The Tumblr Bling Ring is Back to Prove They Aren't Just Rich White Girls
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Tumblr Bling Ring, an online community of shoplifters who blogged about their experiences on the popular social media site, Tumblr. These "lifters," as they call themselves, share their secret lives, as many adolescents do, on the Internet, providing tips for avoiding retail security and posting photos of their hauls. The relative anonymity provided by these blogging platforms fosters the growth of communities running the gamut from the innocuous (fandoms) to the terrifying (pro-anorexia). The shoplifting subculture on Tumblr is another symptom of that anonymity.
Ever since Tumblr user We-unhallowed exposed this subculture, the comparisons to the spoiled protagonists of Sophie Coppola's 2013 film The Bling Ring — based on a real case of wealthy teens stealing from celebrities living in Hollywood Hills — have been widespread. But what if the truth is a bit more complicated? Dazed interviewed members of the Tumblr Bling Ring (known only by their online handles, of course) to find out if the stereotypes are true. As it turns out, they aren't all rich white girls.
Stealer Moon, one of the lifters outed by We-unhallowed, resents the "Bling Ring" label. She maintains that she shoplifts not because of a sense of entitlement, but as a means to an end.
“I think the amount of girls who are white in this community are maybe ten or less, if that,” she says, describing herself as a Hispanic art school student. “Many of us are young adults, many of us have jobs and work hard and still don’t make ends meet.”
For the past two years, Stealer Moon struggled to find a part-time job while her parents covered her college loans and housing. Stumping up the money for course materials and art supplies became a major problem.
“The lack of money really cornered me and I did the only thing I really could in that situation – I stole. From companies I was sure it wouldn't really hurt,” she says. “It's frustrating, because I really want to work for my money in a way that doesn't involve boosting clothes.”
Many of the other interviewees are members of various ethnicities and report that they began stealing for necessities such as food and basic clothing. Eventually, as with Tumblr user Dogugoppa, they began lifting other items in order to sell them later. Dogugoppa told Dazed:
“Maybe two months ago, a lot of the tag was underprivileged women who were battling poverty or mental illness. Right now, there seems to be a lot more luxury hauls in the tag – clothing, make-up, higher-end skincare – they almost seem unreal, to be honest. But it definitely didn't use to be a Bling Ring of entitled white girls hauling whatever they could get away with.”
I applaud the Dazed article for shedding light on the inner workings of the online shoplifting community. The interviews allow us to see the complexity at work within the community. Stealer Moon and Dogugoppa don't sound anything like Alexis Neiers or Rachel Lee. But what about the girls who do? The entitled, wealthy, often white girls who steal luxury items because they "deserve" them — they need help too.
Lux Steals, one of the sites outed by We-unhallowed, listed as a 16 year-old female from the United States, is the girl that you would expect when you hear about an adolescent shoplifting community on Tumblr. She steals clothes she thinks are cute (a Vera Bradley bag, sunglasses from Claire's), appears to be white based on her main photo (the face is hidden) and maintains that although her lifting is an addiction, she doesn't need to defend her actions. In a response to anonymous criticism on her blog about her lifting habits, she wrote:
I never said I was trying to validate my shoplifting in any way. I know it’s bad but its MY choice to break the law, I don’t need your shitty input. I’m fab.
One girl told the BBC, "I do it because I can." These lifters are not like Dogugoppa, who has since gotten a job at a restaurant and only lifts when money is really tight. They steal for the thrill, for the nice clothes, for the sense of triumph over something bigger. And they deserve our sympathy as well. The label "rich white girl" does not protect you from developing psychological addictions. In fact, many privileged women steal.
The Tumblr Bling Ring may have some outliers who steal because they have to. But the trend of the tag, at least currently, is made up of teenage girls who steal because they want to. We can't ignore that. Shoplifting is illegal, yes, but shoplifting is also a sign of something else. A search for control or acceptance or a self-esteem boost. Let's hope these girls will soon stop embracing their addictions.