Beyond 'Jappy': It's All About the Betches Now

Do you love talking shit, froyo, and yourself? Do you reminisce endlessly about your semester abroad — not that you actually made any foreign friends, gross — while clicking through hundreds of photos of you and your Sorority Little? Do you know that "collar boning" is the new "skinny arm?" If you've answered "yes" to all of the above, you're probably a Betch. And, thanks to a trio of uncharacteristically hard-working betches, there's a thriving online community just for you.

I wasn't aware of the "Betches Like This" empire until I read today's New York Times profile, but oh, do I know betches, and if you grew up in a metropolitan area or attended a university with a flourishing Greek community, chances are you do, too.

The betch is easily described by the items she owns and consumes since she's so proudly materialistic: Chanel purses, Grey Goose vodka shots, group dinners (during which she only eats salad), cocaine. She's easily described by the things she loves (her sorority, Instagram, "all things neon") and the things she hates (hipsters, spare change, public transportation). You can nab her by the way she talks ("You would!"; "I DIE"; "Casual."). She's summed up perfectly by the first two items on The Betch List: 1. "Talking Shit" and 2. "Not Keeping Up With the News."

It's a little trickier to explain the betch psyche without signifiers, but here's a shot: a betch is a well-groomed party girl who is smart enough to mock her vapid, privileged lifestyle but spoiled enough to endorse it at the same time.

The three young women behind "Betches Like This" know they're selfish — "There are few activities betches love more than those that solely benefit ourselves. Be this working out, doing drugs, charging shit to our dads' credit cards, etc., there's no greater joy to us than an activity that is all about #1" — but seem to think they're rising above by making fun of themselves. Are they, really? Hell, no. But they're making bank.

The "Betches Like This" website and bestselling book — both popular with women ages 18-24 — are satisfying because they're anthropologically detailed and because they spell out stuff people think but don't always want to say out loud, just like a good shit-talking betch should. Much of it is regurgitated from Shit Girls Say/Shit White People Like, but some of it is truly funny self parody. I liked the "Abbrevs" post ("A true betch knows how to unlock the power of the various versions of "okay" to convey her mood"), some deep thoughts on linguistics (like the crucial difference between FML and "my life is a joke") and I laughed at the 'Tis The Season To Take Molly" T-shirt for sale in their small online shop. It's spot-on; my friends and recently discussed how so many of the betches I went to high school with will, bizarrely, leave their sheltered enclaves to go to raves and music festivals.

"How are betches not just Jewish American Princesses?" was my first thought upon discovering the Betch community. I can say that because I'm Jewish, but most people can't (although the Betches cover JAPs, "really just betches-in-training with a proclivity towards the circumcised penis"), and therein lies the mainstream appeal of the Betch: no iffy ethnic stereotypes.

Not that the Betch founders don't have their critics. “I think it tends to blur the line between humor and reality,” Sarah E. Kersh, an English professor at Vanderbilt who discussed Betches Love This in her Feminism and Film class this spring, told the Times. “Instead, I just see it recapitulating stereotypes about women, cruel and unattainable standards and, above all, unquestioned heteronormativity.”

Betches are supposed to be irreverent, not dumb. The three founders — who, true to Betchhood, "didn't branch out," but grew up together and live nearby one another on the Upper East Side — can "just as easily quote Eleanor Roosevelt as they can give a play-by-play of what the actress Amanda Bynes has been up to." They don't want to be role models; one said the site is intended as humor, and advised women looking for empowerment to “go read ‘Lean In.’" (Burn!) But they don't want to be déclassé ignorant idiots, either.

But if you take away the founders' acumen you're left with Betch dregs, as illustrated on the sites forums, where enthusiastic young women who aren't half as clever gather to sympathize about moving to new cities ("There’s even fake Michael Kors here. It’s depressing") and make racist jokes: "I hate my life right now, and I can't even tell my old friends or ask them for advice because they'd gloat like a black girl who just scored a fake Louis. Help me."

"I wouldn’t want to be friends with a racist asshole either…." one commenter wrote. "You sound like a sweetheart," said another betch, with genuine empathy. "I’m sure you’ll figure it out. I agree, workout and dress cute."

Self-aware betches may be entertaining for some, but their impact on oblivious betches is horrible for everyone.

[NYT]