Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Awkward Equals Feminine

Is the rise of the 'socially awkward' girl a dangerous fashion or a flighting fad?

Searching back through my consciousness, I can’t pinpoint the moment when I first heard someone label themselves as ‘socially awkward’ or ‘socially retarded’. But I do know that I never questioned the choice, I completely bought this new brand of cool hook, line and sinker.

At first this language and labelling didn’t trouble me, in fact I rejoiced in there being a popular social movement that I could easily slot into. As a late teen it was so easy to define any lack of self confidence as cute awkwardness or a disregard for having social skills. You could clumsily kill a conversation with a cute boy or alienate an important connection during introductions and instead of being humiliating it would add to your cool cred. The more it went on the more deliberate sabotaging of social situations became almost like a sport. I knew friends who would happily boast about how awkward or tactless they might be, when in actual fact they were some of the most confident and out going people I had encountered. Being socially awkward became less of a trait and more of a style, and it was just about as chic as you could get.

As I got a bit older and moved away from spending every waking moment surrounded by a gaggle of friends, though, this attitude became less convenient. I learnt quickly that if I didn’t make a move towards confidence I would also never make any new friends or work connections. Making doe eyes and shyly not answering questions just doesn’t impress the directors of theatre companies or actors that you might one day want to hire. There’s actually not much room for cute in our fast paced world, and if it’s hard work getting you to elicit some semblance of an intelligent response to the most basic questions, then people will quickly pass you by.

So I grew a bit of a spine and moved on from this particular phase, probably a process that most people would call growing up. I wouldn’t say that I’m the definition of cool, calm and collected, but I’ve certainly changed the way I view social interactions in the last couple of years. I’ve also changed my mind about this trend depicting awkwardness as the height young femininity and what it means for my generation.

The awkwardness fad seems to be linked to being ‘girly’. It plays on the idea that ‘hot boys like smart girls’, and that there’s something mysterious and alluring about the quiet girl in the corner. More than just a traditional sex thing, though, is the rivalry it builds between female friends. It’s not exactly expressed outright, but it’s pretty clear to see that the girl who is the most quirky and off-centre (read: off putting) is the one who is winning at this sort of opposite social interaction game; the more inept your people skills, the higher you rise.

Developing as a group of twenty-somethings, particularly twenty-something girls, who don’t want to fend for themselves socially, who think nothing of offending people or humiliating themselves because they can just pass it over as cool, is worrying. Deliberately pretending to not have opinions, personality or confidence is no way to work towards having fair and stimulating relationships with other people. Regardless of how much it makes them want to pinch your cheeks, it’s fair to say this kind of behaviour doesn’t inspire many people to respect you.

But maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe this is just my version of those who cried, “His hips are a portal for the devil!” about Elvis Presley. After all when I google ‘socially awkward’ I just get a bunch of pictures about Kristen Stewart and un-clever memes, neither really making me anxious about the state of young girls’ ability to socially interact. Or maybe it’s just a thing that happens amongst the people that I mix with, a very tiny dissection of society to be sure…but I just don’t think so.

As I try to understand this movement and our motivations when subscribing to it, I am puzzled. I think maybe we are all just a little bit scared about having to grow up and be ‘women’ now, whatever that means these days, and we’ve realised that there’s a way out of it. It’s kind of a Peter Pan ideal for girls, involving emulating the three year old with the wide eyes and pout hiding behind her mother’s skirt and not answering the “big adults’ questions”.

I have to ask, when did we start excusing being scared with being awkward and shy, when did we decide that that was a good choice to make? Shy girls have long held their place on the social spectrum, yes, but this obviously isn’t all true shyness. It’s playing pretend about how strong and poised we can really be, and it’s damaging to our image as a whole and as individuals.

1 comment:

  1. You are very wise Lauren. This is a thought provoking article and every young girl should read it and learn from it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...