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Meet The Swipples

If you have spent much time on the blogosphere you will likely have come across the phrase SWPL (say it as “swipple”). This is an initialism meaning Stuff White People Like. That phrase comes from the satirical blog

Ostensibly the aim of StuffWhitePeopleLike is to inform a non-White person how to ingratiate themselves with the white majority. Of course this is not what it is really about. The blog brilliantly satirizes a certain segment of the population. It is the same small part of the population that David Brooks would call BoBos and some refer to as whiterpeople. This, almost entirely white, group define themselves more by attitudes than possessions. And of course those attitudes have to be “correct.”

The Swipples are the result of a prosperous society.  In a prosperous society it becomes more and more difficult to achieve status through stuff. In a wealthy society you do not really increase your status by having 5,000 square feet instead of 4,000. you do not really increase your status by having a 50 inch plasma instead of a 40 inch LCD television1. I mean, which has more status, a late model BMW or a late model Lexus?

Moving status markers from things to attitudes gives the whiterperson many opportunities to one-up their neighbors. Purchasing a new car is trouble and costly. Installing a new kitchen will disrupt the household. But new attitudes can be adopted for free and with little disruption to your lifestyle. Talking about “economic injustice” does not require you to move out of your gated community. Praising multi-culturism can entail nothing more arduous than hiring a Mexican gardener or Filipino maid. Pontificating on the importance of “public education” does not mean you have to send you children to government schools2.

You do not even have to give up buying stuff, you can engage in conspicuous non-consumption. The perfect Swipple non-consumption item is the Prius. This is 25 thousand dollars of non-consumption. It is three thousand pounds of metal, glass, and plastic shipped thousands of miles so you can save the environment. The Prius would likely not have sold as well if it were stylish and less “obvious” because then that non-consumption would be harder to spot. If you bought a Ford Escape Hybrid you had to make do with a little leaf logo and a small “hybrid” badge. The Prius made your moral virtue obvious to the world.

The thing to remember about the Swipples is that, despite their protests, they are all about status seeking. It is about showing that you are a “better” person than those other unenlightened souls.
I like my status symbols to be useful or fun. So despite being able to tick some of the SWPL boxes, I will never be part of the club. Guess I will have to make do with a 50 … no make that 80-inch plasma screen.

1  Indeed not owning a TV is popular amongst the SWPLers.
2  A blogger by the name of Gotham Girl praised the diversity of public schools yet sends her own children to a 30 thousand dollar a year private school. [link] [Google cache]

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