Hating Hipsters: How The Mainstream Hijacked Authenticity And Made Non-Conformity A Joke
In a modern capitalist society, we are bombarded constantly by product, and it would seem that when confronted with such a bombardment it would be helpful to have a strong sense of taste, to approach each product with discernment. Yet the anti-hipster movement finds authenticity in uncritical acceptance of all correctly marketed products. It demands unyielding conformity and untroubled passivity to all cultural artifacts that pass a certain popular threshold. It also imagines that absolute conformity somehow frees a person from the burden of conforming to what non-conformity looks like. In a wonderful twist of logic, non-conformists are the true conformists; you are merely being you, which involves looking the same as the majority. You don’t look like that in order to conform, however, you just dress like that because the look appeals to you. In the past, the label non-conformist was a pejorative term. People suffered social ostracism because they didn’t conform perfectly. These days, because people don’t like to think of themselves as a conformist, a new word or term was clearly needed to deride those who make reasonable, everyday people uncomfortable about their choices. The word had to undermine a person’s whole being, destroying their credibility by implying a pathetic motive for their actions. It had to be able to render a person’s entire existence laughable. Well, now we have it. It’s hipster. Wait, don’t tell me. You just use that word because you genuinely hate hipsters though, don’t you? My mistake.
1. In a patriarchal society, masculinity is considered natural, while femininity is considered unnatural. For this reason, any way a woman dresses is viewed with great scrutiny. Women are placed in a bind in regards to their fashion choices, which goes something like this: if a woman accepts a feminine approach to fashion then she is consciously or unconsciously inviting men to look at her. She is asking for attention. She cannot complain about being objectified because she is objectifying herself by playing up to societal notions of femininity and female sexuality. If she rejects a feminine approach to fashion then she is being contrary. She is probably a ‘feminist’ (all negative connotations implied). She is clearly not doing herself any favours. A criticism often made by men about attractive women is “She’s beautiful but she knows it”, as if women should exist in a state of childlike innocence in regards to their looks and sexuality. The moment a women is aware of the power of her appearance she is conceited and manipulative. Women are scrutinised for signs of hypocrisy, attention-seeking, and superficiality while the way men dress and act is seen as natural and uncomplicated. Unless men make fashion choices that are seen as feminine. At that point they will be viewed with a similar scrutiny to women. Western societies were set up to reward masculine traits while suppressing and dominating feminine ones. Berating hipsters is one small but not unimportant aspect of that.
2. It’s interesting to note that the American alternative music scene that emerged in the early 80s was one that enforced strict masculine, puritanical guidelines. Since then any kind of dressing up or gender blurring has been looked at as suspicious and silly. Even though credible artists such as David Bowie, Roxy Music and Funkadelic all looked and sounded out of this world, the post-Hardcore American scene seemed to view such antics as distasteful. It was all about the music, such Puritanism being a deliberate stand against the image-conscious pop stars of the 80s, pop stars who were for the most part women, African-Americans, or males who seemed to ignore traditional notions of masculinity. The ruling white, Christian, uptight mindset that permeated every aspect of American society appeared to have its strongest supporters in the alternative American music scene. Glam created gender confusion in the ‘70s, and ‘80’s pop was the real offspring of glam (pop is viewed as feminine and as such is accused of the same ‘crimes’ as femininity itself, while masculine rock is seen as natural and proper). American alternative music fans felt more comfortable in well-defined gender roles and overwhelmingly masculine musical expression and the Riot Grrrl movement was, if anything, an all out attack on the stifling masculinity of this scene. It’s no surprise that Portland (and the Pacific North West in general) is seen as the ultimate home of hipsters.