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Taylor Swift and the Commodification of Girl Gangs

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Let’s Stop Buying Girl Gang Merch

When you type “girl gang” into the search bar of any retailer’s website in 2016, the results are sure to be plentiful. On Forever 21, you’ll find, among other items, a bomber jacket that suggests you “join a girl gang” on the back. On Etsy, there’s a seemingly endless hole of girl gang tote bags and jewelry to fall down. On the site for Local Girl Gang, a newly launched women’s streetwear brand, you get T-shirts, hoodies, and even skateboards emblazoned with the phrase.

But run the same search on any news site, and you’re hit with the uncomfortable reminder that girl gangs are real. And they’re not quirky, they’re not clever, and they’re certainly not cute.

Don’t get me wrong, the bit isn’t lost on me. I’m all for having a constant group of supportive women in your life. (I surely have no idea how I would navigate this laugh-so-you-don’t-cry world without mine.) But when we package it up with a term that already exists, for something so ugly that we very rarely discuss, it just doesn’t feel right. Fashion’s use of the phrase is corny at best, dangerously careless at worst.

Girl gang sweatshirt.

According to the US Department of Justice, much of the research on gang violence, past and present, has ignored girls or trivialized female gangs, leaving us only with devastatingly frequent news reports of teenage girls attacked, oftentimes fatally, in local parks and high school bathrooms as proof of their very real existence.

In large cities and rural towns alike, young girls are recruited into lives of violence by neighborhood leaders. They often have no choice and are forced to join gangs as a means of survival. And when you take into account that members of these gangs are largely African American and Latina, the fact that so many makers and consumers of girl gang merch are white throws the problem into even starker relief.

Why is this phrase, one that positions itself under the guise of feminism, so popular when it is so far from inclusive? And why are consumers so ready to buy every hat, pin, and even mesh bra with the phrase printed, pressed, or sewn across it?

Like most things, I’d like to blame this commodification on Taylor Swift. The premiere of her “Bad Blood” video — which was basically four minutes of A-list women kicking ass — back in 2014 ushered in the newfound importance of assembling your girl gang. But I know the root of the problem goes way deeper than that.

As a black woman, I’m uncomfortably aware of the less-than-critical practices in the fashion industry. I can understand the demand and subsequent supply of these supposedly-witty-but-actually-ignorant pieces, but I shouldn’t have to.

So what am I hoping for now? A total evaporation of all girl gang merch is impossible, but maybe now you’ll think twice about what these words mean for everyone before you buy yet another “girl gang” patch. At the very least, I hope you’ve been convinced to lean on another irritating, albeit less offensive, phrase to signal you have a group of friends — I’d even take a resurgence of “squad” over this. Tanisha Pina, associate market editor

Everything You Need to Know About P50, the Stinky, Burning Skincare Product Everyone Loves
Lotion P50

I’ve been listening to Britt drone on about Biologique Recherche’s Lotion P50 for almost a year now. I think it smells like a rotten nail salon and have seen great results from Retin-A and my trusty Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads, so I was skeptical. She swears it’s changed her skin. But I can admit I’m in the minority here, because every single person I’ve talked to who has used it loves it and insists it’s life- and skin-changing. Women everywhere are dropping $90 on what is essentially stinky water that burns your face. Fine. I decided to commit and have been using it for a few months.

Which is why on Tuesday Dr. Philippe Allouche was scrutinizing my skin: “You need lipids! And stop using the P50 1970!” The second part of this pronunciation is disconcerting coming from the man who owns the company that makes it.

French brand Biologique Recherche has been making Lotion P50 for more than 40 years. While it produces dozens of other skincare products, P50 is by far its most well-known and most beloved product. Beauty editors rave about it. Fashion people rave about it. People who are skincare geeks rave about it. Madonna uses it (allegedly). Britt has a friend who was recently asked if she’d gotten Botox, but no, she’s just been using P50 twice daily. This type of hyperbolic story is commonplace when P50 comes up.

It’s not a lotion at all in the conventional sense, but a clear, watery chemical exfoliator that you can apply with a cotton pad, like a toner, or directly onto your face. It exfoliates, can get rid of dark spots, can help get rid of acne, regulates sebum, and imparts a general glowiness. Have I mentioned it smells absolutely disgusting? Britt calls it formaldehyde, and as a person who spent several semesters with cadavers in an anatomy lab, I agree with this description.

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What they do: Principal Designer, Cucina Moda
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