Saturday, August 06, 2011

Stuff White People Like – The Melbourne Edition

Most of you have probably read the American Stuff White People Like blog by now and laughed about it at many dinner parties which have also been fundraisers for various causes. In writing this entry, please note that in describing the group of people below, ‘white’ is probably not the best choice of word in Melbourne and should probably be replaced with ‘inner city middle class.’ After you read through the list, give yourself a score out of 80 to determine how ‘white’ you really are.

1.Living in North Fitzroy (According to Christian Lander, this is the whitest suburb in Melbourne)
2. The TED Conference

3. Farmer’s Markets

4. Hating Andrew Bolt

5. Answering “Jedi” to the religion question on the census

6. Beanies

7. Having breakfast at Monk Bodhi Dharma, lunch at the Oasis Bakery and dinner at the Moroccan Soup bar

8. Political Prisoners

9. Facebook

10. Being Offended

11. ABC Radio National

12. Any event sponsored by The Wheeler Centre

13. New Balance Shoes

14. Music Piracy

15. Ceres

16. Dinner Parties

17. Having Gay Friends

18. Putumayo World Music Collection

19. Events put on by the local council

20. Bartering

21. Hating Corporations

22. The Greens (see here and here)

23. Op Shops

24. Breastfeeding

25. Multilingual Children

26. Sophie

27. Camping

28. Lentil as Anything

29. Cassette tapes

30. Coming to places on time

31. Muslims

32. Knowing What’s Best for Poor People

33. Leonard Cohen (I’m offering a prize for anyone who can spot a non-white person in the audience at his Hanging Rock concert)

34. Go the F*#k to Sleep

35. Bicycles (especially the fixed gear variety which are the most authentic)

36. Toyota Prius

37. Apologies (especially the one by Kevin Rudd)

38. Irony

39. Confest

40. Whole Foods and Grocery Co-ops

41. Self-deprecating humour

42. Arts Degrees (especially when they lead to writing PhD’s you can angst about at dinner parties)

43. The Age (with a special mention to the Good Weekend)

44. Indie Music

45. Couchsurfing

46. Advocating for Public Education whilst sending your own kids to Private Schools (especially one’s that enhance your child’s uniqueness like Preshil or Rudolph Steiner Schools.)

47. Collingwood Children’s Farm

48. Lucas’ Paw Paw Ointment

49. Masterchef (Especially the Eco Challenge/Dalai Lama episodes)

50. Apple Products

51. Zara

52. Bragging about unique furniture you found in a hard rubbish collection

53. The Chaser

54. Acknowledging the Wurundjeri

55. The Daily Show/Colbert Report

56. Marijuana

57. Vegan/Vegetarianism

58. Flash Mobs

59. St Kilda Night market

60. Kath and Kim (This entire show is made for the benefit of inner city people who wish to laugh at outer suburbs folk)

61. 80’s Nights

62. Asylum Seekers

63. Awareness

64. Walking over a Bridge for Reconciliation

65. Hating their Parents

66. Gifted Children

67. Astor Theatre Posters

68. John Safran

69. Having tweets appear on Q&A

70. Yoga

71. Barack Obama

72. Royal Weddings

73. The Dalai Lama

74. Slutwalk and F#ckwalk

75. Diversity

76. Religions your parents don’t belong to

77. SBS Documentaries that validate your own view of the world

78. Coffee

79. The UN

80. Giving themselves scores on lists (With thanks to Ben)

So, how white are you? My score was 65/80.

Samitha Mukhopadhyay writes that SWPL is primarily a place for white people to chortle at the oddities of race and class and then congratulate themselves for having done so, thus neatly avoiding the need to delve any deeper. Or, conversely, they may like the blog because it allows them to disassociate themselves and laugh at those white yuppies. The core message is that it's OK to be rich and white, as long as you laugh about it. No further analysis required. It's a message that, unsurprisingly, rich, white people love to hear.” If that is true for you, stop reading here. But if you scored more than 60/80, the following statements may be true for you.

1. You are a confident person

The “right” kind of white people are supremely confident in their own superiority. Their self-esteem and sense of entitlement are rock solid. The right kind of white people believe that (1) all other human beings aspire to be just like them, and (2) they will always remain in power and able to secure and perpetuate their values.

2. You are a marketing agents dream

Due to their likes being so predictable, the right kind of white people are highly susceptible to greenwashing campaigns and purchasing anything that’s advertised in free indie music mags like X-Press to clothing advertised in the Good Weekend. Whites are also far more likely to support causes with accessories like expensive T-Shirts, wrist bracelets, and various coloured ribbons. Whites are also particularly susceptible to social cause marketing which sometime do far more damage than good.

3. You think poor people want what you have

Due to their colonial past, white people have enormous guilt towards people in the third world which they try to fix by assuming that if only the third world was whiter, they wouldn’t be in poverty. This leads to ridiculous Whites in Shining Armour aid projects like One million T-Shirts for Haiti or Socks for Japan. Good Intentions are not enough is an excellent blog which responds to these well-intentioned, yet stupid ideas. For example, the very trendy Tom’s Shoes company recently wrote the following in its advertising for the A Day without Shoes initiative (the video clip is one of the whitest pieces of marketing I have ever seen). “The great thing about an event like One Day Without Shoes is that it's so easy to participate. We've had some supporters go barefoot for 20 minutes and others have gone barefoot for months!” The clip made by good intentions in response to Tom’s Shoes is called “A Day without Dignity.”

4. You are possibly quite well off and have a great deal of spare time

One of the whitest functions on facebook is the “Like” button, in that it allows white people to demonstrate they are supporting the right kind of everything from humour to political positions. Bolstering your white credentials on facebook or in other places often takes a great deal of time, and may be quite expensive. And by the way, how many of you are reading this blog at work?

5. You are not unique

To quote Christian Lander “But a closer look reveals that from Austin to Australia, from L.A. to the U.K., indigenous white people are as different from one another as 1 percent rBGH-free milk is different from 2 percent.”

6. You are middle class

Christian Lander writes on the blog “It’s partially about race, but it’s fundamentally about class. It’s about a generation and class that values authenticity and credibility more than monetary wealth.”

7. You are the beneficiary of positive stereotypes

Though most ethnic stereotypes are negative, different racial groups also hold some positive stereotypes of white people. A 1972 study found that, in general, whites were stereotyped with positive traits and minority groups with negative traits. Positively, whites are stereotyped as intelligent, socially diverse, and generally non-dangerous and unlikely to commit crime. However, they are all considered racist, prejudiced, or biased and scared or uneasy around minorities.

8. Most Films and TV shows are often created with you in mind

Samitha Mukhopadhyay writes that “what makes Stuff White People Like special is that it describes relatively wealthy white Americans, and in doing so, recognizes that their particular culture has been mainstreamed and presented by Hollywood as the norm.”

Filmmakers know that due to white people having more spare time and disposable income, they are more likely to watch films. Below is just a small list of film themes that attract white people

*Car trips to wineries (Eg: Sideways, Road Trip)

* White boys trying to lose their virginity on campus (Eg: American Pie, The Social Network)

* Films about therapy (Analyse This, In treatment, Prime)

* Inspiring white people changing the world (Good Will Hunting, Erin Brockovich, Patch Adams, Dangerous Minds, The Power of One, Pay it Forward – Teachers LOVE these types of films)

* Films about white post-modern angst (When Harry Met Sally, Garden State, Juno, Rachel’s getting married, 500 days of summer, Up in the Air)

* Films about prejudice (Invictus, anything by Michael Moore)

9. You were raised to be middle class

From the moment you were born in a midwife led, doula assisted, drug free, home birth, it is quite likely that you were breastfeed, read to every night, and that your toys were made of organic materials and/or had the word “Baby Einstein” on them somewhere due to your inherent giftedness. If you get nothing else from this blog, next time you are having a discussion about what’s best for poor people, note that the reason you are not poor relates directly to the daily effects of white privilege.

10. You are the product of immense privilege

Matthew Miller writes, “Stuff White People Like is, to be blunt, something that very few people seem to get. It's not just an attack on hipsters, and it's certainly not racist, but rather, it's an attack on privilege. The 20 and 30-something upper-middle class kids Lander mocks benefit tremendously from their positions as children of the elite, and have created their own "culture" that reflects their pretensions by affirming their own uniqueness and artistic merit without requiring any real effort. It's also an attack on class, and repeatedly points out that in order to advance in a society controlled by the "right kind of white people," you have to parrot their views and affirm their (well-meaning, but sill patronizing) stereotypes, which is ironic considering how tolerant and open-minded they claim to be.”

Personal Note

I have spent several weeks trying to put together this blog post in manner that best articulates my thoughts on this complex issue of class in Australia. If you feel guilty or offended, that is not my intention. My purpose of posting it here is to add depth to the inevitable conversations I often have about SWPL on Sunday mornings in vegan cafes.

If this blog prompts discussions about

-how and why you donate money to various causes,

-why you buy the clothes you do,

-what motivates you to write certain things online, and

-what makes you happy

Then my purpose has been achieved.

Looking forward to the conversation.

1 comment:

Alexander said...

this is good; i'd like to see distinctions b/w north american and australian characteristics. and it strikes me that may of these characteristics are seemingly at odds with each other, for example apple products with pop-ethics. and, when i read these lists and have the predictable response, i wonder how we should react and learn from the experience (a mix of revulsion, disavowal and apathy?). in some ways i find these lists/class-awareness leading to some vague and not unpleasant fatalism - that if a symptom of privelege is an individualist impulse, middle class personal ethics becomes somehow a vicious circle, with no external point of reference possible..