You know what sucks. Feeling upset, hurt or really just sad. Perhaps it has finally been made clear that the guy or girl who you were interested in did not really have the same feelings for you, perhaps you were unable to afford to see your favourite band play or perhaps one of your good friends no longer seems at all interested in being friends with you. But I will tell you what’s worse, and that is battling mental illness or unresolved trauma. Yes, it was horrible, and it felt incredibly isolating. And since there was no one who you could really chat to at the time, there was just one way by which we could make ourselves feel a little better. This being a seemingly horrible looking online community from an outside perspective, but it felt rather nice if you were part of it. One where the state of being sad was almost romanticised. It felt safe, and you could openly be sad without any of the stigma that was usually attached. In fact, it was almost enjoyable.
What is the Sad Girl
According to the Capacious Journal, the sad girl is most present on Tumblr and Instagram. A typical example of content circulated by sad girls would be something like an animated text reading something like “having a threesome with anxiety and depression;” quite possibly in glitter writing. Although this may seem a little strange from an outsiders perspective, often expressing it in some way can be very helpful. As it is not always easy for people to speak about it in a serious manner, especially if their family and/or friends are not of the most understanding. Therefore, it is easier for the young person to turn to a community where they are able to talk about their struggles in a humorous manner. While of course discussing something in a jokey way makes it easier to talk about. Although, there may be some who would suggest that it would be more constructive to seek a therapist. Nonetheless, whilst therapy is something that is very important, when one is stuck in a toxic environment which is quite common for young people, it can be very difficult to recover. Whilst therapy takes time, and it is something that many people who may need it, do not necessarily have access to. Therefore, taking to posts portraying general feelings of unhappiness and struggles with mental illness can provide some means of feeling better at the time, and it can also enable people to gain an insight into their problems, meaning that they would be more able to grow from it in the future.
Problems with the Sad Girl
Nonetheless, there are some problems with the sad girl portrayal, which need to be discussed. As the article continues, “among the sad girls…sadness and depression become normal,” being something to “strive for” and even becomes cool. Which can result in consequences. For instance, there is the problem of these posts reaching the wrong audience, and by that, I mean very young audiences who do not understand the messages behind these posts, or this portrayal. This could lead to these people perceiving being mentally ill as something that is “cool,” meaning they would be more likely to self diagnose. Therefore, people who are actually struggling would be less likely to be taken seriously. Furthermore, it could potentially lead young women to decide to remain confortable in a state of unhappiness, rather than take steps to begin healing when they are in a position to do so.
There are many artists who could resemble the sad girl, but today I will focus on Lana Del Rey. Her music most certainly matches up to the sad girl vibe, with glorifying states of melancholia and even abuse. And, I know from experience that a large element of her fan base are young teenage girls. And because of hearing those lyrics at a young age, these experiences become normalised. This could result in young women being less likely to open up about experiences with violence, and therefore reinforcing the patriarchal dominance of the man being above the woman in a relationship, which pushes back the feminist work concerning violence.
Although according to some feminists, the sad girl portrayal is not all negative. As hellogiggles.com states, some feminists may claim that the movement has revolutionized what we perceive as a strong woman, by taking actions and emotions previously seen as weak and turning them into a strength. As I hope you will agree, expressing emotions doesn’t make one weak, in fact it is a sign of strength. Therefore, if women are more emotional than men, then it is a positive trait which needs to be celebrated rather than criticized. This way, it is a way of empowering women. Nonetheless, I would now like to put forth my point of view, in that the sad girl is in many ways rather anti-feminist. This is because it conveys the message that the Sad Girl is someone who yearns for a relationship, for a man, who cannot keep her mental state intact or be strong in life. Yet she gets treated badly by men. This implies that it is ok to remain in a toxic relationship or go for toxic men. If a younger teenager were to be exposed to this, they may see it as something which is completely fine, or even ideal, rather than trying to challenge the motions against being trapped in a unhealthy situation. Therefore, the general message it gives off, is that it is ok for women in dark places to seek unhealthy help through dangerous ways, rather than encouraging them to help themselves, or seek help in other ways such as through friends. Furthermore, it conveys the idea that women who are struggling basically require a man to save them, therefore it is very suggestive of the view that women are weaker than men.
Another thing about the sad girl aesthetic is that it really is not inclusive at all. As lick.com states, the Internet Sad Girl only caters to the Sad White Girl. Meanwhile, the sadness and struggles of women of color or the sadness of the impoverished were and still are virtually ignored on social media. This makes sense, considering that more privileged people are more likely to have access to mental health resources, therefore they are more likely to be in the position where they are not only able to begin treatment, but in the position where they are made aware of what it is that they are suffering from. Furthermore, it is more likely that they will have more time on their hands to be able to find content which resonates with them online, compared to their less privileged counterparts who are more likely to have to work.
5 thoughts on “The Sad Girl”
This Gen-X-er is totally out to lunch on all things Gen-Z, so I’d never heard of the sad girl. Maybe I’m just too old to get it, but the creation of these stereotypes/aesthetics/whatever they are and then people’s adherence to them seems strange to me.
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Interesting post – it’s almost the counter idea for men – that we should never be sad and only ever be strong/emotionless creatures. Emotions are both a strength and a weakness in my eyes. It very much depends on how you relate to them. Thank you for sharing 🙏
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I strongly agree with you, and it is a real shame that there is so much stigma against men showing their emotions. I can see where you are coming from with showing emotions being a strength and weakness, I suppose it depends on when you let them out and how you let them out.
I strongly agree with your take especially that the sad girl aesthetic only caters to sad white women and often leaves out WOC.
I’m roughly a thousand years old, so I come at this from a different angle, but I wonder if there isn’t an element of falling in love with sadness, with being the sad girl–romanticizing it, eroticizng it, even. At which point, a person can get stuck there.