“That’s what I want you to make me feel like, baby, a white woman. A white woman who’s getting out of your Mercedes-Benz and going into Gucci to buy me some new drawers because you wrecked them. Just fabulous.”
Another line of Hilton Als’ which I will never forget comes from his response to the criticism that was shoveled at Lena Dunham’s Girls when it first aired. In a short piece for the New Yorker, he stated that he was worried about white people, who are “attacked for that which they cannot help — their whiteness — and that which they can help — their whiteness.” This concern is left unexplained, but if I were to hazard a guess I would say that Als sees America as becoming overwhelmed by the idea of identity. We are unsure of the appropriate proportions for our shame and for our righteous anger — who is to blame for how white I am, how much I have? who is to blame for how female I am, how little I have? — and we are unsure of whether we have been created or if we are creating ourselves.
Every member of the fall 2014 editorial board is, by chance, either white or a girl. The white girl is, collectively, the identity that we know best. We went to middle school with white girls; we were raised by white girls. Our celebrities are white girls; our professors are white girls. And we are interested in exactly what this means.
To this end, Sean Doolittle and Aurora Rojer examine the corrupting power of white feminism, in examinations of Marilyn Monroe fetishism (p. 53) and the “strong, independent woman” stereotype (p. 28), respectively. Curious about what it means to write and speak as a woman, Katie O’Brien looks at the gendered conventions of language (p. 21), Emma Court looks at representation through the lens of the Bechdel Test (p. 62) and the recently retracted “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope (p. 56) and Yana Lysenko enters the office space of Cornell professor Masha Raskolnikov (p. 13) in order to learn about “how women and their bodies and their smells are all on the verge of being monstrous in a sexist society.”
Our story ideas are pitched popcorn style, at the beginning of the semester in Goldwin Smith’s Pale Fire Lounge. Articles are dibs-ed, deferred, abandoned, added at the last second. So there isn’t a clear image for the issue until about this time each semester (four days before deadline), but now that it’s all coming into focus it is obvious that most of our ideas for how to write about white girls were related to talking about the way that they are seen. Melvin Li explores the term “basic bitches” (p.32), who it describes, and to what end; I muse on the politics of lipstick and how the application of makeup can become an act of self-empowerment (p.36); Alejandra Alvarez deconstructs our unexamined disdain for white girl celebrities, including Shailene Woodley and Anne Hathaway (p.60), and Arielle Cruz takes the road less travelled, looking at how pornography shapes sexual imagination and fantasies of womanhood (p. 64).
When the New York Times reviewed Als’ 2013 essay collection, White Girls, they called it not a masterpiece but an overwhelming “orgy — or gluttony — of insights.” Als’ collection contained portraits of Marshall Mathers, Scarlett O’Hara, Flannery O’Connor, Richard Pryor’s sister, Michael Jackson, Truman Capote and André Leon Talley, among others, all of whom he considered “white girls” in one sense of the term, or another, but rarely in every sense. Truman Capote declared himself the best woman author of his generation, in Als’ mind. Scarlett O’Hara sadistically demanded the love and admiration of the black men whom she “had the power to lynch.” Marshall Mathers is like a white girl in that “he never claimed whiteness and its privileges as his birthright because he didn’t feel white and privileged.”
Though the Times meant it as a criticism, here at kitsch there is nothing we like better than an insight orgy. White girls, in our conception of them, are often but not always literally white and female, but rather, they are those who affect a certain, privileged delicacy and sense of indignation — culturally longed for and culturally despised. What follows is our portrait of them.
— Kaitlyn Tiffany, Editor-in-Chief, Fall 2014