Inside #liftblr, Tumblr’s Teen Klepto Club

the bling ring

Yesterday, GOOD magazine published “We R Cute Shoplifters,” an incredible look at #liftblr, the Tumblr tag for a community of female teenage shoplifters who have adopted the Robin Hood mentality towards capitalism: steal from the rich to give to the poor, where in this case the rich are Victoria’s Secret, and the poor are their lingerie drawers.

We R Cute Shoplifters

When I was in high school, girls won approval by boosting the used samples from the MAC counter. (I never did this, Mom, I promise!) The hauls these days still focus on vanity items — clothing, makeup, perfume. But these teens have definitely taken it up a notch from germ-laden lipstick stubs:

One of Barbie’s recent hauls — a “quick” one, she wrote — included four perfume bottles from Victoria’s Secret and a Michael Kors purse from a Dillard’s department store. She estimated the value to be $510. She keeps a running tally, proudly displaying the values of stolen items at the top of her blog: “$6,077saved since ’15,” her profile boasts. She also says she’s “boosted” $435, money made by selling stolen goods. Unicorn-Lift has a similar counter set to $4,863 for lifted merchandise and $585 for boosts.

There are strict rules governing their behavior: only steal from corporations, never from local stores. Play the system by undermining companies that exploit their workers and feed America’s materialist culture. “ ‘I’m a democratic socialist and think capitalism is a plague to America.’,” one of the lifters writes. “And then, an addendum: ‘yes I still am a greedy materialistic person. But it’s okay because I’m self aware!’.”

Members of Liftblr feel empowered by a sense of social justice. They reblog Bernie Sanders memes and post anti-racist screeds. When one anonymous user threatens them with “karma,” they turn the thread into a conversation on the cultural appropriation of non-Western concepts. Feminist rhetoric infuses their language. And they’re extremely anti-corporatist. “Shoplifting can be an act of civil disobedience,” writes one user. “If you do get caught, tell them: This is not petty theft. This is non-violent resistance to a violent and oppressive economic system in which we are trapped.”

Tasbeeh Herwees, the writer, draws the narrative back even further, to the birth of the kleptomaniac as the bored-to-tears 19th century housewife, in which the only form of entertainment was to flout the system that had trapped them. Of course, because #men, kleptomania was thought to be a symptom of hormonal disturbance.

In 1911, Austrian psychologist Wilhelm Stekel published “The Sexual Root of Kleptomania,” arguing that the disorder was the result of “ungratified sexual instinct.” The paper cites, among other instances, the case of a 26-year-old woman who stole pencils from a shop. “She was an incapable sort of person of wandering and inattentive mind,” Stekel writes. “The excuse she gave was that her father kept her too strictly. This girl was also symbolically in search of a phallus (pencil).”

Can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself reaching for a pen and thinking, “Man, what I really need is a good dicking.”

Anyway, you should go read this thing. Is it a case of bored, white, suburban teens playing at a life of danger far removed from the true consequences? Or is it a community of girls pushing back at a culture that prods and provokes them to embody its notion of sexuality and glamor while denying them the chance to change it?

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