Essex girl, as a pejorative stereotype in the United Kingdom, applies to a woman viewed as promiscuous and unintelligent, characteristics jocularly attributed to women from the county of Essex. It is applied widely throughout the country and has gained popularity over time, dating from the 1980s and 1990s.
The stereotypical image formed as a variation of the dumb blonde/bimbo persona, with references to the Estuary English accent, white stiletto heels, mini skirts, silicone-augmented breasts, peroxide blonde hair, over-indulgent use of fake tan (lending an orange appearance), promiscuity, racism, loud verbal vulgarity, and socialising at downmarket nightclubs.
Time magazine recorded:
In the typology of the British, there is a special place reserved for Essex Girl, a lady from London's eastern suburbs who dresses in white strappy sandals and suntan oil, streaks her hair blond, has a command of Spanish that runs only to the word Ibiza, and perfects an air of tarty prettiness. Victoria Beckham – Posh Spice and her childhood friend Laura Efi, as she was – are the acknowledged queens of that realm ...
As mentioned above, the stereotypical Essex girl has an Estuary English accent, but with a very modern element to it. It has some pronunciation features of the Cockney accent but without the traditional element, and a very modern prosody.
Here are some examples of pronunciation features of the Essex girl stereotype:
- Strong diphthongization of the FLEECE, happY and GOOSE vowels [ɪi̯~əi̯, ʊ̈ʉ̯~əʉ̯]
- The FACE and GOAT vowels may be very open [ɛɪ~ɐɪ̯, ʌ̈ʊ~ɐʊ̯]
- Very open utterance-final /ə/
- The sequences /uːl/, /ʊl/, /ɔːl/ and /əl/ may all be pronounced [oː~oʊ̯~ɔo̯]
- The sequences /ən/ and /əm/ are nearly never syllabic consonants.
- Very strong tendency to vocalise coda-/l/, thus [ʊ̯~o̯~ɤ̯] instead of [ɫ̩]
- Final /ɪŋ/ can have [ɪn] or the typically northern [ɪŋɡ̊]
- Strong degree of t-glottalization [ʔ] and glottal reinforcement before /t, p, k/ → [ʔtʰ, ʔpʰ, ʔkʰ]
- The /k/ in like may be glottalized as well.
- Frequent th-fronting
- Tendency to lengthen the final syllables of words or sentences: happen [ˈhæʔpʰəːn]; coudn't [ˈkʰʊdəːnʔ]; lovely [ˈlʌv̥ləˑi̯ˑ]; what's that? [wɒʔts d̪æːʔ]
- Dipping tone on the final segments of words or sentences: basically [ˈbɐ́ɪ̯sɪ̥̀kl̥ə̀ˑǐ̯ˑ]; someone else [ˈsʌ́mwʌ́n ˈɛ̂ˑʊ̯̌ˑs]; say to me [ˈsɐ́ɪ̯ tʰə̀ mə̀ˑǐ̯ˑ]
Challenging the stereotype
In 2004, Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester in Essex, appealed for debate in the House of Commons on the issue, encouraging a boycott of The People tabloid, which has printed several derogatory references to girls from Essex.
The Essex Women's Advisory Group was set up in 2010 to combat the negative stereotyping of girls living in Essex by supporting Essex-based women's charities helping those in need as well as by funding projects that promote women's and girls' learning and success in science, technology, the arts, sports and business. The charitable fund is administered by the Essex Community Foundation.
On 6 October 2016, Juliet Thomas and Natasha Sawkins of The Mother Hub launched a campaign on social media to draw attention to the negative definition of Essex girl in the Oxford English Dictionary and Collins Dictionary. Their main goal was to raise awareness and to open a dialogue around the derogatory "Essex girl" stereotype. Their campaign centred on changing the definition of "Essex girl" to "a girl from or living in Essex" by encouraging women to use the hashtag #IAmAnEssexGirl and included a petition to change or remove the dictionary definitions. The campaign reached the national press. In December 2020, after campaigning by the Essex Girls Liberation Front, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, used to teach non-native English speakers, removed the term.
- Airhead (subculture)
- Ah Lian
- Essex man
- Valley girl
- The Only Way Is Essex
- Educating Essex
- ^ Biressi, Anita; Heather Nunn (2013). Class and Contemporary British Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 23–43. ISBN 9780230240568.; Part 2: "Essex: class, aspiration and social mobility", Section 4: "Class, Taste and the Essex Girl"
- ^ Elliott, Michael (19 July 2007), "Smitten with Britain", Time, archived from the original on 14 October 2007
- ^ Rose, David (26 March 2004), "MP urges boycott of The People over Essex Girl jokes", PressGazette, archived from the original on 16 June 2011, retrieved 12 September 2007
- ^ "Essex girls set up their own charity". The Telegraph. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- ^ Essex Community Foundation.
- ^ Moore-Bridger, Benedict (25 October 2016). "Essex girl campaigners meet with dictionary bosses in bid to have term removed". Evening Standard. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- ^ de Bruxelles, Simon (25 October 2016). "The only way is out for Essex girl label". The Times. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- ^ Bate, Marisa (25 October 2016). "The problem with the phrase 'Essex girl'". The Pool. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- ^ Beard, Mary (6 August 2017). "Essex Girl in Ancient Times". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- ^ Marsh, Sarah (5 December 2020). "'Essex girl' removed from dictionary following campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
- ^ "Dropping of 'Essex Girl' by Oxford dictionary welcomed by women". BBC News. 9 December 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
- Christie Davies (1998), Jokes and Their Relation to Society, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 186–189, ISBN 3-11-016104-4
- Germaine Greer, "Long Live the Essex Girl", 4 March 2001, The Guardian