After Jezebel’s recent post on Hipster Racism, the topic is newly hot in the feminist/race blogosphere. And that’s great! We really need to be talking about the ways racism and white supremacy inform the everyday practices of “good, white liberal” kids.
I want to emphasize that racism and hipness (the logic, discourse, or structure of hipster-ism) are not just contingently related. It is not just that some hipsters happen to trade in racist fashions. The logic or structure of hipness is itself grounded in white racism. Hipness is a practice grounded, both historically and structurally, in racism. It is a form of cultural/racial appropriation wherein white people use their interpretations of non-white cultures/identitites to demonstrate their elite status among whites. And obviously gender and sexuality are also factors. Hipness is a racist, sexist, and heterosexist practice.
Want some proof of that claim? I’ve written about this topic extensively:
For the academics and intellectuals among you, here are my scholarly articles.
To be “hip” is to be in, but not “of” dominant culture in the sense that a hipster rejects various hegemonic norms while at the same time being privileged by them. Alternately, to be “hip” is to be “of” dominant culture but not “in” it in the sense that one might have rather mainstream origins (e.g., white middle-class upbringing in the Midwest) but no longer actively participate in the culture of one’s birth. If it is the case that hipness ultimately desires to be “in but not of”/“of but not in” the dominant social body, then hipness can be read as a characteristically white relation to the (white) social body. In hipness, the individual’s quitting of the dominant social body is achieved through a specific relation to his or her own body: ex-corporation is both exclusion (from the body politic) and disembodiment (a white relation to one’s own body, the desire to ultimately not “be” a (mere) body). One excorporates oneself from the social body by affectively situating oneself “outside” mainstream whiteness; this in turn is achieved in the performance of the stereotypical bodily styles of hetero black masculinity.
“White hipness” is the appropriation of stereotypical black masculinity by white males. Looking at recent videos from black male hip-hop artists, I develop an account of “postmillennial black hipness.” The inverse of white hipness, this practice involves the appropriation, by black men, of stereotypical white gay masculinity and/or non-American, non-white femininity. I also argue that Shephard Fairey’s recent images of (mainly militant) non-Western women of color can be read as a new form of white hipness that revises the traditional logic in two ways: (1) by appropriating non-white femininity rather than masculinity, and (2) by adopting the practice of postmillennial black hipness itself.
And for those of you would like a more accessible version of those articles, here are relevant blog posts: