Dissecting Girl-on-Girl Apartment Envy

I’m a bit of an art fanatic. I’ll spend hours reading Christie’s catalogs in used book stores or browsing different art sites looking for great new art. And ever since I happened upon Jordi Labanda‘s prints during my semester abroad in Spain, I’ve always had a thing for fun, fashion artists as the “lighter fare” of my art habit. What’s not to like about these impossibly proportioned women in current fashions set against glamorous urban and exotic backdrops? And when one of my other favorite fashion artists, Inslee, started an instagram for her imaginary muse, Daphne, I just had to write about it. Inslee is ridiculously talented and an incredibly witty writer to boot. She captures that New York City fashionable girl-in-the-know zeitgeist exactly, but with enough humor and winking to let you know she’s not trying to make you, dear reader, feel less than like some fashion magazines might, but instead share this light-filled world with some good old-fashioned self-deprecating humor and assure you that she’s not taking it seriously and nor should you.I don’t often wear ponchos. But when I do they’re @vince and they’re three hundred dollars.

So Inslee’s light-hearted poke at fashion bloggers and the envy they inspire made me think a little more about that funny little thing known as girl-on-girl envy. Now, obviously there is a doctoral dissertation’s worth of information to analyze and present on this topic, not to mention that gender inequality, politics and discrimination cases are a big part of the media-driven conversation right now. But I’d like to narrow this topic way down to a few points that I find most interesting, especially as it relates to the women-dominated arenas of fashion and beauty:

Girl-on-girl envy and fascination in the form of fashion blogs has a much smaller men’s counterpart: I can’t think of many guy bloggers who have hundreds of thousands of gushing male followers. Women create these blogs for other women, and women make up their audience. Maybe the best male counterexample are in fitness and “domination” blogs like Bold & Determined, whose audience tends to skew mostly male.

Most of the focus on the biggest fashion blogs is aspirational- living a dream lifestyle with very little work to get there. Women are often most envied when they didn’t work to get what they have- inherited or married wealth is greatly preferable to earning it with your own two hands (this is what Inslee makes fun of so well with Daphne and her art, albeit ever-so-subtly).

It’s easy to get caught up in envying these fashion bloggers for their “stuff”: their ability to acquire so many shockingly expensive items that are out of reach for the average fashion blog reader, who is 18-35 and earns $35,000-$60,000 annually.

Yet, if the reader truly wanted to have the same lifestyle, she would be focused on doing the few things that most fashion bloggers write about sparingly: either working in tech, engineering or finance, owning cash-flow positive businesses, building wealth from investing and saving, or doing some other work that is in demand and requires skills-skills other than looking good and owning high-end designer items.

Finally, fashion and women’s media (Vogue, Allure, Cosmopolitan, et al) place very little value on a women having a personality, true charisma, a strong character and intelligence that gets her places. Instead, they are subtly placed in boxes with titles like “Girl Boss” and “It Girl” and all of these other ridiculous, totally bullshit titles that are meant to limit women. This last point is less about girl-on-girl envy and more about how women are portrayed by the media, but it’s such a prevalent theme whenever women are discussed that women will even use these titles themselves, not thinking that they have limiting and negative effects.

There’s no dramatic conclusion here, I just wanted to reiterate the point that women’s magazines tend to make women feel crappy, and the fashion bloggers have the audience to do something groundbreaking, but mostly, they tend to stick with the tried-and-true and go for aspirational, mysterious (how did I get all this money to buy all this stuff?), and reinforce the idea that women are most valued for being pretty, skinny and rich, and any and all other positive qualities come in a distant, barely-visible-on-the-radar second.