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Tag: classism

Always the Object

There’s an intriguing subreddit called /r/trashyboners. (Today you should assume that every link is NSFW.) The tagline is “Maybe a true hot mess?” and the featured content is basically what you’d expect it to be: photos and videos of attractive women who are considered trashy. Think of the stereotypes evoked by the terms “trailer trash” and “white trash” (although women of color do show up occasionally) with a splash of “party girl.”

The sub is classist by default — “trashy” connotes undignified poverty — and often exploitative. You see girls who are passed-out drunk or out of their minds on drugs. You might see a police officer displaying a woman’s genitals under unclear circumstances. (The only reportage on that incident comes from the untrustworthy Daily Mail.) Power imbalances abound.

Interestingly, some readers will defend the women they ogle. In early May there was a topic titled “nasty whores drinking beer off each other.” The commenters complained about this derogatory phrasing. One person wrote, “We know nothing of their background, can’t we just enjoy without the shit talk?”

Not long ago I posted an Instagram snapshot of Bella Hadid and the readers downvoted me for saying that her outfit was trashy. They disapproved because I was perceived as puritanical. Overall, more comments than you might expect are about whether the woman in a given photo actually is trashy. (Here’s an example from a recent post.) It’s an inherently subjective judgment, of course.

By contrast, here’s another thread where the woman in the photo faces constant derision, this time with no protest from the readers. I’m not sure what determines which reaction will dominate. It may be that young, conventionally attractive women are more likely to be championed, but I’m not positive about that being a meaningful trend. There is also a “walking the fine line” element that’s very difficult to articulate. When is skimpy clothing just skimpy, and when is it trashy? It’s the kind of nuance that you can only intuit, not teach.

Either way, /r/trashyboners is a good companion to the Slate Star Codex essay about how class is just as cultural as it is financial. Consider:

[S]uppose a lady comes in with really over-permed dyed curly hair wearing several rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Her name is Sherri and she calls you “darling”; she’s also carrying her lunch, which is KFC plus a Big Gulp. Without knowing anything else about her, you can peg her as working class. Maybe she won the lottery ten years ago and is now the richest person in your state. It doesn’t matter. She’s still working class.

Or suppose a thin 25-year-old man comes in wearing glasses, a small close-cropped beard, and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. His name is Alex and he apologizes for being three minutes late. This guy is probably middle-to-upper-middle-class and college educated, maybe not a great college but still college-educated. And maybe he’s fallen on hard times and doesn’t have a dollar to his name. It still doesn’t matter. He’s still middle-to-upper-middle class.

/r/trashyboners is dedicated to both shaming and celebrating the slutty versions of Sherri.

I’m some flavor of feminist, so you might expect me to be opposed to this subreddit. I have mixed feelings about it. The content is aesthetically fascinating — it’s an inversion of crazy girl chic. And I find the community puzzling, as you may have gathered. I’m not above participating. My opinion isn’t settled yet, I suppose. What do you think?


Header photo by MarkScottAustinTX.

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Quotidian Rage

“We live in a world where we are lied to every day. The only rational response is outrage, but outrage is an emotion whose energy is impossible to sustain. Even the strongest among us eventually submit, and most of us are not strong.” — Alex Balk

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I personally feel exhausted by the unceasing onslaught of Bad News. The world is Going to Hell in a Hand Basket, haven’t you heard?! And I find myself unable to calibrate whether the state of public discourse has always been this catastrophic. Was everyone intensely worried forever, or is this level of handwringing new?

Photo of an angry monkey by Navaneeth KN.

Photo by Navaneeth KN.

As the Balk quote indicates, our state of affairs is even worse because we have to parse every last thing, wonder about the source, wonder what the reporter exaggerated to game our sympathy for clicks. Professional media outlets behave marginally better than meme-makers. But only marginally. In the absence of trust there should be outrage, like Balk says, but in the absence of trust I mainly feel fatigue.

Meanwhile:

“Being middle class didn’t mean you felt secure, because that class was thinning out as a tiny elite shot up to great wealth and more people fell into a life of broken teeth, unpaid rent, and shame.” — Arlie Russell Hochschild

No wonder I’m tired (disclaimer: I am comparatively well-off and privileged). No wonder you’re tired. Unless you’re already in the hyper-elite, upward mobility seems like an elaborate joke set up by the twentieth century. Ha ha ha!!!!! We get it! You can stop pretending now!


Header photo by Dushan Hanuska.

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