As we all browsed Emily Badger’s Atlantic Cities post on her own civic inferiority complex last week, the question above was in quite a few heads, namely my own. Now, I attempt to sort through all the good and bad things that this idea provokes.
First, a primer to this discussion. Take a look at the Urban Dictionary’s definition of hipster and pseudo-hipster. The former is admittedly a new word for what was once known as bohemian culture in decades past. In essence, there has always been a counterculture and hipster is just a new name for it. Yet, the latter definition really intrigued me. I had no clue that it was on the site before I went there. However, upon a closer inspection, I find that this type of person may also be our true Pseudosuburbanist.
This person is going along with the hipster trend because it is the thing to do, no different than how people fell into the suburban pattern of living. Chuck Marhon has a good post up about this type of thinking and how it created and continues to perpetrate the suburban pattern.
While Badger may have defined herself as a pseudosuburbanist a little differently than I will here, the concepts that she discussed can also be identified as pseudosuburbanist problems. If one is comfortable with where they live, no matter what people say about the place, then the technicality of suburb vs. city vs. rural town vs. town-that-used-to-be-independent-until-a-bigger-city-sprouted-up-beside-it is irrelevant.
Let me insert a quick reminder that the real problem with our cities is that walkability, transit connectivity and safe housing are not available for everyone, no matter the income level and the skinniness of jeans.
However, to get back to the idea of PseudoSuburbanist=Hipster, we also need to address the trendiness of coming back to the city. This weekend, I attended a cultural festival that had over 5,000 attendants in a city of 270,000. That’s a picture from it at the top of the post. I think it was great that so many people came downtown, including my own mom, who hadn’t been down there in some years. Yet, are these people coming downtown for the right reasons? Would they come downtown even if it was only quirky stores? Would they come down in some places if it didn’t look like the Design District or SoHo? Will these same people who love this “downtown lifestyle” stay past their children growing older?
In some cases people are staying behind. They are improving their schools, adding playgrounds and also interacting with multiple cultures and generations.
Yet, there are far too many people who are gentrifying areas to the point that some slums now have a neo-suburban feel. Not all of this is the fault of the people themselves. It’s the fault of the old real estate adages, some of which are still codified into housing covenants. The most offensive of these adages is that Anglo=value and non-Anglo group= poor and less valuable. Also, a clean neighborhood isn’t bad, unless clean means more white people and less people of other cultures, no matter their income level or style of living.
I think this is the pseudosuburbanism and pseudohipsterism that we really need to concern ourselves with. Otherwise, here’s to hipsterism. It’s high time the mainstream culture start to accept that it’s a salad bowl and not a melting pot. And this PseudoSuburbanist concept? That wouldn’t even exist and that’s not a bad thing.