‘Live, Laugh, Love’: When Capitalism met Misogyny

The source of the monosyllabic and contentious slogan ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ derives from Bessie Anderson Stanley’s 1904 poem Success:

“He has achieved success

who has lived well,

laughed often, and loved much”

The irony is the slogan ‘Live, Laugh Love’ is being used against women and girls who partake in mainstream enjoyment. Meanwhile it derives from a poem which designates success as that which opposes capitalism, turning towards the simpler and often overlooked enjoyments life has to offer. 

‘Basic’ has become a pejorative term rooted in sexism and classism against women who perhaps cannot afford to furnish their homes with original art, and resort to mass produced paraphernalia. It is from this insight that the insult ‘basic’ comes across as nothing more than misguided criticism, a frequent happening now society has a focus and direction towards an attempt at ‘wokeness’. For example, the act of criticising the average person for their greenhouse gas emissions rather than businesses like Amazon with their excessive waste and non-renewable sources. As such, to criticise someone basic should be seen as a criticism of the exclusivity of art and culture to privileged groups. However, it is not. 

To condemn the girl who hangs a ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ poster in her university room because she is a mass-produced cliché and contributes to the erasure of ‘proper art’ is to direct your frustration at the wrong person. Unique, individual art that avoids the ‘basic’ label is a privilege linked to location, education and exposure to culture, heritage, travel and wealth. The girls who capitalism targets to consume these mass-produced prints are experiencing the backlash for corporations who are the underlying cause of the demise of individuality, dominating the market with popular prints, art and aesthetics sold at a low cost, pricing out small and individual businesses. 

In 1979, Pierre Bourdieu pointed out this exact societal mistake in his theory of cultural deprivation. He suggested we favour the bourgeois over the working-class because of their perceived superiority and influence over cultural capital. Therefore, to call someone ‘basic’ is to acknowledge the Capitalist Terror, blatantly controlling society. Instead of addressing the cascade of problems tumbling down from the chaos it creates, it resorts instead to casual misogyny and classism. This is more anachronistic and unsettling than indulging in mainstream designs.

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Una Jones

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October 2021
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