Wallace Wylie

Hating Hipsters: How The Mainstream Hijacked Authenticity And Made Non-Conformity A Joke

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The Birthday Party Nick Cave

Introspection Illusion works like this: we firmly believe that we have access to the mental processes through which we come to decisions but experiments indicate that we don’t. We therefore make up what seem like completely rational reasons for our actions after the fact. Worse than that, we believe that our introspection is more dependable than the introspection of others and, as a result, consider ourselves to be superior when it comes to self-reflection. We imagine that other people are dishonest and untrustworthy in their own self-reflection but that we are truly self-aware. We do this by believing the rationalisations of our own behaviour and by being suspicious of other people’s rationalisations. In other words, everybody is quietly suspicious of everybody else’s behaviour.

In this light it looks like hatred of hipsters is Introspection Illusion run wild with a heavy dose of psychological projection thrown in for good measure. If we can externalise and demonise what we believe are weak-minded traits (conformity, trend-hopping), then that allows us to avoid any unpleasant truths in regards to our own behaviour. We can see this mindset play out in every aspect of society from personal tastes to political opinion. Terms like ‘sheeple’ and ‘brainwashed’ appear on a daily basis all over the internet, with millions of people absolutely convinced that almost everyone else is a walking automaton, incapable of true introspection and intellectual honesty.

Beyond the self-delusion that allows somebody to hate hipsters, there is also an even more unpleasant side to this cultural phenomenon. With mainstream and authenticity now seen as being essentially the same, those who flout culturally endorsed gender roles are viewed with suspicion. The main trait of hipsters that seems to draw the most ire is their fashion sense. This apparent obsession with surface and image is not only seen as pathetic, it is also viewed as feminine and unbecoming for men. (Understand that when I use terms like feminine and masculine, I’m using them in the sense of how certain behaviours are viewed. Our society equates femininity to being a woman and masculinity to being a man. I am not attributing an obsession with image and fashion to being a woman). Through the ages the idea of femininity has become synonymous with certain unpleasant characteristics, namely superficiality, passivity, and weakness. Fashion is considered the realm of outward appearances, shallowness, and a willingness to follow trends on a whim and as such is inexorably linked in the minds of many with femininity. The moment a man steps into the world of fashion he is considered feminine. Indeed, the term “faggy hipster” is almost as popular as “hipster”. Women hipsters generally get an easier time of it than men do, probably because society has no problem with a girl in skinny jeans. Leaving aside big glasses, there’s no overriding trait about hipster women that ruffles society’s feathers. Women just get a harder time of it in a larger sense.(1)

Contempt for hipsters reveals not only a nasty disdain for the feminine, it also quietly endorses derision for those who veer away from both traditional gender roles and those who differ from the norm in general. Hipsters are often criticised for all looking the same, yet those doing the criticising look identical to most members of society. The critcisers exist in an approved normality that allows them to rationalise their own conformity but be extra-sensitive to the conformity of those who look different. Normal society, when faced with any subgroup (hippies, punks, hip-hop fans, hipsters, etc) will take great pains to point out how uniform this subgroup is. Thousands upon thousands of people make jokes about the conformity of hipsters, about how hipsters won’t do something because it’s too mainstream, yet never take the time to explore the conformity of the very joke they are making, never mind their own clothes and tastes. Once again we see psychological projection in action as anxiety about our own personal conformity is eased by finger-pointing and laughing at those ‘others’ who conform.(2)

Seen for what it is, hating hipsters is just another way of society policing itself. From time immemorial those who reject, even in some small way, societal norms are punished with social stigma. Modern society demands that we see ourselves as thinking, free-willed individuals who have somehow arrived at the perfect equilibrium. Each of us in our own way imagines that our attitude to life is the right one and that those who disagree with our attitude are simply being unreasonable or nonsensical. When faced with such unreasonableness it helps if we can attach labels that stigmatise those who think and act differently. If you can label that person who doesn’t like Gotye a hipster and a snob then your individuality can remain intact.

(continues overleaf)

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11 Responses to Hating Hipsters: How The Mainstream Hijacked Authenticity And Made Non-Conformity A Joke

  1. Pingback: Make hipsters history (bibliografia) | La Rassegna Della Domenica

  2. Pingback: Bourdieu and the (non)genre of Dolewave | youth class culture

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