A friend and I were walking to a class we had together the other day when some comment I made caused him to slow his steps, turn to me, and declare, “You are such a white girl.”
I can’t remember what I specifically said to prompt this remark.
Perhaps, it was because I had noticed that the coffee shop near campus was selling specialty-iced frappes for St. Patrick’s Day, with green whipped cream that I could Instagram for 37 externally-validating, little hearts. If I chose the right filter, of course.
Maybe, it was because I had (very vocally) discovered a tiny rip in the side of my Lulelemon yoga pants — which meant that I was gaining weight and needed to put myself through one of those ultra-fashionable gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free diets. The kind where you only consume water mixed with chili pepper and stale milk for the first three days so that you can expunge every fatty element from your system.
Or, possibly, it was because I had checked Facebook on my iPhone and squealed when I realized that that guy I was somewhat attracted to had liked my profile photo. This is probably why. That boy often played mind games to keep me on my toes, which I tell my friends I hate, but I secretly enjoy — because what’s the point in pursuing someone if he or she is already fully interested in you? His like would’ve been exciting. Besides, my profile photo featured me, standing in the middle of a cluster of young, sad-looking orphans during my last service trip to Africa — I looked like a modern day Mother Theresa and damn right, he should’ve liked it.
Whatever it was that caused him to say it, as soon as my friend pointed out how much of a “white girl” I was, my instinctual response was to highlight the obvious.
“Uh…I’m not white,” I said — somewhat lightly but a bit bothered, without quite knowing why.
“Yeah, but you’re still a white girl,” he responded. Fifteen seconds later, he added, “Let’s get froyo before class” and I thought it best not to pursue the line of conversation…at least with him.
I’m not sure when it became a cultural norm to use “white girl” as a throwaway term to describe people who revel — sometimes obliviously, often unabashedly — in their own superficiality, but it leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth. What do we really mean when we call someone a “white girl”? After all, you don’t have to be, literally, white to be a “white girl.” My Asian heritage is a testament to that. Just this morning, a friend said that she was “ugh, a white girl” after discovering that our favorite store was having a flash sale. She identifies as Latina.
Calling someone a “white girl” — or self-identifying with that term, for that matter — is a means of drawing attention to his (yes, I have heard male friends jokingly refer to themselves as “white girls”) or her privilege, shallowness, airheadedness, or prissiness. Institutional obnoxiousness! We call people “white girls” the same way we used to call them “blondes” — when Elle Woods was most popular and we could apologize for momentary lapses in judgment (or common sense) because we were just having a “blonde moment.”
A “white girl” is sometimes a princess, unapologetic for her tastes. She knows what she likes, and she won’t let anybody’s judgmentally raised brow deter her from enjoying these simple pleasures. Often, she can’t even. And, though she sometimes acts like a brat, she probably has a heart of gold — most “white girls” do, if the motivational quotes they post to Pinterest, Twitter, or their poison — I mean, social media network — of choice are any indication.
It seems unnecessary — potentially violent, even — to make this a racially charged term, but we do so anyways. We assign these (arguably negative) Starbucks-chugging, yoga-loving qualities to the population group that can best afford the blow.
Why are we so comfortable with using and using and misusing the term “white girl”? How come we don’t throw around the terms “black girl,” “Asian girl,” or “Latina girl” with such ease? It’s because we generally perceive this racial-gendered group, white girls, as one of the least marginalized within the broader population of women (certainly not within the general population as a whole because anyone who has watched five minutes of Fox News knows that the fight for any sister’s rights is far from over, regardless of race).
We are allowed to use “white girl” as freely as we want because the population group from which we derive the term is privileged enough to stand it — at least, in theory.
Why don’t we just say what we mean? Let’s stop using the term “white girl” and instead mock, tease, or call out people more precisely, for characteristics that we find annoying or funny. Or, as difficult as it is to imagine doing this, let’s avoid casting judgment towards other people entirely!
At the end of the day, if you think I’m a princess, I’d rather you call me a princess. I wouldn’t be offended. I totally am — and trust me, I can be ten times more obnoxious than you are prepared to handle. Just don’t call me a “white girl.” Because, babe, I’m not a white girl.