I am reading old journals and notes. I keep them stored in my apartment on my desk or at my parents’ home in Oak Park, in my childhood bedroom closet. Kinga, Brian, Michael … inside are numbers for people I can’t remember. I understand now how time moves so quickly, how memories can easily fade. Who were these people to me? And yet, inside each journal is a feeling that I can recognize now: insecurity, anger, resentment, excitement. Patterns have emerged. Here is a girl of goals. Here is a girl of rage. Here is a girl constantly wanting, but not quite achieving.
I had to actually look up “soft ghetto” as a concept. Once I did, I understood what they were saying. Like hood futurism, I didn’t realize that there was emerging terminology for the aesthetic.
Speaking on aesthetics, the use of the word “soft” implies that ghetto is inherently not “soft.” Softness also implies better, more pleasurable, more comfortable (for the person that is soft and for others who are observing the softness).
To be “ghetto” therefore is to be “hard.” Here’s the thing: I don’t know if that’s always bad. It becomes troublesome when we assume hardness is always a negative, hardness is always bad. But I think the idea of what it means to be “hard” has been, historically at least, a lot of different things – maybe masculine and aggressive, but also maybe tough and assertive.
Linguistically, I’ve used phrases like, “I had to ‘get ghetto’ on them,” meaning get more assertive and forthright and necessarily defensive. But I don’t use those words. I use ghetto because I assume my (black, always black, don’t feel comfortable with the using “ghetto” with my white friends) friends know what I’m talking about. But why? I’m realizing that like a lot of descriptors, it is up to interpretation, but one’s interpretation is not always as pleasant or empowering as someone else’s.
A lot of “soft ghetto” imagery that I have seen though feels more like our ideas of a more palatable “urban” look. Like, acceptable “ghetto,” acceptable “urban,” and acceptable “black.” The more I think about this, the more problematic it sounds.
A lot of images I’ve seen of other women feels familiar to me. It’s basically how I dress in the summer. I would probably use the term “soft ghetto” as a positive, but I know that a lot of people would:
I don’t know if I’m the right person to discuss this, but I’m glad that you brought it to my attention. I’m sort of going in circles and might be getting this all confused. There are probably people better equipped to break down the aesthetics. I think it brings up a lot of issues: class, race, masculinity, and femininity. I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.