So I live in New York City, and we have a pretty strong contingent of what locals call "hipsters". I realize I may sound a bit like an old fogey by quoting the group of people like that -- I know the category has been around for a while in various regions of the country -- but I still approach the idea with some confused caution.

I guess I need a working definition before I start analysis:

"Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter." (Urbandictionary, No. 2)

And what's important for my criticism is this definition as it relates to feminism and gender progress (particularly for men): "Hipsters shun mainstream societal conventions that apply to dating preferences and traditional "rules" of physical attraction....The concepts of androgyny and feminism have influenced hipster culture, where hipster men are often as thin as the women they date. The muscular and athletic all-American male ideal is not seen as attractive by confident and culturally-empowered hipster women who instead view them as symbols of male oppression, sexism, and misogyny." (Urbandictionary, No. 2)

I understand that there's only so much that Urbandictionary can really help with regard to critiques of an entire culture of people, but you get the idea. In an attempt to subvert many conservative aspects of society, this new culture is formed that draws its group lines with passion and confidence. And that's what first freaks me out, I guess. In creating this super liberal group for themselves, my interactions with hipsters have often been somewhat jarring because I don't listen to the right music (especially if you listen to something're done), I don't dress like them, I don't have politics like them. Cultures like this become hypercultures with clearly delimited lines that serve to exclude.

But I think my real point is less whining about how there's this super cool group I don't feel comfortable hanging out with. My real, somewhat academic interest here has to do with images of masculinity and desire. Hipster guys do something somewhat revolutionary in that they have seemingly recreated images of desirable men. They can wear eyeliner, wear tight jeans, and basically dress like a stereotypical gay guy -- and still be considered attractive by a large group of (hipster-minded) people. Pretty amazing. Normally being this kind of guy in any other circumstance would not produce this effect.

My critique, however, is that I'm highly skeptical that hipster culture is actually addressing some of the real issues that also exist among more hegemonic forms of masculinity. Particularly when hipster culture seems to center itself around being "the new kind of cool", part of me worries that this "new [hipster] man" is really just a repackaging of a largely dominant manhood. Are hipster men more willing to be more submissive in romantic situations? Are they willing to be romantically sought, or are they still expected to be the romantic and sexual aggressor? And as far as taking steps towards more egalitarian sexual relationships, I am curious if women are invoking more dominant roles in the bedroom or if sexual practices are the same [read: non-egalitarian] as in more traditional relationships. Are hipster men in relationships part of a more progressive approach to labor -- are they doing the dishes, staying home with the kids, or not having a masculinity crisis because they're not the breadwinners?

Too many questions. Hipsters out there, give me some answers!

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