Redefining the Empowerment of Women: The Satirical Blogging of the Betches

Culture

Redefining the Empowerment of Women: The Satirical Blogging of the Betches

How three college students started a revolution in the self-help/humor blog atmosphere.

“Don’t be easy. Don’t be poor. Don’t be ugly.” These are the pillars of the philosophy of the Betches, a brash humor website targeted at young adults that has become a multi-platform quasi-lifestyle guide.

What is a Betch? By all regards, she is a young, wealthy, attractive woman who dates very attractive men. She has a biting and derisive sense of humor that she wields to maintain a social hierarchy where she reigns supreme over the rest of the peasant population. She doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat, and parties until she blacks out four nights a week. In other words: she’s a queen bee.

If this is a Betch, who are the Betches? In their own words, “We’re the website, Instagram, store, books, everything that young females go to experience the thoughts that run through their heads, but are too afraid or uncomfortable, to say out loud. We don’t like the term mean girls, we prefer brutally honest and self-aware young women. If that’s the kind of empowerment you can get behind, then welcome to the Betches.”

Betches Co-Founders, (left to right) Samantha Fishbein, Aleen Kuperman, and Jordana Abraham
Courtesy of Forbes

In 2011, then-Cornell students Jordana Abraham, Samantha Fishbein, and Aleen Kuperman started “The Betch List” out of their apartment. Initially, this blog was created as a humorous guide to how to be a hot party girl. The blog entries took on the tone of a stereotypical mean girl, with a sense of humor straddling the line between brash and offensive, as the girls prescribed using anorexia to stay thin and Adderall to stay focused. As their blog grew more popular, the founders decided to make the blog their full time job post-graduation. “The Betch List” became “Betches Love This”, and the group lived with their parents while they worked on generating large amounts of content, to an incredible degree of success. Forbes reported that by 2017, the Betches had made $5 million in revenue, having never sought investors, and they had been profitable since 2014.

"It's a joke, not a lifestyle prescription." Hannah Orenstein

Describes as the female counterpart to “fratire” humor, the Betches established a large, loyal following of people attracted to blog posts with titles like, “I Find Khloe Kardashian’s Baby Registry Personally Insulting”, and “7 Foods You Should Avoid At All Costs if You Might Be Having Sex Later”. The articles are written under pseudonyms like “Betchen Weiners”, a reference to the movie Mean Girls, “Say Yes to the Betch”, and “It’s Britney, Betch”. A Forbes article quotes a follower of the blog, Emily Wallerstein, who appreciates the humor. She said, “I could relate to [the humor]. Sometimes you say or think the most extreme things like, ‘I don’t want to eat at all,’ and the site points out the absurdities of food and dieting.” Another fan, Hannah Orenstein said, “I doubt they want their readers to follow their advice so specifically…It’s a joke not a lifestyle prescription.” Addy Wolf, a student at Tufts University, said, “Reading stuff written by the Betches is like being teased by your coach…Occasionally you need someone to make fun of you with sincerity, and at the same time encourage you to be better.”

"I can’t feel responsible for every girl who feels like she needs to be 90 pounds because we made a joke." Samantha Fishbein, Betches Co-Founder

 

The founders think of their humor as an outlet to make fun of these behaviors, meaning the societal pressures on women to be thin and look pretty, in an equally biting and sardonic way. The Betches argue that at its heart, their work is satire, and they do not want people to actually follow their advice. They are satirizing the stereotype of the hot, mean, party girl in order to humorously disarm the power of those voices. The company has not escaped criticism, and their work has experienced a considerable amount of backlash, particularly on the topic of their treatment of eating disorders. According to a New York Times article, Samantha Fishbein said she also has faced insecurities with her body and weight, but satirizing the issue has been cathartic. Commenting on the discussion of dieting in the Betches book Nice Is Just A Place In France, Addy Wolf warned, “Watch out for the dieting section. It’s difficult to take the joke lightly and even more difficult to not be tempted by the advice, no matter how sarcastic or satirical, so remember that a Betch doesn’t deprive herself and tread lightly.” To the critics, Samantha Fishbein says, “I guess it’s a form of therapy [for me], but I can’t feel responsible for every girl who feels like she needs to be 90 pounds because we made a joke.”

Bodysuit Sold at shopbetches.com, $48
Courtesy of shopbetches

In 2018, the Betches website is undergoing a large-scale overhaul as they expand their platform. The blog started out of a college apartment has become a multi-faceted online platform of information and advice, with topics ranging from politics to in-depth Bachelor recaps. The Betches put out content across a variety of platforms, shooting politically focused livestreams on Instagram, releasing podcasts, and posting short videos explaining concepts like gentrification, or how to craft an email for work. They even have a platform for e-commerce, selling merchandise on their website. 

A typical Betches Instagram Post.
Courtesy of The Betches

The Betches have even released two books. Nice Is Just A Place In France was released in 2013, and the pseudo-self-help book offers readers insight into, as stated in the subtitle, “how to be the best at everything”. The book covers topics such as appearance, friendships, relationships, and careers. They caution readers against becoming a “nicegirl”, someone who is boring and plays by the rules. In the opening of the introduction, the Betches write, “We must commend you on already making it farther into the book than Helen Keller ever could…Apologies if that last comment was insensitive. Relax, it’s not like she’s going to see it anyway. That…was a test and if we’ve already offended your sensibilities, we advise you to walk away. The ride toward enlightenment on which you’re about to embark is not going to get any smoother.” Beneath the voice of the mean, popular girl, and the generous sprinkling of curse words lies an actually striking message of empowerment. No, the Betches are not actually advising that you stop eating or abuse prescription drugs. What they are doing is encouraging young women to go out into the world and take what they want, however they need to do it. The message is loud and clear: being a true Betch is being unapologetically yourself, and pursuing your goals relentlessly.