Monday, March 24, 2014

The perverse pride of the pale

So, being ancient, and having devoted the bulk of my 20s to the 19th century, I'm not up on Tumblr or memes. It's possible that I actually said "the Twitter" the other day, although that one I sometimes use and mostly understand. Anyway, I only just now learned of the Me vs. Other Girls meme and associated controversy. It turns out that being pale, dark-haired, and literate is a meme! Or only if you're defining yourself in opposition to dim-witted spray-tanned bleach-blondes. Seeing as I live at a science compound in the woods, where I'm as much the Penny as anyone, I, at least, am not.

It's an interesting conversation, though, or the start of one. Some of this seems to be socioeconomic humblebragging - like, yes, you're pale and stayed away from the peroxide, and read Great Books, and don't fuss over status-y brands, but that's because you're an upper-class white person, not because you resisted temptation to go all TOWIE'd out. Yes, being upper-class means a certain degree of alienation from the mainstream, but if it comes from a place of feeling better than the mainstream, and if you sit around feeling superior with others like yourself, so what if a state-school sorority you're never interacting with anyway would have shunned you?

Some of it - because this also comes from people who really did grow up feeling like outsiders - really is about feeling like an outsider, but in that cringe-inducing adolescent way where one misses that everyone feels different. ("Daria" works because even pretty sorority girls feel like Daria.) If the "women" on Tumblr comparing themselves to others in an emo fashion are in fact girls between the ages of 10 and 16, fair enough. If grown women are doing this, I'd be more concerned.


caryatis said...

The person you linked to says,

"Every girl in my class was as smart or smarter, as nerdy or nerdier, as I was, and I can’t think of anyone I knew before college who even got close to the Other Girl stereotype. "

WOW how is that possible? I guess she just went to fancy schools all her life? I certainly met a lot of girls who were pretty much intentionally going for that stereotype.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Yes, I found that baffling as well. I went to two schools prior to college, one fancy, the other nerdy, and am finding it hard to picture that someone who wrote that post would have had that experience at either place.

But maybe it's not meant to be taken literally? At least not the part about being the dumbest and least-nerdy girl around. As for other girls not meeting the Other Girl stereotype, perhaps what she meant was... sort of what the sorority-girl post I link to gets at. Namely that *everyone* feels like a unique outsider in adolescence, even those whose chosen aesthetic is ditz.

Anonymous said...

Hey, just dropping by to say thank you for reading and linking to the "not a pretty girl" post! I'm delighted to see more conversation happening around the topic.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Hey, it's a fascinating topic! Lots of ideas I'd had/seen floating around, but not been able to pin down.