The Casting Dock

Just how “white” am I?

While I did grow up in the Millennial Generation (“generation” year boundaries are so ambiguous…) and am therefore at least somewhat tech savvy (I mean, I am worlds beyond my mother whom I have literally told/shown how to copy and paste over a DOZEN times, no exaggeration), I would consider myself a techno late bloomer.  I’ve never really been into the latest and greatest techy device, I don’t love apple products with all their techy gadgets (blasphemy, I know!), and I always just feel a step or two behind my age cohort on finding the coolest new internet sensation.

So, all that to say, I know I am QUITE late to the swpl party.  My brother has reminded me of this many times.  Nevertheless, like thousands (maybe millions?) of others, I find stuffwhitepeoplelike.com to be hilarious and pretty culturally on-point to my experience as an upper-middle class white person in the States (sometimes I stray away from saying “America” because it can be offensive to other members of Central and South American countries who also therefore live in “America” {I know, it’s soooo swpl of me to feel like I am being culturally sensitive to offending others and yes, I also know that “America” is actually a part of USA as a country name so it’s a little different than just being part of the continent} but sometimes I just say shove it–I love America {also verrrrry swpl of me–A-MER-I-CA!!}).

Man, I really can get off on a tangent.  I am my mother’s daughter–what can ya do??!!

Anyway, so I was poking around on the swpl website yesterday and decided I would see just how “white” I am by their standards.  So I looked through their list of 134 things that white people like and I aligned with…67 of them, making me…exactly 1/2 white? Hmmm. I definitely felt like I aligned more strongly when I was just browsing through the list  and I do really still consider it right on. 

Here are the top ten swpl things that I also happen to LOVE:

This whole process of sifting through the list and reading the different descriptions really made me contemplate the balance between conformity and uniqueness.  You see, I really love the ten things listed above.  Yes, I know that most of them are very “trendy white person things to love,” (as evidenced by their presence on the swpl list) but I legitimately don’t care.  I mean, I loooooove Trader Joes as much as the next person.  My day is literally brighter when I go there. And I wouldn’t care if every other person in the world loved it too.  I don’t feel like my uniqueness is threatened because I like something that lots and lots of other people like.  And I do try to pressure  my husband to “enjoy the great outdoors” on a nice day by giving him a slightly condescending just-sitting-by-the-open-windows-doesn’t-count look.  I’ve gotten better at allowing him to enjoy his free time how he wants to, but I know I can have that twinge of nature superiority (and in the grand scheme, I’m really not even really thaaaat naturey myself).

I LOVE Arrested Development.  I feel the same way about it that I feel about Traders.  I. do. not. care. how. many. other. people. love. it.  Again, it doesn’t threaten my uniqueness. I think it’s hilarious. And yes, I do hope to own a Prius someday (I admit that one is maybe influenced a little more by the social trendy coolness of going green) and I love a good home reno and a beautiful house on the water. And I do think that the best way to spend a weekend morning is with good friends at a local breakfast spot. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and I’m ok with that.  These are some that as a white person, I fulfill, at least according to stuffwhitepeoplelike.com.

Then there was also the things on the list that I strongly disliked such as Wes Anderson movies, modern furniture, having two last names (I think the hyphen is kind of silly for kids…no offense), and hating your parents.

What was most interesting to me, though, were the few things on the list that on an initial glance I marked in the “like” category, but on a second look through I realized that I didn’t actually like those things, I just kind of wanted to like them because I did feel like they were “cool” such as The Daily Show (yes, I find Jon Stewart funny but I don’t actually ever watch his show), public radio, the Sunday NY Times, the idea of soccer (the global relevance of it is intriguing, but I don’t actually like watching soccer…it’s boring), and San Fransisco (loooove the idea of it and I would probably love it, but I’ve never actually been there).

It was just interesting to think about how we all want to be accepted into the “cool” group but also want to maintain (an appearance of) uniqueness.  It’s all just a balancing act.  Too strong a sense of conformity is revolting, but too strong a sense of uniqueness is isolating.

I remember my school counseling supervisor at a high school in Virginia (who had 30 years of experience) saying, “The kids think the idea of an imposed dress code is ridiculous and yet they all come to school dressed the same.”

1 comment

1 Bryan { 10.22.10 at 4:17 pm }

Good post!

As a young, grad-schooled white person, it would be pretty difficult for you not to relate to a lot of it. The SWPL ethos is dominant in settings like academia. I’d say that you’re spot on, about 1/2 SWPL which may, depending on your perspective, require 50% improvement in one direction or its opposite. Or no improvement at all.

But, according to me, you will be barred entry to the club of the SWPL elite until you a.) lose sincere religious belief (or at least keep it to yourself) and b.) Get caught up with proper SWPL media. Do you even know who Mos Def, Interpol or Nick Cave are? Read any Chuck Klosterman, Jonathan Franzen or Sara Vowell lately?

1/2 SWPL sounds about right. And, yes, you are quite late to the party. SWPL.com was a sensation two years ago!

Here is an example of SWPL rap which isn’t a 100% match for the folks stuffwhitepeoplelike warmly satirizes, but it’s close enough to give me reason to try to post a video.

Also, I should probably point out that the SWPL acronym is only beginning to be widely used. For instance, a search shows “SWPL” occurring over 130 times over the nytimes.com domain. Yet it should be noted that the designation, like hippie for instance, was born of the pejorative. The people that Lander satires — affluent, environmentally and socially conscious, anti-corporate white North Americans, who typically hold a degree in the liberal arts — do NOT refer to themselves as SWPLs.

A person who thinks that such folks are utopian hipsters, will, in the shorthand, refer to them as SWPLs. But, obviously, not in a complimentary fashion.

Typical non-flattering blogger definition of SWPL.

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