My friend Sam linked to a great piece on Medium about “douchebag” as a slur. Professor Cohen, the author, made an interesting aside that I can’t fully reconcile, however. I don’t often include larger quotes, but in case you don’t read the entire (excellent) essay, this paragraph is what I’m talking about:
A common critique of the hipsters — indeed a confusion of the hipster and douchebag — is that they, the hipsters, serve as the thin edge of the wedge of gentrification. But this is, to my mind, unfair. Broke-ass twenty-somethings crushed under the weight of student loan payments and low earning potential in a crap economy have to live somewhere cheap. And given that the hipster is totally ok with living in racially diverse neighborhoods, they often find themselves cast into the role of pioneers of whiteness in Washington Heights or West Oakland. However, it takes a douchebag to see the financial profit to be gained in pushing poor people of color out of their homes. The hipster brings art, coffee and cocktails to a neighborhood, the douchebag brings reconstruction contractors, private security and real estate agents. The hipster seeks community, the douchebag seeks urban rental profits. The hipster might start a coffee shop in a poor, black neighborhood, but the douchebag wants to call the cops on the black men on the corner right after he turns your indy coffee shop into a Starbucks.
Setting aside my distaste for the term “hipster”, I think the author misses the fact that many of the folks to which he ascribes the label are latent douchebags. Plenty of the “pioneers of whiteness” (outstanding turn of phrase) are urban explorers living out their twenties with the assistance of (or plan-B-return to) upper middle class parents. How many of the douchebags seeking rental profits started out as “hipsters” seeking community? When the patience and/or money of their parents run out, many of the pioneers complete Growing Up Phase 2 and start to take advantage of their surroundings.
Okay, part of that sneering reductivism could be my own preconceived notion that some folks, as Jarvis Cocker would sing), “…think that poor is cool.” I don’t mean to take the shine off an otherwise great piece. I just found that little hipster/gentrification section to be a bit…incomplete.