How The ‘VSCO Girl’ Subculture Has Become Engulfed By Self-deprecation And Internalized Misogyny


Jillian Breen

Remember growing up and seeing crowds of girls lined up waiting for the infamous tween pop star Justin Bieber? I sure do, mainly because I was a Belieber, repping all purple (Justin’s favorite color) and having posters covering my wall floor to ceiling. Although one can argue the Belieber fandom was full of toxicity in terms of sending death threats to Selena Gomez, or trampling the Biebs if spotted in public. 

The reason the Belieber fandom is becoming a more relevant topic again today is because many people are growing more and more curious on how teenage girl fads and trends work and why they become so popular. With the various teen girl subcultures that have been increasing in popularity like the VSCO (pronounced ‘VIS-co’) girl and/or E-girl, the intricacies of teen girls and what they like are being more explored. 

To start, what is a VSCO girl? This teen girl subcultures can be traced back to a few years ago, with the rise of Youtuber Emma Chamberlain and other internet stars, like Hannah Meloche and Haley Pham. Emma Chamberlain is typically hailed as the queen of VSCO girls, as she is known to have started the trend. Her early videos show her wearing all of the typical VSCO girl things, like teddy bear jackets, scrunchies, oversized t-shirts etc. However, just like the title of the subculture, the photo-editing app VSCO comes into play. VSCO is a dual photo-editing/social media app that likes to market itself as the ‘better Instagram’ because they don’t show likes, follows, or republishes. VSCO also comes with a certain aesthetic to it, typically a link being kept in every teenage girls Instagram bio leading you to their VSCO page. Bright, yet grainy photos, vintage-esque filters that resemble polaroids, a lot of dogs and artsy quotes about being sad. Although VSCO may be viewed as mainly a photo-editing app, it is a social media just like Instagram or Twitter, and with that trends start to pop up because of them. Usually scrolling through my VSCO feed, the past few years I’ve noticed more and more the trends on VSCO and what gets photos republished. Normally, all of the popular photos on VSCO feature a very tan, blonde, blue-eyed teen girl with a messy bun, oversized t-shirt with an expensive bikini under, Birkenstocks, scrunchies, maybe throw a few Pura Vida bracelets and rings in there. Now, of course there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with liking these things, they’re trendy. Whether or not you would classify them as VSCO girls, most teenage girls just happen to be wearing most of these things because, you know, capitalism. Brands are milking these trends with their overpriced scrunchie packs and charging and upwards of $50 for a plain oversized t shirt. 

While this fad and aesthetic of being a VSCO girl is not particularly unique, considering the pieces that make up a VSCO girl are very common, I believe the negative connotation that surrounds the label of VSCO girl is society’s way of yet again absolutely despising anything teen girl related. This constant hatred of anything teen girl related is society’s way of internalizing misogynistic tendencies within today’s youth, specifically girls. I know, this is quite a big claim, but let me explain. When you have the whole world hating on things that your age group generally likes, you will feel the need to also despise those things. Thus, pitting girls against each other as to who’s ‘different’ or ‘not like other girls’. That phrase, ‘not like other girls’ is extremely toxic in that it implies that most girls- are bad. You have everyone around you dressing and looking a certain way, but then you have most of society bashing that look. So, what are you left to do? Some girls try to purposely avoid these fads not because they simply don’t like them, but because other girls like them. This then leads certain girls to feel ‘different’, but in their minds their avoidance of popular trends makes them superior. Thus, internalizing that other girls are lesser than them for just liking the things they do. Our character should not be judged by the things we enjoy, and instead us girls should be supporting one another no matter how we dress. If we dress for ourselves and the things we wear make us happy, then there is no reason to belittle one another on whether or not we are ‘basic’ or ‘different’.

Alongside this want to be different or quirky, a lot of self deprecation comes with almost any teenage culture. However, the self deprecation used by most teen girls has one of two purposes: attention or relatability. Whenever you hear your local teenage girl say “Oh my god I am such a crackhead”, she doesn’t actually feel like a crackhead, but rather is trying to get a reaction of either “omg no you’re not” or the usual “omg me too”. These self deprecating remarks are a trademark of our generation and how we all universally feel like degenerates. The only difference is the fact that certain self deprecating phrases even become trendy in the VSCO girl community, specifically that ‘crackhead’ remark. By making it a trend completely defeats the purpose of it being self-deprecating because if everyone is saying it, then you most likely don’t actually feel that way and are simply saying these things to fit in. While I occasionally say the phrase “I hate myself” quite often throughout the day, it seems like that phrase has become an instinctual reaction to whenever something minor goes wrong. Now this is the question, we will never know if the reason our generation uses self-deprecation so often as a coping mechanism to the horrid constraints of society we are forced to live in, or if we all universally hate ourselves and feel like a crackhead. While the ladder is somewhat true, I feel as though our generation, VSCO girls included, have grown up to feel as though hating ourselves and everything around us is a very relatable topic, because a lot of us do feel insecure and anxious enough to verbalize these thoughts into audacious and hyperbolic statements. What this does though is support a youthful community riddled with anxiety, hatred, and insecurity. No, you don’t actually hate yourself, and no, you aren’t ugly, so stop telling yourself these things before you actually start believing them. 

The VSCO girl community has a lot of ins and outs, most of it tying back to the social patterns demonstrated by most of Gen Z. VSCO girls can be easily compared to the old ‘Tumblr girls’ which I remember dreaming of being when I was a young girl. Teen girl fads come and go, but each and every one has some underlying messages that tell a lot about that subculture and the generation they are apart of. There are some glaring problems stemming from not only this subculture, but most of them as well (like e-girls/boys, and pretty much just anyone on Tik Tok). Gen Z needs to realize that we can’t just keep wallowing in our anxiety, hoping that slapping a scrunchie on our wrist will solve our problems. We clearly have a lot of issues as a whole and running to Tik Tok is certainly not the place to verbalize how we are feeling, it should be a therapist’s office. However, to all of my VSCO girls out there, I support you and your metal straws, keep wearing what makes you happy despite what other people decide to label you as.