Hawk Tuah Girl The Obscure: Whose Story Is The ‘Hawk Tuah’ Meme? (2024)

Because the viral ‘Hawk Tuah’ meme is so utterly self-explanatory, attempts at paraphrasing it read like academic social satire, something from Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. Slate glosses ‘Hawk Tuah’ as the ‘onomatopoeic ricochet effect’ of spitting ‘before – or during – fellati* to increase the total lubrication.’ A Vanity Fair piece called Hailey Welch’s ‘’spirited interpretation and risqué application of the phrase on camera’ during her viral TikTok street interview a form of ‘déclassé’ miming. Who talks like this? Probably people who worry about becoming ‘déclassé’ themselves. ‘Déclassé’ means ‘reduced or degraded from one’s social class,’ which has little to do with the media persona embraced by Welch, a blue-collar factory worker from rural Belfast, Tennessee. On the other hand, saying ‘déclassé’ – used properly or not – lets writers and readers imagine their own shared membership in the respectable upper middle class. Attempts to figure out who the ‘Hawk Tuah Girl’ is and what her popularity ‘means’ have all the markings of cultural anxieties about middle-class status. On the other hand, Welch’s savvy embrace of her own sudden fame reflects the return of working-class bluntness in American pop culture.

Few people talk about ‘onomatopeic’ effects or ‘spirited’ interpretations outside of the professoriate. I suspect that even fewer talk about sex in terms of ‘fellati*’ or ‘total lubrication’ without the aid of ChatGPT. This sort of vague, sociological, hoity-toity rhetoric functions like the filler words – um, er, like, actually – that Christopher Hitchens reminds us are often verbal tics of the ‘mildly authoritarian who want to make themselves un-interruptible.’ If Hitchens’s old magazine sounds a bit Victorian in this case, though, it is less about the tone of sex-talk and more about who gets to talk about other people having sex. ‘Hawk Tuah,’ for example, has raised the Clintonian spectre of ‘Deplorables’ from the political graveyard. Because Welch has been ‘a hit in the New York Post comments section,’ she is supposed to have been coopted by the Right along with podcasts, Zyn nicotine pouches, online sports gambling, and Harambe. On the other hand, at least some conservative culture warriors are reluctant to embrace ‘spit on that thang’ as good behavior without knowing the Hawk Tuah Girl’s voting record.

In part this is about socially policing female desire in an ideological sense. Identifying where ‘Hawk Tuah’ falls on the political spectrum seems to be the explicit criteria for judgment. Really, though, the ‘Hawk Tuah’ phenomenon is about policing what being a working-class woman means in American culture. We see this in the sorts of make-believe biographies assigned to Hailey Welch. One version cast her as a smalltown schoolteacher who lost her job because her students started spitting on each other. Another made her a Southern preacher’s daughter. These are utterly predictable tropes about American smalltown life, Hallmark Channel plots with a little safe smut.


NYT ‘Strands’ Hints, Spangram And Answers For Wednesday, July 10th
Northern Lights Alert: Beware ‘Head-On’ Aurora Displays Say Scientists
‘The Acolyte’ Episode 7 Recap And Review: Woo-Hoo, Witchy Woman

Indeed, because so much of the rhetoric surrounding ‘Hawk Tuah’ sounds formulaic and canned, I asked ChatGPT to concoct a biography for ‘Hawk Tuah Girl.’ It generated ‘Emily Harper,’ Emily’s father, ‘Jack,’ who ‘ran the local garage, where he toiled long hours to provide for his family,’ and his wife, ‘Mary Harper,’ who ‘balanced her time between nurturing young minds at the local elementary school and creating a warm, loving home.’ Although ‘life in Willow Springs was modest, Emily harbored big dreams.’ ChatGPT decided to make her a regular churchgoer pursuing an education degree. One day, Emily had a ‘candid and somewhat provocative discussion about modern relationships and intimacy.’ There is no need to continue ChatGPT’s story because it is utterly predictable and interchangeable with other equally fictional versions circulating around the internet. The point of these stories is that the Hawk Tuah Girl, whether she triumphs or becomes a pariah, has to suffer. The audience wants this.

If there is something Victorian in all this euphemistic talk of the ‘risqué,’ ‘déclassé,’ and the ‘somewhat,’ there is also a kind of Victorianism in these plots. The British novelist, Thomas Hardy, used plots and subplots about working-class women’s sexual lives to critique Victorian social mores. Novels such as Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d’Urbervilles depend largely on the reactions of other characters to ‘fallen women.’ Hardy’s own take on his characters, who fall afoul of sexual, religious, marital, and class proprieties, was generally both sympathetic and intentionally provocative. He subtitled Tess of the d’Urbervilles as ‘A Pure Woman: Faithfully Presented’ in a deliberate snub to polite society. His semi-autobiographical Jude the Obscure, a tragic exploration of crossing class boundaries, was sold in brown paper bags and the Bishop of Wakefield was said to have burnt the book. Hardy’s fictions work as something much more than petty little morality tales because he knew and observed much about a particular place – nineteenth-century ‘Wessex’ – and the people who lived there. He also understood what labor entails and how it forms cultures.

What is quite evident about responses to the viral ‘Hawk Tuah’ incident is that ‘takes’ on American pop culture geared toward the middle class have little understanding of blue-collar work. The ‘Hawk Tuah Girl’ is a schoolteacher or preacher’s daughter in a cultural imagination that does not picture working-class women waking up at 3:30 a.m. for first shift on an assembly line. Of course, by her own account, Welch worked at a bedspring factory until her viral fame. This is the sort of too-perfect novelistic detail that Hardy would have relished. His self-taught classics scholar Jude, after all, was not giving funerary rights or translating great works of literature, but inscribing dead language on gravestones. But working at a bedspring factory is also something that real people do for a living. Several articles identify Tennessee Spring & Metal in Hartsville, Tennessee, as Welch’s former employer. If this is the case, then Welch would have had a nearly two-hour drive from Belfast to Hartsville each day.

If it is difficult to imagine that commute, it seems equally difficult for many people to imagine industrial manufacturing in the first place. As Slate’s piece reflected, ‘a bed spring factory? People’s lives, man.’ Indeed. The déclassé of it all. There are a ridiculous number of articles with titles like ‘What is a Spring Factory? Viral Hawk Tuah Girl Works at One’ or ‘Hawk Tuah girl’s job revelation has everyone asking what is a spring factory?’ Of course, people who have worked on assembly lines know perfectly well what factories are. Residents of Marshall County, Tennessee, which has several manufacturing sites, three industrial parks, and a 3.2% unemployment rate are probably not asking. Ironically, the same social assumptions that cast ‘nice’ working-class women as schoolteachers also have very little understanding of what goes into doing that kind of work. ‘I’m not a schoolteacher or a bartender,’ Welch remarked in a recent interview. ‘I’m not even old enough to be a teacher, I’m 21!’

Blue-collar work is remarkably difficult because it requires great physical intelligence. One needs to know how to pace oneself against what factory workers in the Industrial Northeast used to call the ‘killing rate’ of production. And as Mike Rose remarks in his essay, ‘Blue-Collar Brilliance,’ there is a profound ‘social and communicative dimension of physical work, for it provides the medium for so much of work’s intelligence.’ Is sex that different? I suspect that part of what alternately fascinates and confuses middle-class audiences is that ‘Hawk Tuah’ descriptively treats a sexual act as an intelligent physical process – a kind of work like galvanizing, electrocoating, or plating – instead of an abstract idea. Tennessee coil spring plants, for example, advertise that they ‘can add a permanent lubrication or a Teflon coating to any spring’ to ‘extend the usable life of metal springs, and to reduce noise.’

Contemporary America does not tend to produce novelists like Hardy who, however imperfectly, attend to the ‘social and communicative dimension of physical work’ or working-class life. But with Welch’s generation, this finds expression in the resurgence of singer-songwriters like Zach Bryan, whose own viral hit, ‘Heading South,’ saw the singer ‘out to make a name and a fool of ‘em all.’ It is not surprising that Welch, who Zach Bryan recently brought up onstage for a duet, is a fan. Marshall County, which has several plants that manufacture religious devotional items, is a community that understands the labor involved in producing and presenting stories. Part of this includes understanding how others use those stories and what it means to keep control of them. Welch got herself an agent, set up an Instagram, and partnered with Fathead Threads, a family-owned company in Marshall County. ‘Class-feeling,’ Hardy writes in Jude the Obscure, ‘save-your-own-soulism, and other virtues, [are] a mean exclusiveness at bottom.’ Among other items, Welch and Fathead Threads are selling signed ‘Hawk Tuah ’24: Spit On That Thang’ trucker hats. This might not be the ideologically pure fashion statement you want this election season, but Hailey Welch’s work never belonged to you anyway.

Hawk Tuah Girl The Obscure: Whose Story Is The ‘Hawk Tuah’ Meme? (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kerri Lueilwitz

Last Updated:

Views: 6384

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kerri Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1992-10-31

Address: Suite 878 3699 Chantelle Roads, Colebury, NC 68599

Phone: +6111989609516

Job: Chief Farming Manager

Hobby: Mycology, Stone skipping, Dowsing, Whittling, Taxidermy, Sand art, Roller skating

Introduction: My name is Kerri Lueilwitz, I am a courageous, gentle, quaint, thankful, outstanding, brave, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.