In Defense of the Manic Pixie Muppet Babies

A Julie Klausner nightmare: bunny earrings from Etsy (shop: PennysLane)

[Ed. note: hey y’all, remember Austin’s Allison from Ask A Texan? She wrote another thing for us.]

As a kid, and even as a teen, I never wanted to grow up. Being an adult, as far as I could tell, looked like no fun at all. You had to go to work, and worry about money, and you had horrible taste in movies and music, and you said stupid shit like, “Wow, this year has just flown by.” I could see that being a kid was a pretty sweet deal.

As an adult, I’m pleased to find that it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s a pretty sweet deal. I really like being a grownup. But most of what makes it such a sweet deal is choice — I decide how to spend my time and money, I decide what I want to do. As long as I have my shit together, I get to decide what adulthood looks like for me.

Julie Klausner’s Don’t Fear The Dowager: A Valentine to Maturity is about what it means to be an adult. The specific kind of adult Julie Klausner approves of.

She lists any number of things she feels are not appropriately indicative of adulthood, including: kittens, whoopie pies, rompers, bunny rabbits, craft fairs, and laughing a lot. She feels that we women are acting too much like little girls, and we’re doing it to attract men:

“And despite the facade of cliqueishness, and female friendship, and the Romy & Michelle’ness of gal-pal fun times, let’s be real. We all know these manic pixie Muppet Babies are really just in it for the peen. And instead of acting like a woman who might remind a skittish bro more of his teacher or his mother, we’re going for the pubeless, twee, Anime-eyed version of whatever dream girl we assume they want or need.”

Instead of being girls, we should be women, Klausner argues. We should be Kathleen Turner, on the floor, in lingerie. Because that is definitely not about what men want; I lay in that position naturally all the time! (Or we should be Michelle Obama, and believe me, I’d love that, but I’m awful at the Dougie.)

But how are things like whoopie pies and buying jewelry on Etsy indicative of immaturity? What is inherently juvenile about that? Does your average child really like craft fairs? And if bunny rabbits and laughing a lot are childish, my God, your version of adulthood must suck.

I admit that some of my defensiveness is because I like an awful lot of the things she rails against. I’m pro-kitten. I own a lot of jewelry from Etsy, and yes, I basically know Clueless by heart. But I don’t know Clueless by heart because I think it will make me more attractive to guys; if I had to guess, I’d assume it might be a turnoff, especially if the dude finds out I want him to be able to discuss its merits as an update of Emma while we watch. I don’t like the things I like because I assume they make me attractive to men. I like them because that’s what I like, and why anyone likes anything is a constellation of ideas and inspirations and influences that would be pretty difficult to map. It’s ridiculous to assume that all the trends you don’t like exist solely because the women participating in them are trying to attract guys. Nobody’s taste is that good.

There’s definitely something to be said about, and an eyebrow to be raised at, the popularity of rompers for grown women, or lacy anklet socks, or Katy Perry thinking being a teenager is the hottest. I’m not denying the trend exists, but Klausner is pushing a lot of stuff under the umbrella of “overly juvenile” that I don’t think belongs there. What she’s hating on is preciousness. I don’t much care for preciousness either, but I don’t think florals and bunny rabbits are inherently precious.

Klausner wants us to behave like grownups because “the larger issue is that it is a lot easier for men—or even guys or bros—to demean us, if we’re girls. It’s much harder to bring down a woman, or to call her a moron, when she’s not in pigtails and Ring Pops.” And she’s right, in a way. It is easier for men to demean girls than women. But it’s hardest to demean a woman who knows herself and her taste, and who owns that. That’s being a grownup.

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7 Responses to In Defense of the Manic Pixie Muppet Babies

  1. Great post! I read Klausner’s ideas on women acting mature and I couldn’t identify with much of it. (I, too, love Etsy because I like to buy handmade and support local artisans. The only thing I’ve bought from there to attract a man is when my fiance and I purchased our wedding bands off Etsy.) She doesn’t seem to account for individual taste in her post, which interests me. Are adult women not allowed to like kittens? Or are we just not allowed to display our love of kittens through ephemera? Because there is a difference, and Klausner, IMO, isn’t making it clear. You’re right, Allison – being a grownup means, among many other things, knowing yourself and your taste, and owning it.

  2. It’s also upsetting that she’s equating all of these choices with what wearing lipstick used to be and demeaning that. Frankly, women owning their choices to be feminine OR youthful should be celebrated as their choices, because they often are informed choices about who they want to be. It’s the same as berating a woman wearing heals for discounting decades of women fighting not to wear heals- it glosses over the idea that choice is the point, not just the freedom to be a certain kind of woman but the freedom to be any woman you want. The idea that women are blindly following trends and need to be enlightened is, honestly, really patronizing and insulting.

  3. WhatTamiSaid had a good post on this and how it applies to women of color. there’s a short, but good convo in the comments too, about how there’s a difference between including these things in your life and centering your life around them.

    on the etsy thing: most of my wedding was etsy designed and i don’t think it was overly twee or immature. plus, as the commenter at tami’s blog points out, crafting is a traditionally feminine art and klausner is just out and out disparaging one of the best forums to bring those artists together and give them access to new customers. i’m assuming she’s never gone to one of the big etsy gatherings that happen around the country (like our local EtsyDallas spring & holiday sales). it’s truly inspiring to see so many people, mostly women, doing something they love and being able to make a living at it. they’re professional as hell and kicking ass in a ROUGH industry (serious ballers, as andrea might say) and i have nothing but respect for them.

  4. joereform says:

    Other than her lousy attempts to shock with imagery (that opening sentence — seriously?), I didn’t see anything terribly objectionable. I don’t agree with her conclusion that having the same fashion and interests as a tween is particularly appealing to grown men, at least the kind of grown men who don’t cruise middle school parking lots. To the contrary, I think I represent a majority of adult males who do not find it attractive when a woman’s musical tastes are two steps up from Radio Disney and when a woman clearly in her late 30’s strolls into a movie theater with her self-made “Team Edward” T-shirt on. While Kathleen Turner’s character in Body Heat and Stanwyck’s in Double Indemnity can be off-putting to men, it is not because those women don’t act like little girls.

    There is little in her post to support the notion that women who shares interests with the typical high-school freshman are doing it to attract men, anyway. I think it can be chalked up to the way our culture worships youth rather than embraces maturity. That is not gender-specific at all.

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  6. “[I]t’s hardest to demean a woman who knows herself and her taste, and who owns that. That’s being a grownup.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion, Allison. However, I can’t overstate how race factors into this persona. You’d never find a person like me, an Asian American woman in her late 20’s, defending MPDGs simply because I refuse to self-identify as one.

    Because of my small stature and comparatively youthful features–and because I’m Asian American–I have been ascribed the label of MPDG (in the most negative sense) far too many times by women and men of all ages and races. (Not overtly, but I can tell they’ve labeled me by the way I’m treated). It’s gotten to the point that when I even mention the fact that I own a Hello Kitty doll, male acquaintances assume I’m some sort of obsessed Beanie-Baby-collecting freak with annoyingly girlish habits and a prudish persona.

    And yet…I own up to the fact that I unabashedly love vintage Sanrio, craft fairs and Etsy. I also own up to the fact that I like goth/punk clothing, indie and electronic music, Irish novelists, feminist blogs and zines, and pie a la mode (lots of it).

    The thing is, in secret, I know I’m kind of an MPDG. Just like I know I’m a huge nerd, a bookworm, and a wannabe superhero. But I don’t want to let it define me and feed into a stereotype about Asian women. And for other women of color who aren’t Asian, it seems like they’re experiencing the exact opposite problem in that nobody thinks they can experience childlike glee. Something to think about…

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