow news day. “Trump hasn’t said anything today? Okay, what else have millennials killed?”. At first, it was rage-inducing. Now it’s just boring. As with everything, harmful stereotypes are fuelled by the media, and there’s no doubt that many journalists have chosen our generation as something trendy to hate on”. 

Unfortunately many follow in their footsteps, blindly believing what they are told, until it is just understood that millennials are responsible for killing education, good food, morals and more, without any evidence needed. As a result, millennials are often accused of being “selfish (or generation selfish), entitled and narcissistic” by those who have never met them. Happy to rely on stereotypes and generalisations they fling about words like snowflake and bang on about avocado on toast, with no real understanding of millennials.

Yet Hilary was determined to combat this negative press, desperate to show those who were willing to listen what millennials are really like. As such she decided to create No Filter, which offers a space for young people to “reclaim their stories and challenge stereotypes”, giving their voices a chance to finally be heard.

This is currently too rare for Hilary’s comfort, as even in Parliament young people are under-represented. Indeed Hilary’s research suggests an uncomfortable truth; that Parliament is far from representative of the diverse people it is meant to serve, especially its younger population. She found that the average age of parliament members is 50, which “would be fine, if young peoples’ issues were being discussed – but they’re not. Additionally, over 65s were 35 points more conservative than the average voter. And evidence strongly suggests that older people voted for the DUP - the party who have a deal to support the conservatives”. The truth soon becomes painfully obvious; young people are being ignored, and their interests are being sidelined for those who support the party in power. 

As such it seems essential to take action and bring young people’s issues to the forefront as much as possible. Hilary’s advice is to do so any way you can, including supporting her book, which she feels is “a sure-fire way to get people’s voices heard”. Additionally, she supports campaigning, which is a great way to show how you feel and meet likeminded people. 

She hopes No Filter “will be a force for good”, helping to overcome stereotypes and highlight the similarities between generations, rather than differences. Her aim is to show how little millennials actual want and comfort those who feel overwhelmed or downtrodden. Additionally, she hopes to educate and inform those who have previously misunderstood a generation that is, admittedly, rather different to their own. 

You can find Hilary on Twitter at @Hilary_Alison, where she recommends would be authors search for other individuals in publishing.

Those interested in pledging to her book, which is currently being crowdfunded, can do so online at Unbound.

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