In Wannabes, Goths, and Christians: The Boundaries of Sex, Style, and Status, Amy Wilkins analyzes the lives and cultural self-groupings white students take part in during their college years. Through this chapter, Wilkins explores the interworkings of these social groups, to better understand how they might exemplify certain realities about gender, sexuality, race, and class in America.
In the first chapter, Wilkin introduces three young white women, Hyacinth, Molly, and Jaclyn, to represent the three subcultures studied in this piece, the goths, the Christians, and the Puerto-Rican wannabes. Through the introduction, she gives commonality between these groups and argues that these “subcultures offer cultural tools for the navigation of gendered, raced, and classed identities” when their whiteness does not fully give them a comfortable place for them to exist (4). In the second chapter, Wilkins investigates the “goth” subgroup and the mechanisms in which they try to find their “authentic self” (33). The author claims that being goth helps young white people grapple with the juxtaposition of coolness or geekiness. Before college, many of the people who live within the subgroup would be considered geeky but have integrated themselves into “goth-ness” because it allowed them to express themselves behind an identity that is associated with being “creative” and “individualistic” (41). In the third chapter, Wilkins inspects the relationship that people within the goth subculture have with sexuality. Through this, she explores the Sanctuary, a place where goth people can populate and explore the sexual desires that would be limited outside of those walls. While white women are able to wrestle with mainstream notions on sex and monogamy, it still is bound by heterosexual limitations and does not have to take into account race (84).
The fourth chapter studies the white Christian evangelical subgroup via the Unity Christians. Wilkins sees how this group allows campus Christianity to be predicated on a personal relationship with Jesus, while having a structured meeting schedule that would keep students focused on the word of God, as opposed to the flesh. Wilkins also juxtaposes this group in comparison with the goth subculture. For example, Unity Christians always strive to be seen in good moral standing and against darkness, while the goth subcultures hold on to that “darkness” to make them feel different from the norm. The fifth chapter establishes how abstinence is used as a cultural marker to give young Christians security in their social standing. Unity Christianity allows people to “opt-out of a heterosexual marketplace” that might encourage certain sexuality that they do not benefit from (147).
It is extremely fascinating to see the tools that young white people used to protect themselves from the normative concept of whiteness. That conversation becomes even more layered when a person like Carolyn enters the Christian Unity space. Whiteness can be so wide; it can be so big. It does not have to be one thing. White people can be Christian, goths, and wannabes. But whiteness can also be intoxicating. Because of its multiplicity, it seems to be a place where any BIPOC person can assimilate into. For Carolyn, Christianity gave her an “authentic membership in a predominantly white group” (109). I believe this book exemplifies whiteness to have so many faces, while other minority groups are cursed with one.