Brunch is a Battlefield

Being both a lover of Man Repeller and brunch, I was humored by the blog post titled “Round Table: Is Brunch Really for Jerks ?” Leandra Medine known by her pseudonym “The Man Repeller” has become an influential fashion and culture commentator through social media. Posting daily updates to her lifestyle and fashion blog, The Man Repeller has created a niche in the online editorial community. Back in October, she posted a discussion between her and a few friends about brunching after numerous media accusations of weekend brunches gentrifying the city. The article in dispute argued the real New York has been lost to an overwhelming brunch scene, which is really an analogy for New York no longer being a place for artist and bohemian types. Rather, the city has been taken over by a young and flashy crowd.

As the dialogue unfolds, Leandra takes a stand to defend brunches. She argues in favor of brunch because it allows her to socialize with people she actually likes, and goes on to “paraphrase” Andy Warhol—“because socializing/parties can be work.” Her friend Kate Barnett replies to Leandra’s fawning of brunch with her staunch support for the argument that brunch symbolizes gentrification and the death of the artist’s New York. To this, the other women suggest that we attack gentrification and not brunch, however Charlotte Fassler notes that the issue surrounding brunch is that it is “an aspect of gentrification.” Amelia Diamond, a staunch, steadfast brunch food enthusiast, is more focused on the eating and drinking rather than brunch as an event, which leads her to assert that she deserves brunch.

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Here is where the issue arises. Amelia talks about how her brunching is well deserved because she wakes up early every weekend (hungover or not) to horseback ride in Connecticut. Outlining the reasons that her sport is mentally and physically demanding, Amelia seems to be seeking pity for choosing to participate in a privileged activity. Waiting all week to order eggs from her favorite restaurants on seamless. This reflects the original issue, that brunch is an aspect of gentrification and growing synonymous with white privilege.

Leandra reminds everyone that the discourse is arguing against “what brunch has become, which is a social spectacle,” while Amelia had made the issue about her struggle to balance a hangover with horseback riding, the conversation takes an ironic turn when the girls begin to decipher who deserves the privilege of brunching. As they try to analyze and debate the criticisms of brunch, they out their white privilege. Comparing the cranky atmosphere in New York restaurants at brunch time versus their experiences with brunches in France, it becomes blatantly obvious that brunch and privilege go hand in hand.

They eventually reach the conclusion that author of the article they had been discussing is frustrated with the weekend influx of non-locals and posers to areas like the Village and that there is an exclusivity to being among the people who no longer find brunch cool. Using brunch as a method of understanding and deconstructing aspects of gentrification, we can look at how the use of social media and documenting the bougie meal and weekend debauchery as a way for some people to try and fabricate some social status or prove some cultural capitol. Brunch seems to exude a sense of inauthenticity—especially when documented—and capitalism. While café culture and brunch in Europe has a greater sense of depth and cultural significance, the New York brunch scene has become commodified and ubiquitous. It now feels like a mass-produced experience, on which is almost obligatory to impress social media followers.

The competition among brunchers is measured in Instagram likes and Snapchat views and often induces self-consciousness and anxiety regarding picture “performance” when a post fails to achieve certain number of likes. Much of this artificial ideology could be attributed to yuppies and millennials projecting a more superior version of their lives to their peers on social media.  In this sense, brunch possibly serves to show others that you are successful or trendy, when in reality the sacrament is no longer a measure of “coolness” and was never intended to be one. Before the inception of the geotag, people would have to “be in the know” to access bohemian, artistic, cultural experiences and venues, but as society becomes increasingly transparent, anyone—especially young white people with money —can gain access.

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