Wannabes, Goths, and Christians Response
In Wannabes, Goths, and Christians, Amy C. Wilkins poses several arguments. However, the most important one is that being of a white race in campus means being without a cultural identity due to the lack of an exotic background. This, she explains, is caused by the fact that being white is the typical culture. Therefore, nobody looks at it as a cultural identity. In order to compensate, white youths are turning to the more deviant cultures such as Black and Puerto Rican hip-hop and evangelical Christian organizations. The main subgroups discussed in the book include Wannabes, Goths and Christians. The first two cultures have unique forms of identity such as dress codes, glamour, Goth and morose. Religion is associated with rejecting partying and romance within campuses, and maintaining a conservative dress code.
In order to provide evidence for her argument, she engages in an intimate ethnography with members of these subcultures. In her quest, she has revealed a conflicting scenario of balancing between class, gender and race demands imposed by transgressing from one subculture to another, which requires conforming to expectations of each. She enters their lives, and does what they do on normal days such as going to parties and wears their attire. One thing she notes is that these subcultures do offer the young people, especially women, a chance to engage with other racial lines and multiple sexual partners. While those in the Black and Puerto Rican Hip-Hop cultures engage in different strategies for finding multiple partners, those in evangelical groups give up romance for spiritual nourishment. The three subgroups have their distinct values and expectations to which members are required to conform.
In the starting chapter, she is engaged by Hyacinth, Molly and Jaclyn, who are white women, each in one of the three subcultures. Hyacinth is the first one, who says her name represents her ideal self-identity. When first introduced, she is in her apartment making some sewing adjustments on some clothes in order to conform to her style. She cites that she has had multiple partners, which she is proud of and believes is right. She further says it is possible to love more than one man at the same time. Hyacinth is in the Goth subcultures, which has its unique style (Wilkins 1).
The second character discussed in the book is Molly, whom we understand to be a Christian because of the kind of events she attends. Two of the events are bible studies and unity meetings. In addition, she is dressed conservatively as evangelical Christianity demands of her. However, she reveals a little of her past. She was sexually active before becoming an evangelical Christian but decided to quit dating and sex. This indicates the expectations of the evangelical Christian subgroups, mainly foregoing sex and partying to serve God (Wilkins 1).
The first time the readers are introduced to Jaclyn, she is searching for something that Wilkins could wear to a Black hip-hop club she plans to take her. The author has already undergone waxing on the eyebrows and has twisted her hair into the ideal hip-hop style. She cites that Jaclyn has dated both Black and Puerto Rican men from when she was in high school. She goes ahead to say that interracial dating is considered a lifestyle, which encourages girls to do it (Wilkins 2).
These examples offer the perfect evidence for the argument. The argument suggests that white youths do not view their race as having a cultural identity. The three women are white, living within a ten-mile radius, but in different subcultures, which do not represent their race. Hyacinth is in the Goth culture because of her dark and creative style, while Molly is in the evangelical category. Jaclyn, on the other hand, is in the cross racial subculture that many call Puerto Rican wannabe. They are all different, in terms of looks, dress code and behavior. Additionally, they engage in different social activities. However, it is important to notice that all of them seek to belong and identify with a certain culture. This could be by choice while for some it could be circumstances. This proves that white youths, especially women, want to associate with the rest of the community by conforming to certain subcultures.
However, this raises the question of why white youths want to be accepted by other subcultures yet they are the majority. Although this question might seem difficult to answer, Wilkins answers it by simply saying these youths are seeking to be cool and authentic. She further says, “Like most contemporary Americans, Goths, Christians and wannabes see themselves as individuals making independent choices and enacting their authentic selves. Yet, both problems and their solutions are anchored to gender, race and class,” (Wilkins 2). This proves that the young white Americans are responding to dilemmas that they face everyday but find solutions in such subcultures. These subcultures are the ways in which young people approach conflicting demands posed by the soon-to-be adult responsibilities. Each of the subcultures provides a way for dealing with risk, failure, success, personal identity and security (Wilkins 2). Therefore, being in such groups provide a sense of belonging.
In conclusion, the
author provides very clear evidence for her argument. Suggesting that the white
race has no cultural identity may sound unfair considering they are the
majority. However, citing that it is the mainstream and has no uniqueness
explains it all. In addition, there is no subculture associated to the white
race such as there is for African Americans and Puerto Ricans. Lack of such a
subculture that associates with entertainment and coolness leads the white
youths to join the other groups. Furthermore, Wilkins uses interviews and
engages with the young people in order to find out about the subcultures. This
makes the evidence very legitimate and compelling considering it is coming from
the people it affects most. The author did a good job defending her arguments,
to which it is hard to find a counterargument.
Wilkins, Amy C. Wannabes, Goths, and Christians: The Boundaries of Sex, Style, and Status. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Print.