What is the ‘dissociative pout,’ and is it the new ‘duck face’?

Move over duck face — there’s a new selfie pose in town. The “dissociative pout” has become the favorite of It girls on the rise. 

Trend forecasters have been predicting what The Cut’s Alison P. Davies dubbed a “vibe shift.” We all know fads tend to get recycled in pop culture and that the early aughts are making a comeback, but it’s not just the gaudy, candy-colored futuristic Y2K era looks, either. It’s the “sleaze,” too. 

The early 2000s were an era where women weren’t treated so well. It was the time of “Leave Britney Spears Alone,” Girls Gone WildMTV’s Spring Break, trashy American Apparel ads, rigid beauty standards and mocking celebrities with substance use disorder.

Millennial culture was a backlash to this. The body acceptance movement, reexamining the public’s relationship with tearing down troubled figures and the fourth wave of feminism were all responses. However, Gen Z culture has become a pastiche of Gen X and millennial tropes. 

The new generation seems to absorb trends from the past with a dose of irony and detachment. The please-look-at-me duck faces of yesteryear sucked in cheeks and plumped lips to sate beauty standards and promote #GirlBoss personal brands. The dissociative pout harkens back to the female apathy in the grunge era of the ’90s (Fiona Apple and Daria) but is also anchored in 2000s influencer culture, where attention and beauty are a currency for women (Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton). 

It girls like Chloe CherryAddison Rae and Enya Umanzor have all been captured doing the pose. Their eyes are glazed over, looking disinterested and nowhere in particular — yet their lips are full, pouty and conventionally feminine. 

The dissociative pout puts forth the appearance of a chic, femme nihilism that isn’t necessarily for the male gaze but is still glamorous enough to get thousands of likes. It’s a way of sublimating the fears about our precarious society and women’s place in it. 

As writer Emmeline Clein posited in her essay “The Smartest Women I Know Are All Dissociating,” women as a coping mechanism have begun to disassociate from, well, life. As women’s rights are eroded, and everyday life becomes harder, simply detaching from reality is easier. Instead of confronting reality, why not just poke fun at how bad everything is?

Why not just perform femininity for the camera since it’s an inescapable demand (and sometimes even fun, too)? Why not do so with a wink as if to say you’re being held captive by gender norms, but you’re aware, and there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, so here we are? 

It’s a way of looking feminist without doing any kind of feminism at all. It’s a concession to the fact that women are second-class citizens and that beauty is the only value women are ever allowed to capitalize on. 

But it’s always easier — and prettier — to opt out than to engage. Unfortunately, only the latter ever really changes anything. 

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