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My Bed by Tracey Emin,Prudence Cuming Associates/ Tracey Emin/ Saatchi Gallery 

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1 November 2022

Say Yes To The Mess: My feral rebranding in a 'clean girl' era


I’m hungover. 


Peering through crusty, half-closed eyes I open TikTok to the onslaught of influencers shoving the same, aesthetic-driven content down my throat. ‘Get Ready With Me!’, ‘What I Eat In A Day!’, ‘My Morning Routine!’. A brief thought enters my mind that perhaps this could be the day that I follow the pretty, put-together girl’s advice and go for a run; perhaps I’ll take an ice bath and complete a twenty-three-step skincare routine; perhaps I’ll substitute coffee for a warm lemon water and sprinkle chia seeds on my fucking cheerios…perhaps not. 


Instead, I settle for devouring an entire block of Lidl own-brand cheddar at 10:17 in the morning, chased down with enough Pro Plus to make me viciously shake, before building up the courage to go toe to toe with whatever exhibition of poor behaviour I undoubtedly executed the evening before (with what can only be assumed was a supreme lack of grace). Being 5”10 and a shamelessly sloppy drunk is a pairing not conceptually dissimilar to Piers Morgan and daytime television – highly problematic but undeniably good viewing. Oh, and I’m probably not even going to shower today. 


We are all too familiar with the archetypal ‘clean girl’, and I know she’s disappointed in me. She is statuesque, has perfectly blown-out hair, doesn’t need makeup because her skin is effortlessly flawless from myriad overpriced products, and she’s somehow convinced us that jeans and a t-shirt is a new, radical style. She is placed in a higher aesthetic echelon, smearing our impressionably insecure subconscious with the notion that we aren’t ‘womaning’ the way a woman should woman. Looking down from her pristine apex from under thick lashes and preaching an effortless lifestyle that only seems like an even bigger chore: to me at least. 


I struggle to understand where productivity starts and performativity ends, and how much of it is real, or simply desperate overcompensation. Do you look like that everyday? Oh wow, your routine is so rigidly disciplined, congratulations on such a predictable and beige lifestyle….but wait; why am I still jealous? Why do my routines still feel somewhat inferior? 

Realistically, I’m doing pretty well if I’ve changed out of my pyjamas, with bonus points for leaving the house and despite my pervading guilt, I have no reason to feel ashamed that my bar for productivity is so aggressively low, and truthfully, neither should I.


As young women, we’ve spent too many years falling victim to consumer businesses preying on female insecurity as a marketing strategy, telling us we’re inadequate if we don’t do our hair this way, or wear these clothes. Right now, it’s becoming increasingly tough not to feel that if we don’t have the, infinite-step, constantly-evolving skincare routine then we’re second-tier, when realistically, nobody knows what the fuck toner is, or even what it does. Whether it’s an eating disorder rebranded as wellness or gut health content, smug fit checks from people in unattainably expensive clothing or glowing skin ads that have been through seven rounds of editing and filters, it’s getting progressively more difficult to remind oneself that this myth is true, or even realistic. Trust me, I don’t think that’s some kind of hot take. It’s the tale as old as time that just never had an ending. The 2022 soundtrack is ‘less is more – oh you didn’t hear? - I would never wear that much makeup – neutrals only – bankrupting myself in the name of sustainability – Matilda Djerf - wait you only just woke up? - I’ve already been to seven lectures, put chlorophyll in my water, rescued a puppy, ended world hunger and saved the northern hemisphere from a meteor crash….I mean I guess I just don’t like feeling I’ve wasted my day……’


To this I propose a reactionary strategy, or ‘feralcore’, if you will. An anti-clean girl movement, abolishing the manicured curation and sheer theatre of the dreaded influencer, and I invite all the girls to indulge in it guilt-free with me. Be shamelessly hedonistic, don’t wash your hair for a week and eat all the food that makes your stomach turn knots. Go on four hinge dates in a week and sleep in until two in the afternoon; don’t bother tidying your flat, drink cheap tequila, drunkenly trip and fall in a crowded smoking area. Start believing in the radical idea that perhaps, everything worth believing isn’t on social media after all. 

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