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Brat-Shaming is the New Slut-Shaming (or Why I Love HBO’s “Girls”)

Posted on: April 18, 2012

Long before HBO’s new series Girls was even a glimmer in writer and creator Lena Dunham’s eye, there was another HBO show, also featuring four young women trying to find themselves in New York City. And while Sex and the City will always have a soft spot in my heart (and a huge chunk of space on my DVD shelf), that show was about four women and their relationships with men, because they had their shit together. Only once did any of them really want for money and when Carrie found herself homeless and living in her shoes, she got offered a check by Mr. Big and in the end, a ridiculously expensive ring from Charlotte. These are not the lives of relatable New York women, but what made SATC so incredible was the dynamic between the four of them, the way they loved each other, and the way they so encapsulated the fragile strength of modern-day women.

HBO’s Girls, which premiered this past Sunday night, was a far cry from Manolo Blahniks and Vogue. It was a show less about the relationships of four women with their men and more about the relationships with their lives. And while I have come across a smattering of good reviews, like this one and this one, the show was not received too well. And from the negative reviews that I’ve read (and I’ve read A LOT) they all seem to be saying the same thing: white women who are financially supported by their parents can’t have real life problems. And this is a travesty, this new phenomenon that I call “brat-shaming.”

I was born in 1981, which lands me right on the last leg of Generation X. I spent a good solid 8 years in college, trying to pursue my dreams of being a writer and college professor, only to find myself with a Masters degree I can do nothing with, a weight problem I can’t seem to shake, and a whole slew of mental illnesses, all of which find me still living in the Queens home I grew up in, making me one of those spoiled assholes almost completely supported by my parents.

I am not as forutnate as Lena Dunham’s Girls personna, Hannah, who gets to live in a Brooklyn apartment with a sassy roommate. My parents don’t have the kind of money (or at least they claim they don’t) that could support me in an apartment. Apparently, I’m only supportable while under their constant and watchful (and disapproving) gaze. But I digress. My point is simple. In today’s society (or at least in New York society) there are those people who are forunate enough to have found full-time work. They are often folks who have pulled themselves up by their boot straps and struggle to pay their bills every month while still waking up every morning before the sun. That level of tenacity, that work ethic, admirable, no question.

Then you have the rest of society. The Hannahs of the world, fortunate enough to have parents who can support them while they try to follow their dream. I wanted to be Keats. I wanted to sit in a tree with a spiral notebook and pen sonnets about the Heath. Yeah. I know. And now that it’s 2012 and the economy is in the toilet (and “English” is one of the top worst majors to pursue), I find myself almost as unemployed as I am broke. So why shame me? Why get mad that I can sleep til noon and you can’t? Why not feel blessed, that in an economy so shitty you have managed to be able to do the covetous thing that is earning a living wage. I have never in my life earned enough money at one or more jobs that allowed me to live outside my parents’ home. But I have worked (always from home), and at jobs I’ve hated, just to have some money to help put a dent in my debt and maybe go out for a few drinks with friends once in a blue, or buy myself a new laptop. Never once did I ever look down on those women (or men) like Hannah, who have the luxury of living in a brownstone while interning for free. I don’t even look down on Paris Hilton, so indoctrinated into a life of luxury that she’s incapable of walking without posing. I try not to look down on anyone. Everyone’s worst day is their worst day. Right now there is a homeless man on the street whose only food is the scraps he gets from good samaritans or the dinner he gets from a soup kitchen. Does a starving child in Somalia have the right to judge him simply because his misfortune is worse?

I have the utmost respect for people, like my parents, who work hard. While they’re both retired now, my parents had an enviable work ethic. My father woke up at the crack of dawn every day and stood on his feet all day giving haircuts to folks who didn’t tip. Towards the end of his career he got diagnosed with emphysema, and even though he couldn’t breathe he still went to work. That’s just the kind of man he is. But does that make him a “better person” than fictional Hannah, who considers herself “the voice of a generation” (or maybe just “a voice of a generation”) and wants to pursue her dreams of memoir writing and awkward sex? At the end of the day, the have-nots will always look down their nose at the haves, because of jealousy. But the truth is that any number of my hard-working friends would probably love to be able to sleep til noon and have most of their bills paid for each month. What they wouldn’t love, however, is the rest of it, the not-so-awesome parts. Like how I still don’t have my drivers license and how I can’t walk a goddamn city block.

But contrary to popular belief, I’m not spoiled. I work hard for the things I want that fall outside of the realm of “bills” my parents pay for. Just about everything in my bedroom, from my Holmes fan to my Canon printer to my Sony dvd player, I paid for myself. Yes, that was only doable because my parents cover the basics, but I do have drive. And so does Hannah, or else there’d be no memoir written, no confident requests for a job from her boss. And even if Hannah and I were sitting at home in a cloud of opium tea, contemplating our navels and spending our parents’ hard earned money on designer lamps and eating lunch at the airport, so? What business is that of yours? Jealousy, as they say, is an ugly color on everyone. And the desire to bring fortunate people down to your level so that they too can wallow in your misery is an even uglier color still. The grass is always greener on the other side; I covet your paychecks, and you wish you could sleep til noon. At the end of the day, we both lose or we both win, depending on how we choose to perceive our own little slice of the world. Be better, not bitter, and you’ll go far in life.

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1 Response to "Brat-Shaming is the New Slut-Shaming (or Why I Love HBO’s “Girls”)"

you are not a gen-xer

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