oumsass asked: hey friend can you elaborate on your thoughts about the tumblr teen aesthetic? i'm curious (i read the article and didn't really think much of it one way or another)
I wasn’t gonna publish this because it’s not like, a real argument BUT I want to remember some of this so I’m gonna anyway.
I don’t think it’s cool how adults lurk the blogs of teens without transparency and then get paid to write about them! In fact, I think it’s flat-out disgusting; and most people who are doing this are pretty blatantly ignoring any existing standards of ethics and methodology. A lot of them mask this by posititioning their work in between disciplines (ie, instead of in anthro/english/history/comm/soc they put themselves in interdisc (WS mostly, but also performance studies, cultural studies and potentially am studies, etc.) positions so that they can wiggle between the IRB cracks. Many of them—and here we are talking about Kate Durbin—choose to become public intellectuals (artists, writers, “journalists,” and so on) so that they (if they are an able-bodied white person) will never ever ever be held to any standards of integrity, citation, methodological rigor or transparency. I also think there is this particularly icky characteristic of “the feminist intellectual” (and yeah, I’m gonna put KD in the same category as, like, Jessica Valenti and she has to live with it) where there is a politicized aesthetic distaste for showing your work—ie, if Kate Durbin were to say “I read x books and basically changed “thing” and “technology” to “Chanel” and “shoe” then people would say she was being alienating, too academic, etc. These women opt out of the academy and its tools (like, for example, “asking for consent before you operate on human subjects” and “citing your sources”) as a way to opt into a totally different kind of social capital.
And listen, before I go on, this seems to be a huge huge misunderstanding held by people in the humanities, and I want to clarify: there are LOTS of existing, developed methodologies (mostly in social sciences) which offer guidance on interacting with young people over the internet. “It’s on the internet, therefore it’s free” is NOT OKAY IN THE ACADEMY or like, in life, or like, in ninth grade English, but being a journalist or a public intellectual allows these people to like…behave like eleven year olds.
I also wish that some of these women would engage for once in their careers with the massive massive histories, bodies of thoughts (by theorists, historians, and TEENS THEMSELVES) that grapple with the ways that adolescence is constructed. Instead of getting that, we get a disclaimer on a blog saying “I’m talking about teen girls but that doesn’t JUST MEAN TEEN GIRLS” which, rather than reflecting on how this is constructed, literally just means “mostly this shit is produced/circulated by weird fetishizing white women in their early twenties through early thirties.”
There are other things about the analysis on aesthetics themselves. I think they are missing a lot of self-awareness about the teen aesthetics, and honestly people like KD come out looking way dumber about the whole thing than the teens themselves. (Katy sent me a link of a cutesy Skins cap from that blog, one of Cassie’s phantom texts, and she said “I bet she doesn’t even know the context of this, she just reblogged it from a ‘teen.’” And I think she was probably right, and it’s so funny to me that these adult women keep going on and on and on about how tumblr is about “not knowing” or “divorced contexts” when lbr every time a teen girl reblogs something out of context SHE KNOWS THE CONTEXT and not contextualizing it is her way of showing that she is smart and versed and cool so when YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS or YOU DON’T KNOW THAT IS WHAT’S GOING ON it makes you look really dumb and uncool; and these women are really out of touch but basically attributing their ignorance to an unsophisticated randomness in teens. DUMB.)
Speaking specifically I think that—while I really do like this stuff on certain levels—I am really disturbed by KD’s like…pillaging of theorists without citation and seeming total misunderstanding of anything. That piece is LITERALLY, STRAIGHT-UP PARAPHRASED LATE HEIDEGGER. I am not kidding you, look at “The Insight Into That Which Is.” Except that she kind of doesn’t understand Heidegger very well, and also doesn’t understand anyone’s “objectification” really well, and I’m really confused about how she read Heidegger’s arguments about “object” vs. “thing” and still decided to use the word “object” to represent teen girls in their environment. Basically, what I’m saying is, LITERALLY NONE OF THIS IS NEW, and it’s not even a very good interpretation, it’s not cited, and it’s objectifying (lol) and weird, and it is unfair and exploitative. (“Manipulating your audience who you laud as being ~~outside an institution into thinking you came up with these ideas because YOU KNOW they haven’t read Heidegger” is especially exploitative.)
My number one criticism is that they are exploitative assholes, though.
eta: if she’s anything like KZ and the rest of them, and I bet she is, I am sure she is basically pillaging the blogs of black young women for $$$$. Basically, you can’t DO THIS schtick, you can’t perform this public intellectual aesthetic, you can’t BE THIS WHITE FEMINISM without doing that.