thought digest, 09.03.2023
Your comments about class are astute and correct
Katherine, nagging question: You talk an awful lot about all the time you spent in ED spaces as a kid. I never caught you actually say that you struggled with it yourself, though. Did you? Or were you more of a fascinated tourist?
Because you also find your way into all of these other subcultures, like an e-anthropologist (which I love and am also fascinated by, thus why I keep reading) and I just wonder, do you dive into these spaces objectively, thinking of yourself as a scientists or investigative journalist, or are you bizarrely fascinated and driven by a sort of schadenfreude? Or is it a little of both, or some other angle? You do always seem to give each subculture their due, throw them bones, explain their reasons for being, etc.
I heard recently that the US mostly uses the amount of money a person has to determine class, which shocked me (is this mostly true or not?) but also helped go to understand the politics a little better.
We have a class system similar to the UK, which means it’s more based on social capital than money. You can have money but still be very low class. There are certain things like manner of speaking (tone, accent, language), manner of dressing, gestures/body language, hobbies etc that easily mark it out.
You can learn to pass (I did) which I’m not sure is possible in the UK as it’s more rigid over there. I love learning about the different ‘tells’ for classes in various countries, always so interesting. Currently reading Tom Wolfe to see how it is in the US.
so i've scrolled through this post and, i cannot believe your attention and skills are wasted on THIS rather than on having a family (kids and husband) which is a life where all these cringe subjects become so utterly unimportant and unattractive to you.
inb4 "shuttup incel" and comment deleted, or buncha hate replies.
have a nice day
"all roads lead to anime girls"
I wonder if it's something about the optionality: if you're an anime girl and you want to be kawaii and fem, great! if you want to be tough guns and tacticool, also great! you can be demure and innocent and asexual, but you can also be a sex symbol of such widespread appeal there's multiple genres and entire subcultures devoted to it. you can be the hero, you can be the background schoolgirl. you can be overt or invisible. magic or mundane. sportsy or clumsy. there's so many anime girls across the decades of everything that basically everything you want to do or be is somewhere in the canon, is supported by the culture.
which means you can kind of be and do anything without constraint in a way that other genres of people sort of can't? even inside this one corner of the medium, it feels like "anime boy" (or anime man, or anime woman even) don't really have the same freedoms, or get immediately subdivided into A Type of Guy, which you're then stuck being. maybe the amorphous fluidity is deeply appealing to a generation(s) who are accused of never truly choosing or closing doors on things.
part II of that is also immunity from judgement, and competition on a global level. it used to be you just had to be in hierarchy with your small friend group or village but now if you're anything, you're compared against all the others of your type at the internet scale (and there's always someone better out there). being a blanker slate in tropes and genre means comparison is trickier and the pressure is pulled off. all those poor Types of Guy are inherently seeing each other, but all the anime girls are just sort of a pool of combo-niches and unspecialization, impossible to judge and free to do what interests them. there's no wrong answers, no too-weird, no "but you can't like this AND that" genre norms.
anime-girling as a verb is trope laundering for people. you want to be a macho muscle builder dude and also a library dork? anime girl through the middle. the wormhole connecting any two other things probably has an anime girl somewhere in between.
I think one of the things people neglect the most when discussing class is how people of the upper echelon treat interpersonal relationships. This isn’t like some Marxist criticism here, but as a working class person who’s found themselves among a lot of people or means due to the nature of my work, what I’ve noticed is how they make friends. A good conversation or mutual interest is not impetus enough for them to pursue a friendship with someone else; that person needs to be able to offer them something. If a regular person knows half a dozen people who will do various types of labour for them on the cheap, it’s because they were friends first. A person of means will befriend someone who can offer them labour on quid pro quo basis for that exact reason. No matter how much LinkedIn “culture” pushes the concept of networking, it’s not a learned skill among the wealthy - rather, it is taught from a young age and it’s no coincidence that Ivy League universities and prestigious schools are often heralded for their networking opportunities as much if not more than the quality of their education.
As for America’s discomfort with class, it stems mostly from the fact that acknowledging it undermines the foundational myths America is built on. The American Dream, proverbially, does not factor in the station of one’s birth, and it’s incredibly demotivating to think that it’s a case of “bootstrapping for thee but not for we”.
It's funny to learn that focus on class is controversial in murca, for overlooking race. This is, obviously, incredibly convenient for dismissing Marxist ideas. Anyway, take it from a Brit who knows, that money has nothing to do with class.
I think the word for the class/status thing you're getting at is "habitus."
Almost everyone carries a device that allows them to record what they do, or espouse, or flex to, and it allows them the momentary ability to appear to be more than they are, or they have worked for, struggled with, and achieved, but it is as illusionary and ephemeral as the electrons that stream it to the viewer. And that clout only lasts as long as it has the viewer’s attention.
Saying that there are no classes is the most middle class thing you can say.
Thorsten Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class might be right up your alley in terms of class
Regarding class, there was an excellent book written a couple of decades ago called “Watching the English” by anthropologist Kate Fox. Her chapter on class in Britain does a wonderful job of breaking down what class is and how it influences behaviour, then gives field notes on how to recognise English class markers. I’d love to see something of comparable thoroughness written for the US, though I do wonder how easily it would find a publisher!
I really don't think you've cracked age gap discourse. I'm 37 now, but when I was 18 I dated a 35yo. When I was 18 I was like "I'm an adult woohoo" but in retrospect I was very immature.
Now when I meet 18 year olds I cannot for the life imagine dating them - it feels morally icky. They do feel like children. It's precisely because I do feel my age I don't like it, not because I feel younger. If I felt more their age it wouldn't bother me so much.
Everything you say about class... and love the way you do too. it's very clear in Europe - Italy extremely rare met anyone that is upper strata of artist unless they came from a very old established family. Here, it's the fucking same, but we like to lie about it. I am writing about that now - about being a straight up second generation Shtetl Jew - how dare I, Shtetl Jew... sneak past the keepers of the gate... :) XO :A Fussell “Not smoking at all is very upper-class,” he wrote, “but in any way calling attention to one’s abstinence drops one to middle-class immediately.”
Regarding age gap discourse, I think it's less about older women being jealous of younger women (because plenty of younger women engage in it too), and more about the fact that it's in straight women's collective interest to nullify the uneven aging penalties on men and women in dating. If it's about mismatched social ages, then why does it seem to mainly affect straight women? Why aren't there also lots of immature teen-brained 30-year old men claiming to be groomed by adult women?
Millennials and especially Gen Z are hyper-aware of aging and becoming irrelevant. Cultural moments that used to last years now come and go within days, if even that. The same vicious ephemerality also applies to people and our social worth. And age gap discourse (when it involves an older man and younger women who are both clearly of adult age) is women's attempt to somewhat control this threat of being romantically and sexually replaced too easily.
Online age-gap discourse is mainly had among progressives, and the idea may seem jarringly puritanical and infantilizing to women. But it's indicative of a new type of women's social progress that's more centered on women's happiness than more objective traditional tenets. I wrote about it more in the context of the new Cat Person movie for my Substack, if anyone would like to take a read.
Women marry up all the time, but they often seem to have to do degrading sexual things for this. What you are referring to is more accurately described as a nepotist instinct than class, as people from the highest towers often are often downwardly mobile if they fall out with their families.
Do you remember when Living Dolls referred to Lolita’s on LiveJournal? I touched on this here, in which gothic industrial artist Emilie Autumn wrote a song called Gothic Lolita and represented herself as a Living Doll, inspiring a devoted following of teenage girls with PTSD and BPD to “reclaim the narrative.”