Double Cliqued: W’s Guide to Stereotypes

Last weekend, I was flipping through W Magazine when I stumbled on a back-to-school style guide that deserves detention. The line-up shows five girls, mostly pretty classic high school staples: the party animal, the valedictorian, the prepster.

But then, at each end, we have our outcasts.

First, let’s take the curvy girl, far left. What did they choose to call their voluptuous vixen with “plenty of attitude”? Read it and weep: This buxom broad is “The Girl Who Eats Her Feelings.”

Principal’s office. Now.

This title invokes the girl who eats a box of cookies one night when she feels lonely or downs a whole container of Betty Crocker rainbow chip frosting while crying over a breakup (yes, I’ve been there too). In a word, she over-indulges.

Which got me thinking…are women “allowed” to do that?

I have a 1950s magazine article posted on my fridge that teaches girls how to say no. More specifically, how to say no to chocolate cake, cigarettes, kisses, hands wandering “out-of-bounds,” laziness, chatty phone calls, and a cute red coat instead of a practical tweed coat–basically, to all of life’s little indulgences.

W Magazine’s biting nickname expresses the same expectation: women should show restraint.

But we walk a fine line because the flipside is just as demonized.

Enter the skinny girl, at the opposite end of our line-up. She got a pretty harsh report card too: This sandal-clad, ethnic-knit-loving hippie child is “The Virgin Suicide.”

This girl is all restraint. Her muffins are vegan and gluten-free (which, Babycakes aside, sucks all the joy out of muffins); she’s totally untouched by either sex; even her hair is “studiously messy.”

But her unclogged arteries and intact hymen don’t seem to work out so well for her. She’s the “virgin suicide;” the one whose life is apparently not worth living—that’s harsh! While there’s disgust for the curvy girl, there’s bitterness, with a hint of jealousy, for the skinny girl.

That’s a tough spot to be in, always trying to walk the perfect line that’s just restrained enough to be acceptable but not too limiting.

But I’m hopeful that W might be out of touch with its audience.

I notice myself and my friends starting to resist having our bodies and our behavior micro-managed. Starting to say yes to hooking up on our terms, treating ourselves to chocolate cake, and buying that cute red coat. Starting to ask which limits we want to set in our own lives based on what feels right for us, not what others think is “good for us.”

Trust us. We’ll find our way.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Double Cliqued: W’s Guide to Stereotypes

  1. diana

    Wonderful post. Thank you for your insights. I also hope that W is out of touch. My fear is that the confidence your starting to see comes with age – my high schoolers can still be terrifyingly harsh to those even a bit outside the norm or the “cool” crowd.

  2. Mark

    Now, when you say Babycakes sucks the joy out of cupcakes, are you talking about the vegan bakery or your celiac husband?

    • Hahaha Babycakes makes one hell of a joyous cupcake (the donuts are even better), it’s the rest of them that suck. But I make a pretty mean gluten free cupcake when my celiac husband gets sugar cravings :).

  3. Ashley

    Love this. Awesome piece. Love it. Love you!

  4. Liz

    I agree that the person who wrote that should be sent to the principal’s office, but they should get suspended or expelled; detention isn’t enough.

    I’d agree that the stereotypes they use as bookends are overstated to the point of silliness. Of course we shouldn’t overinduldge to the point of obesity (but it doesn’t sound as if that was the worry), and curves are nice. I like my curves. And why do they think the skinny hippie girl is a virgin–I used to be skinny-hippie girl….I never believed in denying myself joy, as in passing up the fun red coat (although in my case it tends to be ANOTHER pair of boots). Can you have too many???

    But the middle three choices are a bit off-putting too. Party animal? That brings up the image of puking in a bucket by the bed, and crawling to class in sunglasses, even if it’s cloudy. Can’t we just be friendly and social, without being “the party girl,” and everything that implies?

    The valedictorian seems extreme as well. After all, there’s only one per class–by definition it can’t be a group.

    Which leaves the prepster, and who knows what that even means nowadays? In my day (yeah, back when the term was coined) it was a clean-cut guy or girl who wore penny loafers or docksiders with no socks, khaki pants (or skirts) and tucked-in, button-down shirts. I haven’t seen high school kids dressed like that in ages.

    What was the point of this article anyway? To put everyone into boxes? Even if they don’t make sense? It sounds as if they might have been warning girls away from the curvy and skinny boxes, and pushing them into one of the other three. Or was it to help you pick a box, so you could attempt to stuff yourself inside it?

    I’m glad I’ve never needed to be in a box, and was never pushed to cram myself into one. When you live outside the box there’s plenty of room to play and grow and experiment, and find your footing.

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