WTF is Lobotomy Chic? The Pitfalls of Dissociative Feminism

by Faith Green

From “Mermaidcore” to “McBling,” microaesthetics have taken society by storm. Fashion often reflects the current ideologies of both interpersonal and popular culture, and it’s no surprise that social attitudes have gotten more nihilistic recently. As a result of this cultural shift, fads have become more and more reactive. Fashion has often served as a vehicle for hyper-ironic expressionism. This has already been observed in trends like Heroin Chic and Indie Sleaze, which embraced sardonic social commentary. But now the trends themselves have transcended into meta-irony; Heroin Chic and Indie Sleaze became “bimbocore” and the “dissociative pout.” But as “bimbocore” itself evolves into “feminine anti-intellectualism,” and the “dissociative pout” morphs into “lobotomy chic,” we have to ask ourselves: what exactly is the end goal?

Pictured here is Chloe Cherry, the actress that has been hailed as the poster child for “lobotomy chic”, due to her detached gaze, coquettish photoshoots, and surreal posts.

Alison Harvard, a model formerly known as “Creepy Chan,” has also been mentioned within niche “lobotomy core” communities. Her unnerving, doe-eyed stare coupled with her white vintage clothing, and often darkly eerie backgrounds incite feelings of “psychiatric-ward chic.” Although Harvard herself has never expressed support for or associated with the trend, she’s become imperative to understanding the romanticization of the “hysterical woman.”

The term “dissociative feminism” was coined by Emmeline Clein in 2019 in her article,The Smartest Women I Know Are All Dissociating.” The word “dissociative” was specifically chosen to describe a social experience unique to women, and how we’re often pushed to utilize extreme levels of detachment in order to cope with the ramifications of living in a patriarchal society. Personally, I remember the day Roe V Wade was overturned, and the collective fugue state that I witnessed myself and many women entering as a result of watching our rights slip away with a couple of signatures. Clein describes dissociative feminism as the act of “interiorizing our existential aches and angst, smirking knowingly at them, and numbing ourselves to maintain our nonchalance.” It’s characterized by a “sarcastic” and “deadpan” approach to misogynistic rhetoric and patriarchal standards. Dissociative feminism gives a name to the increasing number of women who have decided to give up any hope that socio-political dynamics will improve. Instead, there’s a new call to embrace nihilism. Dissociative feminism is the belief that, just like everything else, advocacy is mindless and arbitrary.

As a direct result of this cultural shift amongst women, there’s been an uptick in tongue-in-cheek aesthetics like the “dissociative pout,” and “lobotomy chic.” But what even are they? The term was coined and popularized by essayist, activist and socio-political writer, Rayne Fischer Quann, in her 2022 essay “The Cult of The Dissociative Pout.” The term “lobotomy chic” was used satirically, both critiquing and bringing attention to “the new duckface.” Quann describes the new trend as an unusual performance of detachment. But it’s since been taken at face value, and has become a caricature of itself.


#stitch with @ashxlevi #greenscreen y’all should’ve stopped at cottage core pls

♬ Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2 – PinkPantheress & Ice Spice

“Lobotomy core,” or “lobotomy chic” is pouty lips and vacant eyes. Its floral dresses and dirty white stockings. It’s characterized by a strange juxtaposition: an uncanniness or a wrongness coupled with a docile, empty gaze akin to that of lobotomy victims. It’s an even more twisted version of the subservient nymphette looks that were popularized on Tumblr in the early 2010s. It’s hypothesized that “lobotomy chic” is a direct response to and rejection of “girlboss” feminism: we’re tired of proving our capability and fighting for our rights. Now all we want to do is detach from the need to obtain them. “Being stupid and hot” is in vogue.

But does this disengaged approach contribute to the same dehumanizing standards it aims to critique? Are we just romanticizing misogynistic history? The verdict is still out. But one thing is for sure: these trends provide crucial insight into societal behaviors. There’s no denying the recent nihilistic cultural shift that’s permeated every aspect of our society. The mere existence, ironic or otherwise, of trends like “lobotomy chic” indicate an ever-growing hopelessness with the state of humanity.

Some activists are getting tired of having the same conversations about equity, and are instead choosing to forfeit entirely. In a sense, the appeal is palpable. Dissociative feminism laid the framework for “lobotomy chic.” Mentally detaching yourself from the patriarchy by ascribing to the horrific ramifications of it serves as a form of escapism; a surrender to the very oppression you’ve lost sleep over fighting against. But are we really too exhausted to continue our advocacy efforts? This type of ironic postmodern feminism has gotten more and more popular as oppressive legislation regarding abortion rights and LGBTQIA+ equality increases. This has been the driving force behind a new collective sense of resentment and fatigue, which are two paradigms “lobotomy chic” would not exist without.

Top Photo Credit: PlacidPlace via Pixabay

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