Coming Out As a #StonerGirl Online: The Emergence of the Female Pot Smoker
Via Rihanna's Instagram. RIP.
For guys, the mythology of The Stoner runs deep. There's Cheech and Chong, Bill and Ted, Harold and Kumar, James Franco and Seth Rogen, the dudes from Dude Where's My Car, and plenty of other stoner bros to round out a High Times list of "13 Great Stoner Movies." The Stoner Girl appears to be a more elusive creature with a less public history, launching many a debate about the state of Marijuana and the Modern Lady.
Historically, it just hasn't been safe for women to go public about pot. Back in 2000, when Friends was still on the air and Jennifer Aniston was America's sweetheart, she unapologetically came out about enjoying weed and media outlets proclaimed her image as 'tarnished,' even bringing in unrelated family troubles to the matter. There are things that good girls are supposed to do and marijuana, apparently, isn't one of them.
Anna Faris in Smiley Face.
No wonder then that there have been so few movies or TV shows featuring girls getting high. As recently as the 2000s, the only examples you had of lady tokers in pop culture came down to 'retro characters' like Donna and Jackie on That '70s Show (who weren't even shown smoking on camera) and Milla Jovovich in Dazed and Confused or little-seen indie roles like Anna Faris in her 2007 flick, Smiley Face. In 2010 there was, for a moment, a glimmer of hope as buzz started to build around Best Buds, a stoner comedy that Natalie Portman would star in and produce. The premise was centered around two female best friends trying to get some pot to their friend before her wedding. But a stoner 'chick flick' proved to be a hard sell and the project was quietly put back on the shelf.
Though the female stoner mostly seemed to exist in a media vacuum a decade ago, women nowadays are coming out of the smoky shadows and writing their own high histories online. Just last year Emmy-winning casting director Katja Blichfeld, along with her husband Ben Sinclair, took notice of the lack of diversity in stoner stereotypes and set out to defy them. Eschewing Hollywood altogether, they took to the Internet and High Maintenance, a web series about a fictional New York City weed dealer and his clients, was born. The heart of the show is in its characters, whose affectations are immediately recognizable as people who could float in and out of our own Brooklyn apartments.
"The show ends up just being a straight up reflection of our household and what we see in our circle of friends," Blichfeld, explains. For Blichfeld and Sinclair's High Maintenance characters, many of whom are women, pot smoking becomes just another attribute -- not the defining attribute. "I haven't seen very much media, at least not stuff that I watch, where weed was this really casual thing. There always has to be some qualifier for why someone is smoking, and it usually has to do with them kind of being a loser. I'm pretty pleased whenever we're able to depict someone who is figuring it out and doing OK."
In a recent episode titled "Rachel," Blichfeld played a busy working wife with a stay-at-home husband (played by Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens) and a fabulous Rachel Comey wardrobe. (The designer herself is a fan of the show and even makes a quick cameo.) "I was pleased to show someone who is able to come home, smoke weed to unwind, and then get up the next day to be a successful breadwinner for the family," Blichfeld said of her character. "We felt good sneaking that message in there. And that wasn't an accident. I do think we have a bit of an agenda to say that weed is normal." But when comparing marijuana with booze, Katja is hesitant to equate the two. "I was going to say that smoking pot is not any different from having a scotch after work but it is different. It's more health conscious. And as a woman, I'm not going to lie, there's no calories in weed."
And it's not just web series like High Maintenance or Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson's Broad City -- which became its own Amy Poehler-produced half-hour Comedy Central series this year -- that are responsible for making weed-loving ladies more visible. You can look to Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram and find The #StonerGirl thriving. Before Rihanna's Instagram account was unceremoniously taken offline, we were witness to all the exotic tropical locations that BadGalRiri lit up. And every year -- as is now tradition -- Miley Cyrus wishes us a Merry 4/20 on Twitter. Miley and Rihanna run very fine Twitter accounts, no doubt, but it's 22-year-old Mira Gonzalez, a Miranda July-endorsed poet, who has some of the most hilarious and brutally honest stoner tweets.
For Gonzalez, tweeting about weed just made sense. "I think I just talk about everything online, and weed is something that I've recently been doing a lot, so I talk about that too," she says. "When I first started smoking weed again it felt empowering to admit to myself and other people that I love weed and I always have. It was like I came out of the closet about being a pothead."
The stoner girl has always been here but now, it seems, she has arrived. "I think it's partly due to Tumblr and places where people can talk about things that aren't mainstream," Refinery29 contributor and proud stoner, Kelly Maxwell theorizes. "I think Tumblr is one of the best things to happen to feminism in the past 20 years," says Maxwell. "A woman can talk about whatever the fuck she wants to and find a community of people who are like, 'YES. I can't believe it. I thought I was the only one.' Look at how that has gone into Etsy fashion. You can type in 'weed fashion' and so many people are starting to make things that access that market."
On the DIY site, upwards of 15,000 search results come up for the word "weed." That's thousands of purveyors making jewelry, women's clothing, and these cute cat-eye sunglasses with tiny gold marijuana leaves adorning the sides that are affectionately named "The Stoned Kitty." Like the cult-celebs that it creates, the Internet has made weed buzzy. Internet rapper Lil' Debbie even has her own strain of marijuana named after her, and Tumblr-adored performers including Kreyshawn, Brooke Candy, and even Grimes have built a brand around the symbol.
And it's not just Etsy that's giving weed a fashion makeover, replacing the dreadful drug rugs and hippie aesthetics with a sleeker image. Designer Peggy Noland features the plant on her cyber-kitsch creations -- alongside other symbols lifted from Internet subculture -- outfitting everyone from Miley and Rihanna to Candy, all of whom have crossed over into the high fashion world. In Candy's recent shoot for V Magazine, styled by Nicola Formichetti and shot by Steven Klein, her marijuana leaf tattoo is highlighted by a cropped Chanel jacket. Klein and Formichetti also collaborated with the buzzy artist on her latest video for "Opulence," the premiere for which was attended by Calvin Klein and Donna Karan.
Designs by Marina Fini.
LA-based underground designer Marina Fini has also incorporated pot into her work. She proudly carries a medical marijuana card and designs trippy, oversized pendants that are inspired by weed and the Internet. Fini says her psychedelic jewelry is a natural extension of herself. "I've never really had a filter in my whole life. Whatever I'm into I'm just like, 'let's make something out of it and wear it and not be ashamed of it.' For me, weed is beyond being a fashion statement. Wearing weed is prideful."
In a culture where you are what you wear, claiming weed as a fashion symbol is claiming weed as an identity -- at least for the day. Coming out as a stoner girl online is just another step for women embracing all sides of themselves without guilt and shame. Some women accomplish this with more abandon than others, even leading to more openness IRL. "I wouldn't be able to live a secret life, I don't think," says Tracie Egan Morrissey, a Jezebel editor and co-star of the video advice series Pot Psychology. "It would be horrible to pretend that I don't love weed. At least in certain New York circles, journalists and bloggers, they're all fucking alcoholics anyway so I don't see a point in hiding my weed smoking. Every [social] meeting I go to I bring my vaporizer and everyone is so happy for it. I'll share with people. It doesn't seem like an issue."
But not everyone feels like they can be so open. Maxwell, who is also a recent grad looking for full time work, laments, "If someone is trying to work in corporate culture, I totally respect keeping quiet [about smoking weed]. It's like hiding a tattoo in a job interview. It may not be who you are but you have to adjust based on the situation."
Before High Maintenance became a successful endeavor for Blichfeld, she was hesitant about coming out of the weed closet. "For me, I think it's more that if I ever made a mistake or fucked something up I didn't want someone to be able to blame it on my weed smoking. I think there's something about the New York mentality. The industry is more aggressive and people are such martyrs about how hard they work and how long they stay in the office. Maybe it's just me, but I never felt comfortable about putting it out there."
Photo via WordsandTurds.
Coming out online for writer Sara David was two-fold. She started smoking as a freshman at Brown and as a queer woman and stoner girl she claimed the tag #highfemme on Tumblr. "To me, it means a lot of things. But it's pretty true to the original definition of 'high femme,' a queer person more drawn to feminine gender expression, and then once you add the play on words, it's also someone who smokes weed," she explains. David -- like the scores of girls who blog about their everyday life and interests -- has amassed a large following on Tumblr through her selfies, writing, and online activism.
In David's case, being open about marijuana means also being open about mental health issues. "I have a lot of anxiety, and at Brown the immediate solution psychiatrists always gave me was to take Xanax and honestly, I hated it," says David. Out West, where medical marijuana is abundant and legal, she found a better option for managing her anxiety. "When I moved to California, my therapist told me that one thing I could try was to wake up hours before I had any obligations and smoke a little bit of pot while I did little things in the morning -- like emailing and things like that," says David. "That was really the turning point for me, because in California pot was so cheap and accessible and not frowned upon. I really became someone who smoked every day or almost every day."
But David brings up a common frustration that nearly all the women that I talked to felt to varying degrees: "Why do I have to prove so many parts of myself to be respected as someone whose life is improved by marijuana?" She continues, "I always want to stress to people that, yes, it's possible to smoke pot every day and have an Ivy League degree and be an activist and just be the type of girl you would want to date your kid. But I do struggle with how that buys into the 'politics of respectability.'"
But seeing the accomplishments that the women interviewed for this piece have achieved in their weed-related work suggests that success and pot smoking need not be mutually exclusive. After their online advice series took off, Egan Morrissey and her co-host Rich Juzwiak went on to author Pot Psychology's How to Be: Lowbrow Advice from High People, which was published by Hachette imprint Grand Central Publishing in 2012. Online video company Vimeo just invested in High Maintenance as part of a $10 million original programming plan, with the series slated for six new episodes on Vimeo on Demand. And, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Broad City, one of the biggest stoner girl success stories of this year, was Comedy Central's highest-rated first season debut since 2012. It's been renewed for a second season.
But even with these successes in other forms of media, the Internet is still the frontline for the weed crusade. Whether on Vimeo, Tumblr or Twitter, Blichfeld, Egan Morrissey, Maxwell, Gonzalez, Fini and David all embrace the term "pothead" with pride -- because for these women, it doesn't exclude them from being anything else they want to be. Being a #Stonergirl doesn't limit them to being considered good or bad, a slacker or an overachiever, a stoner or not. While Egan Morrissey could have put any number of identities on her Twitter bio -- from writer, to mother, to wife -- she doesn't. It simply says, "Weed."