Monday, July 01, 2013

So Betch

Oh, the New York Times, always the last with trend stories. Except when they're not. Like Jezebel's Katie J.M. Baker, I'd never heard of Betches Love This until seeing the NYT profile of the same. Also like Baker, I wondered if this was all in the proud tradition of things-being-about-Jews-without-spelling-this-out (see also; if these ever go online in a legal capacity, I'll start watching and responding); also like Baker,  I had to ultimately conclude that this is a category that overlaps with "JAP," but is its own thing. Perusing the site, I kept thinking of very much Gentile examples (some very "old-money") of women who fit the bill.

The site is more or less the exact opposite of the one where the (adult) children of the One Percent self-flagellate behind placards. Or is it? More on that in a moment.

Who is a "betch"? She's basically an anti-intellectual (those who don't read the news don't suffer, as I do, from the fate of finding that 30% of white men between the ages of 20 and 50, including 100% of those who are trying to help you fix your computer, look like this Snowden) rich young woman from the suburbs, who may have been one of the out-of-state, higher-paying "coastals" (a possibly anti-Semitism-tinged term, but not necessarily) at flagship state schools in the Midwest. (A sentence I wrote before even seeing this post.) Sororities and Uggs enter into it, as does some kind of borderline eating disorder. I don't think there necessarily was an all-encompassing term for this know-it-when-you-see-it phenomenon, so the various commentators calling the site "anthropological" are onto something.

The problem with the site, or its genius, is that it can't seem to decide if it's a dark, secretly Marxist satire of the "betch," or if it's a gently self-mocking but ultimately sincere expression of that which it's describing. I'm leaning towards "genius" - it has a built-in audience of the women who identify (and who participate in forums and threads, offering one another sincere advice on "betchiness", or snarking at one another for being posers or poor or I don't even know) as well as of the women (and men?) who find it all kind of horrifying.

Because - here, Caryatis, is the cultural-capital question - there's this other set of women from more or less the same demographic who are raised specifically not to be princesses. Some kind of internalized "JAP"-o-phobia, passed down across the generations. Yet they - we - are maybe not so different after all. (Do "betches" read "Into The Gloss"?)

I looked at the list, and much of it applies to women who'd see themselves as much higher-brow or more mature than the described category. Alternate explanation: I'm lower-brow and less mature than I might fancy myself. Iced coffee? (I tend to prefer D.I.Y. cold-brew or made-by-a-hipster over Starbucks, but same thing, really.) Sushi? (And other Japanese food! Sushi-and-only-sushi is so passé. But ugh, yes.) Neon? (Nike Frees? I never.) Equestrian chic? And argh, I don't even get an out for having married someone from a different country.

I'd be disqualified from betchiness, it seems, if for no other reason than that going out to dinner at an upscale restaurant with a large group of expensively-dressed girlfriends doesn't sound like the absolute best possible way to spend an evening. (Why? Because that was all-girls middle school. I experienced a lifetime of "sorority" in the Greek sense between the ages of 10 and 13, which was enough.) And fine, for financial reasons as well.

The best thing about the site - also, needless to say, its worst - is its lack of sensitivity. Sometimes this unquestionably veers off into wildly offensive. Other times, though, there's a frankness, a telling-it-like-it-is, not often found elsewhere.

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