The marijuana industry is being integrated into mainstream American culture, and fast. Mostly, that's a good thing: better products tested by better labs to imbibe in sleek new vaporizers that make the smelly old bong on your coffee table obsolete. The downside, though, is that the normalization of marijuana increasingly brings negative patterns in our culture into the previously cloistered world of weed.
Enter Dab Girls.
They're mostly like the webcam girls—busty 20-somethings in lingerie who strip and perform for PayPal tips—except they also toke. Look around YouTube and Instagram and you'll find these girls, getting followers by the thousands and sponsorships from glass and clothing companies. Many smokers see progress in this liberation of body and lung; they consider the girls to be clever entrepreneurs. But others feel this attitude will only solidify a place for misogyny in cannabis culture, pulling women backward on the track toward social equality.
If you keep in mind that only a fraction of female smokers are taking scandalous selfies, this sparks a conversation about female stoners and empowerment in an increasingly marijuana-friendly world.
Any barrel-chested smoker can rip a bong too hard and cough themselves to tears for 20 minutes, just as easily as the slightest pixie of a girl could exhale a smoke cloud bigger than any of the Blazers themselves. This gives stoners a space for equal respect, where gender, background and bong brand don't matter—you're either a hitter, or you're not. With so many types of strains and methods of consumption, no one can be a professional at everything. Every plant has its own inconsistencies, and a strain that didn't do much before could knock you off your feet in the next batch.
However, the rise of concentrated hash oil has shot select smokers' tolerances through the roof. The phenomenon of sexy stoner girls gained momentum with girls who could "handle their dabs," and these "dab girls" or "errl girls" wield major influence on social media.
Not just any novice can take a graceful dab; the smoking tolerance and motor skills required to conduct a Web chat while dabbing is inarguably commendable. Instagram accounts like "bongbeauties" and "ganja.girls" have nearly 200,000 followers each, and touring promotional teams like the 420 Nurses participate in events for followers to meet their favorite girls and share a joint. Even Portland's mom-'n'-pop dispensaries follow well-known Dab Girls on social media in hopes of gaining some of their followers, regardless of content.
And now one Portland medical dispensary is taking things to the next level.
Cannababes on North Lombard Street is the first in the city to candidly capitalize on the "sexy stoner chick" angle. The management team hired attractive, friendly girls who fit the store's particular brand ("no tattoos") to pose for Instagram shots in which budtenders spank each other in short skirts. Several of Cannababes' strategic shots capture a girl bending over to reach a lower shelf.
Those that see such marketing tactics as "empowering" are confusing the definition of the word. Sexual empowerment is active. It is autonomous. To strip down and pose in ways that uphold the media's sexualized image of women is to surrender, not to transcend. It is powerless. One of the tip jars at Cannababes reads, "Tip if you think we're sexy," only affirming that their value is determined by a hetero-male eye. The false sense of power when dressing "sexy" comes from meeting the expectations of society, not breaking them.
Not all is lost, however, because female smokers are getting attention for keeping their clothes on, too. Remember Charlo Greene, the "Fuck it, I quit" reporter who gained fame for quitting her newscasting job on air to run her marijuana dispensary? After a couple months in the spotlight, the pseudo-porn site Stoned Girls offered her $25,000 to pose nude.
She posted her response on her Instagram: "I said no to @stoned_girls $25,000 offer to go nude but you never know... #gymtime now but #notittiestoday."
Her dismissal of the offer shows that even those with new names in a young industry aren't afraid to refuse cashing in on misogyny. Accepting the offer would have narrowed her renown to that of a hot ex-newscaster that smokes weed. Her confidence in her capacity as a business owner and advocate trumped relying on sexuality to get ahead, and that is real progress.
A local example of stoner empowerment is a Portland budtender who goes by SheSmokesJoints on Instagram, where she has over 100,000 followers. She's also our cover model this week. She posts pictures and videos of herself blowing intricate smoke rings and rolling flawless joints coated in hash oil. Her skills and her tolerance make her impressive, not her bra size. SheSmokesJoints proves that female stoners can gain fame just by being themselves, without giving in to the easy option of getting attention with nudity.
The sexy-stoner trend feels a lot like watching a child pageant. The "innocence" of smoking weed to reflect, medicate, or connect with others is hindered by sexualization. It seems blasphemous; the best part about being a stoner is having that safe space to unplug from a high-pressure world.
This selfie-sexuality wasn't a part of being a stoner before now, and it's working against the efforts to educate the public about marijuana's potential. These organizations contributing to the commodified use of women's bodies are only aligning marijuana with tobacco and alcohol. Healthy normalization of marijuana depends on women who are honest about their lifestyles and aren't willing to sacrifice who they are to fit in with the representation of female stoners as sex objects.