“Sad Girl” is not here for your commodification


Bex Rangel, Reporter

The “Sad Girl Theory” proposes that young girls are being – and have been – silenced, oppressed, and brutalized. Audrey Wollen, the creator of the theory, believes a woman’s internal struggle is a protest against the historically masculine actions of externalization and violence resulting in an individual’s suffering.

The term “Sad Girl” seems easy to understand. The term describes a woman with an identifiable trait. However, the Sad Girl is more inherent than that – it’s her identity. Her identity revolves around both her femininity and her sadness, which intersect. Audrey Wollen said in an interview with Oyster Mag, “I can’t remember a time before sadness, just as I can’t remember a time before girlhood. I don’t know who I’d be without either of them.”

Art and culture have seen the Sad Girl before. She is in the roots of Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe. As Wollen shared on her Instagram, both were women who were sex icons before they were intellects. They have been portrayed as feeble-minded and were unable to keep up with their own socially-defined “womanhood.”

Today, the Sad Girl lives on the internet. She is young, internalizes her hatred, listens to music that makes her a better person, immerses herself in ‘90s pop culture and cries about her state of depression online – mostly anonymously.

So Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram (among other sites) hold home for the archetype, allowing her to paint her self-portrait in the comfort of knowing that no one has to be watching her as she channels her depression into art.

It’s because of this that Wollen believes these aren’t acts of narcissism. Girls are sad because of internalized sexism. In an interview with the magazine Dazed, Wollen says, “It is a gesture of liberation, it is articulate and formed, it is a way of reclaiming agency over our bodies, identities, and lives.”

However, as the theory states, her work is taken for granted, stolen, written off as a joke – nothing to take seriously. Constantly, she is exploited by the very reasons she sought refuge in creating something of her own, for herself. She “drops off the face of the earth” (most recently, the internet) and is never heard of again.

Take the account “coldsuggestion” on Tumblr. Explained on a post through their personal blog, the account was run by a woman who previously was in an abusive relationship. Much of what she wrote was interpretation of her own experience in said relationship, as well as a way to support other victims.

However, the more popularity the blog gained, the more the purpose of the blog was lost in translation. Comments made by anonymous users, asking why the posts were so exclusive to heterosexuality, as well as considering the posts on the coldsuggestion blog to be misandrous, were reasons for the blog to meet its end. She also made note that other blogs with similar titles (lovelysuggestion, sleepysuggestion, etcetera) didn’t give the same platform of support for victims of other traumas.

The last straw was when the creator of the blog was emailed by a fashion company looking to print “coldsuggestion tee shirts” because “we think you have a strong hold on a niche demographic.” To the creator of the blog, this made the situation apparent. Her purpose for creating the blog had been lost or as she put it, “the degradation of content” moved faster than “the production of content.”

The page is still up, however the blog does not post any more “cold suggestions.”

Audrey Wollen herself faced a similar situation. Her Instagram, which was her platform which she used to post her ideas and art to go along with it, holds all of her previous work, as well as her post stating her hiatus. She expressed that critics of her work didn’t understand that she wanted others to consider the Sad Girl Theory as a platform for conversation. Her stance was overridden with confidence and criticism, and with such a following, it left her afraid of saying the wrong thing.

The fact of the matter is, the Sad Girl is an inspiration until she isn’t. Until her purpose fades, is misconstrued, or is degraded out of existence. The Sad Girl, whose form of protest is through her tears, pain, and above all, the art she creates out of those feelings, is not recognized for the good that she does.

The exact reason she creates and designs, produces and builds, forces her out of her own space. Her private corner of the world is forcefully removed from her hands and ceases to be hers.

Perhaps this is the way of the world. The Sad Girl has no place of origin, according to Wollen. The picture of a sad girl, taken time and time again, will be around forever. It’s only a matter of time before we start asking why.