February 28, 2008

Opener to use on indie girls

This is a slight variation on an opener * I read on some website. It's best used on indie girls, or others who are fall under the Whiterpeople category.

"Hey guys, settle a debate for us. Today this group of preppy girls came over to talk to us -- y'know, really pretty but all wearing like the exact same khaki pants (shorts, skirts, etc.). (Slight pause while indie girls laugh at preppy girls' conformity.) And afterwards we got into an argument...is khaki a color or a fabric?"

The correct answer is that khaki is a color, and most girls know this. You can go into, "See, I was thinking it was a color, but the thing is that you never see a khaki car or wallpaper color or anything like that!" then fire into your next routine...

The original goes, "OK, so my friends and I were making fun of some frat boys," instead of the line about preppy girls, to introduce khaki. But it's pointless to rag on guys who aren't even there to stand up to your slander: it looks desperate and girls don't pay random guys much attention anyway. However, girls love nothing more than ripping apart their own competition; it's their favorite pastime. My change also adds a Demonstration of Higher Value -- a group of pretty girls came up to talk to you and your friends, so that you're pre-selected by women. But it makes it an inconspicuous detail rather than a bald boast, and it assuages the targets that you value them more for their indie cred than their looks, as with the preppy girls.

Indie band The Teenagers understand this, judging from the lyrics to their song "Homecoming". It crudely caricatures a tan, SUV-driving American cheerleader, who the British narrator fucks and leaves. ** The female fans of this band are too naive to realize that they're being gamed by the band, who during performances ask young girl fans to come up on stage to ironically play the role of the cheerleader in the song, and no doubt whom the band has an orgy with later on.

On a sidenote, indie girls are a lot girlier than I remember when I used to go to the 9:30 Club or Black Cat in high school (a little over 10 years ago). There's still the intolerable snobbishness about who follows the most obscure bands, but they've toned down the brooding depression and aggressive sarcasm a lot. Also, no more grunge-influenced clothing, where dresses or skirts could only be worn if they had been donated to the Salvation Army by octogenarians. And now look at them:

* An icebreaker used in bars or nightclubs.

** Gangsta rappers are allowed to talk about fucking and leaving a girl, without a peep from Whiterpeople, since any criticism of any aspect of Black culture is racist. With The Teenagers, we see that Whiterpeople themselves can get a free pass if they disguise it as a song about the hip European fucking and leaving the stupid American SUV-driver.

February 25, 2008

'80s night, younger-girl paradise

In the post below, I mentioned that one of the Whiterpeople things I like is '80s night, though technically it was just the idea that intrigued me. But recently I've finally gone my first one, and it was great, feeding my desire for both young girls and dance music. The '90s were a pretty barren decade for dance music, when we remember that the techno that came out was not suitable to dancing. The early 2000s weren't very great either, and only within the past few years has danceable electronic music become somewhat popular again, although the trend was in its incipient stage by 2003.

Take the song "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice -- from the basslines that carried over from disco to the references to Michael Jackson, it's firmly rooted in the last decade to have produced good nightclub music.

I wonder whether nightclubs that host '80s night will cater to Whiterpeople's preferences by trying to see which club can play the most obscure yet still accessible songs. They've got 10 years of music to work with, after all. Once '80s night becomes mainstream, I can see the hipster clubs abandoning it as a ironic thing and making it counter-ironic (doubly "ironic"?) -- for example, by only playing indie music from the decade that Whiterpeople might still recognize, like the Jesus and Mary Chain. "Huhuh, you thought we were going to play Prince, didn't you? Made ya look! That idea's been dead since last Wednesday."

In the meantime, pretty young things from all music cliques flock to any club that will allow them to play dress-up in a non-slutty and non-arcane way. The result -- a denim skirt over leggings with an off-the-shoulder t-shirt -- isn't the most attractive, but their goal is just to have some silly harmless fun. The music is nonthreatening and lighthearted, which is the mood you want them to be in when you're approaching them cold. If the music is too overtly sexual, only the sluttier ones will dance, since most girls don't like thinking of themselves as hoochie mamas.

Disco is somewhat of an exception, since it's pretty provocative, yet is still far short of post-1992 hip hop. But disco is better for those who've graduated college and can handle more sexually charged music. When college-aged kids try to dance to disco, they broadcast their immaturity.

I breathed a great sigh of relief when I realized that I could pass as a roughly college-aged person and so not make the girls uneasy about my age. If they thought that I was old enough to remember any of the songs when they first came out, I would instantly be pegged as "the old guy in the club," since most were 21 - 22 or younger. Standing 5'8, weighing 135 lbs, and having a pretty boy face make it easy to fly under the radar: though I'm 27, everyone tells me I look about 23.

I knew I was safe when, while dancing with two girls I'd approached, one 18 and the other 21, a guy who was probably in his mid-late 30s came by staring shamelessly at the teenagers nearby (he looked like he had worked the same low-level IT job since 1994). One of the girls said, "Oh my god, that guy is like old enough to be all of our fathers!" Really -- "our," huh? Sweeeeet.

The only thing that can catch you off-guard, aside from the occasional incomprehensible slang word, is the feel of their flesh: it's like a party balloon blown up and stuffed with Jello. This changes quickly into an oatmeal-in-Saran-Wrap texture, so it's quite a shock at first. It also feels very different when covered in sweat -- being more taut, it makes perspiration form a layer of beads on top of it, rather than absorb a fair amount of it in the wrinkles and folds that eventually form. And it may be that they just sweat more. Whatever the cause, the greater quantity of younger-girl sweat on the surface makes it easier for them to leave their scent on you too. If you pretend this is all normal, they won't suspect anything.

I know it's considered poor taste to only approach girls in their late teens, but indulging in this barely-a-vice prevents me from committing far greater vices with girls my own age. I would feel no brake on the "casual sex and leave" instinct in that case, since by then they're too jaded to expect or want much else. Unless they're exceptional, of course, but I don't want to waste time searching for exceptions. By contrast, I'd have to be the grand-daddy of SOBs to "pump and dump" a vulnerable and adorable 18 year-old, and I'm not interested in the sluttier (uglier) ones who wouldn't mind it. In the end, I'm only concerned with behaving properly, not with thinking proper thoughts, and if constraining my choices makes that easier, then that's the solution. It's like a glutton restricting themselves to buying healthy food, so that the temptation to sin doesn't even arise.

February 18, 2008

An apology for Whiterpeople

The satirical website Stuff White People Like has become an instant hit, and it's not hard to see why: finally, someone has put together an insightful and up-to-date catalogue of the silly, calculated ways by which upper-middle class White liberals try to one-up each other in preening contests. Here's an example from #16, bragging about their "Gifted" Children:

If you see their kid playing peacefully, you say "oh, he/she seems very focused, are they in a gifted program?" at which point the parent will say "yes." Or if the kid is lighting a dog on fire while screaming at their mother, you say "my he/she is a creative one. Is he/she gifted?" To which the parent will reply "oh, yes, he's too creative and smart for school. We just don't know what to do." Either situation will put a white person in a better mood and make them like you more.

One reason for putting the pretensions of Whiterpeople * under a microscope is to show how, despite their claims of ideological cleanliness, Whiterpeople show off their knowledge of other cultures and their interest in environmentalism due only to vanity and the instinct to climb over others in status. Why not pick on some other demographic group? Because this one largely controls the entertainment industry -- from Hollywood to your local indie record label -- so that lampooning the group would be self-criticism as well as financial suicide, which are not generally good motivators.

Surely this hype-deflation is long overdue, as few things make you want to punch another person in the face as hearing them say something like, "Oh, that's too bad that you stayed in a hotel and went to those touristy areas of Rome that are clogged by fat people wearing shorts and fanny-packs. I'd much rather rent a cozy apartment, stroll down the street to the panetteria for a light indulgence, and enjoy a long lunch at a local trattoria while reading the Corriere. My Italian is a bit rusty, but I just think it's a sign of respect to your hosts to learn their language, unlike those insufferable tourists who apparently think everyone should speak English like a bunch of American slobs. Are those cultural imperialists even aware of what they're doing to the local culture?"

But as the above example shows, we shouldn't care so much about what motives people have for their actions. Italians of all stripes prefer being visited by the yuppie know-it-all than the boor. Shifting the focus from attaining purity of thought and motive to increasing the well-being of those around us is a keystone of conservativism in the tradition of Adam Smith, who is famous for saying:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.


It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.

In the terms of Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions, this clearly represents the Constrained Vision. We are inherently constrained to care more about our own interests, and especially our own position in the status hierarchy, than about the welfare of strangers who we aren't involved with. In this view, if Whiterpeople are motivated more by status-seeking than whatever pure motives they may claim -- so what? I'm quite glad that living around a critical mass of Whiterpeople means that I can enjoy good grocery stores, pleasing human-scale architecture, and no crime and high trust due to greater ethnic homogeneity. Surely that's better than the opposite, and it's not as if you have to socialize at length with the moral preeners whose wallets maintain these public goods.

Steve Sailer and the guys at 2 Blowhards do a good job of balancing these two tasks: showing that well-to-do liberals don't practice what they preach, while siding with their tastes in the end because they really are better. I'm restricting myself here to Whiterpeople's cultural preferences, of course -- their public policy prescriptions, also based on fashionable feel-goodyness, tend to be disastrous.

I don't care about soft hypocrisy, where a person fails to meet the standards they promote, but I'm not bothered much either by hard hypocrisy, where a person has no intention of trying to meet the standards they promote. It's weasely, sure, but again it's human nature to rationalize our actions in ways that make us look good. What their conduct is, and how it affects the welfare of others around them, is far more important. This point is often lost on those who staff the cottage industry of Exposers of Hypocrisy.

I have in mind someone who points out how Whiterpeople claim to like diversity and interacting with Black people, all while isolating themselves in lily-white communities, whereas the (White) exposer has moved beyond such hypocrisy by living in a vibrant ethnically diverse neighborhood. In reconciling the paradox between the Whiterperson's credo and their conduct, the exposer has decided to implement a set of foolish beliefs instead of living a nice life but dropping the ideological nonsense.

While some of the Whiterpeople status symbols contribute nothing to the well-being of others -- the Prius, for example -- these annoyances aren't too hard to ignore, while many of the beneficial ones can only be found in areas populated by Whiterpeople. Overall, they make great neighbors you love to hate.

* A name suggested by a commenter at Steve Sailer's blog.

Addendum: How much of a Whiterperson am I? Not very, but I do like rap music before it became gangsta and was renamed hip-hop, living near the water, the stuff at Whole Foods, Netflix, good architecture, '80s night, not having a TV, Manhattan, being an expert on other cultures, traveling, Asians girls (well, only from Southern or Western Asia), and tea (caffeinated only -- I lose points for not liking East Asian green teas, but I gain points by liking strong Indian teas. I come out ahead since South Asians are more fashionable now than East Asians, who haven't been exotic since, like, 1996).

February 11, 2008

Some thoughts and stats on ballet

- It's far less gay-friendly that I had assumed. Sure, gays are more likely to follow it than are lesbians or straights, but this just follows from their being more into any aspect of culture. In the end, ballet is more restrained than effusive, has nearly no potential for campiness, and on stage the dancers rarely give off a bitchy "I'm not your slave anymore" attitude. This is why homosexuals flock naturally to musicals and Cher concerts instead. (It has nothing to do with the fact that most of the stars are female: again, see the popularity of Cher, Madonna, and so on.)

- Female ballet dancers are much more girly than I would have thought, given their narrow hips and broad shoulders, which suggest masculinization. They're quite girly, in fact. Girls with tomboy behavior to match their boyish figures are more likely to go into gymnastics. I rarely, if at all, see a gymnastics girl on campus in anything other than her workout sweatpants and sweatshirt, no matter the occasion. They walk around like guys, puffing up their shoulder blades and holding their arms out, stiffened. And they're very likely to have a promiscuous streak in their public behavior -- whether this reflects their private lives, I don't know.

- Writing up a ballet counterpart to the post on attractive classical musicians would be unnecessary, since there are virtually no ugly ballet dancers, and I don't just mean their bodies, which is obvious. Some are average, but most are above average or very good-looking from the neck up. Have a look at the dancers of the American Ballet Theatre. If Isadora Loyola should break her ankle, God forbid, she could surely support herself as a cover girl during the recovery process.

Some fools will suggest that this is evidence of discrimination, that the ballet companies cynically choose the better-looking dancers in order to make more money through broadening their audience. Since dancing skills of this caliber are an honest signal of excellent health and likely of "good genes" that brought about this health, and since we find signals of health more attractive than signals of sickness, it's no surprise that good-looking people make better dancers. At any rate, I showed previously why this argument does not even apply where it appears most promising -- in pop music. Those who played the inaugural feminist Mardi Gras, Lilith Fair, are almost all good-looking, even though discrimination against ugly women is absent among the organizers. This doesn't mean the correlation is perfect, but it's clearly strong.

I don't think it's due to cross-assortative mating between pretty mothers and talented fathers, as I've suggested in the link above for pretty singers. Ballet dancers tend to come from middle-class families or above, and those fathers aren't dancers who married trophy wives. This can be put to a simple test: within families, does the best-looking sibling tend to be the most natural dancer? If so, the cause is probably a suite of genes that helps you excel in both, whatever the mechanism is (again, could just mean they strengthen your health).

- Ballet dancers would make ideal girlfriends. Aside from their looks and talent, the average personality traits augur well for a smooth enjoyable relationship. Although gregarious, they're also a bit coy, not wild-child types. They're needy and anxious enough to qualify as girly, but they have plenty of independent time and can handle pressure well. They're very curious and open to new things, but not in a way that would make your eyes roll -- they wouldn't take non-serious modern art seriously or get into astrology. More like learning French or Italian just for fun. They're conscientious enough to make flaking out a non-issue, and when they get distracted, it's in a productive way (the way I get when I think I've hit upon something important enough to table other things for the moment). And they're agreeable and empathetic while still having plenty of confidence and enough toughness to keep from getting annoyingly complaisant.

Admittedly this reflects my own tastes -- if you hate girls, you might love dating a banker or lawyer. (It's not that they're evil or insufferably boring, as the cliches go -- just not feminine.) As a plus for those in academia or the professions, having a dancer girlfriend or wife prevents career incestuousness and avoids the awkwardness that may result if you compete with each other, even remotely. For example, one professor might get envious of another if one was promoted faster, published more papers (or more important papers), and so on. The same is true for dancers who date or marry. By choosing a partner whose dimension of talent is orthogonal to yours, you steer clear of such potential obstacles (although you probably want someone whose magnitude of talent is comparable to your own).

- More, they're one of the few groups of good-looking girls who aren't very conceited about their looks. I suggested before that calibrating your self-image to a higher mean would make you more humble than otherwise. Since dancers live most of their lives surrounded by other toned and pretty girls, they may not think their looks are very special.

- In general, they're very likely to have an immunity -- whether inborn or acquired, I don't know -- to all sorts of modern vices. The average young adult female may not rob, murder, assault, and so on, but they are awfully likely to get blind drunk at frat parties, fall in love with skateboard dudes, and so on. Ballet dancers do not bring up at every chance how sketchy the average jock or drug-user is, or rail against fraternities -- it's just assumed that such things aren't worth their time, and so they pay them no mind. So, that suggests that it isn't acquired through a bad previous experience. Because people differ in temperament, some find it easier to lead a virtuous life.

- Ballet dancers age very well, not just their bodies (here is Maya Plisetskaya at 50). Women face a difficult transition after 30 since their attractiveness has faded, and while dancers can forestall that time by five years or so, they too must try to age gracefully. That's not something women do much of anymore, but ballet prepares them well.

It is emotional and approval-seeking, which is youthful, but the restraint keeps her from appearing desperate, which is unflattering on older women. She can showcase her feminine grace, though the formality prevents her from competing with younger girls in informal contests, where flirtiness counts for more. And just as her movements connote both fragility and strength, so her performance as a whole suggests both diversion and dedication. She will naturally come to embody sprezzatura, while her peers either fade into the background or embarrass themselves through exhibitionism.

- To return to Plisetskaya, who is regarded as the greatest ballerina of the 20th century, she is Ashkenazi Jewish. The man regarded as the greatest dancer of the 20th century, Fred Astaire, was also Ashkenazi Jewish. [Correction: no he's not! When I know a person changed their name from something German or Yiddish-sounding to enter Hollywood, I assume they were Jewish.] Looking through the rosters of leading ballet companies, I didn't notice an overrepresentation of Jewish surnames, so this case isn't like physics or math. In fact, the stereotype is that Ashkenazi Jews are goofy klutzes on the dancefloor. So, while stereotypes do tend to be true, here we may have an exception -- probably due to the penchant this group has for self-deprecating humor.

- Pursuing a hunch based on the programs of the few performances I'd been to, I looked up some data on whether Chinese or Japanese people are more likely to become ballet dancers -- Japanese by a longshot. What's the importance? Well, it fits into a larger pattern in which the Japanese are more bold and excitement-seeking than the other East Asian groups. They are more likely to have an interest in some form of daredevilry, more likely to perform or enjoy rock music, more likely to innovate in some area, and so on. And they're noticeably better looking. I'm unbiased here, since I tend not to find East Asian females attractive. But Japanese girls are somewhat appealing -- and those who are only 1/2 or 1/4, more so. I'm not alone here, judging from the non-Asian guys who prefer Asian females, who typically desire Japanese women more than Chinese or Koreans.

For the data, I looked at 10 prestigious ballet companies, although I could not use the Russian ones or the Paris Opera Ballet since they either had no Asians or did not provide a roster of their dancers online. Those examined: American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Royal Ballet (London), National Ballet of Canada, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Washington Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Houston Ballet. I tallied the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Southeast Asians at three levels: top (e.g., principal dancer), middle (e.g., soloist), and bottom (e.g., corps de ballet).

There were 5 Koreans, 5 Southeast Asians, 12 Chinese, and 19 Japanese. Nearly all of them came from their ethnic motherland, rather than the US, Canada, or the UK. Since the Chinese outnumber the Japanese by 10 to 1 in general, whereas the Japanese outnumber the Chinese by 3 to 2 in this case, it's clear that the Japanese are more likely to make it to the elite level, so that a formal significance test is unnecessary. I then assigned 1 point for a member at the bottom, 2 points for a member at the middle, and 4 points for a member at the top. Since it becomes increasingly harder to make it to the top, they should get more points for being promoted. The Japanese scored 39, the Chinese 25, the Southeast Asians 7, and the Koreans 5.

The National Ballet of China has existed for almost 50 years and was more or less founded by a Russian, so it's not that the Japanese got a huge head-start. The Chinese dominate in Olympic gymnastics, so they must have the basic kinesthetic requirements covered. Western dance companies frequently travel to China, so they do not want for influence. Again, the main difference seems to be that, while to Westerners both populations appear rather boring, the Japanese are more dynamic and exciting than the Chinese.

- While most music composed specifically for ballets is Romantic or later, I think Baroque works best in general. Counterpoint just seems to fit the spirit of ballet better. Here is the Kirov Ballet performing to Bach, as well as one from a more modern Brazilian company.

February 3, 2008

Review of Ghost World: Dare to follow convention

As part of my neverending fascination with teenage girls, I watched Ghost World for the second time, to give it a fairer shot than at first, when all I could think was, "Oh god, another death-by-sarcasm movie." On reflection, it does have a few points to recommend it, but overall it goes wrong.

The movie, based on a comic book of the same name (which I haven't read), follows the wanderings of two quirky best friends, Becky and Enid, who have just graduated high school. Becky slowly starts to follow a more normal course, getting a job as a cashier at Starbucks, looking for an affordable apartment in a nice neighborhood, buying cups and plates from Crate & Barrel, and finding ways to have fun that don't involve adolescent pranks. Enid refuses to join real life and doesn't even have short-term plans for what to do with her life, preferring instead to mock mainstream culture and play pranks in order to keep from growing bored.

Because this is an indie movie about quirky characters, you already know who receives a more sympathetic portrayal. However, by throwing into relief the different paths these friends are going down, the movie unintentionally highlights the importance of following convention: it keeps you from ending up a bitter loner with no job, and thereby compelled to rely on others for support -- others who, of course, the outsider cannot tolerate. Indeed, Enid's only friend after she and Becky begin to drift apart is her 40-something counterpart, Seymour, who she ends up having a drunken one-night stand with, to her regret. While the intention is to make us sympathize with her plight, the natural reaction is to tell her: "If you weren't so stubborn about refusing to grow up, you wouldn't get into so much trouble."

And to be fair, another positive part of the movie is its depiction of the role of chance in the development of personality traits. We know from studies in behavior genetics that about 40% - 50% of the variation in personality traits is attributable to differences in what's called the "non-shared environment," which includes chance events. In this case, the movie makes it clear that a major reason why Enid is so bitter in general and about boys in particular is that her best friend (played by Scarlett Johansson) is much better-looking than she is. It doesn't matter that Enid (played by Thora Birch) is not unattractive: when boys interact with the two, the difference between the two girls' looks is clear enough that they invariably hit on Becky and ignore Enid. *

Now, what genes a person received from their parents, or what environmental constraints they faced, are no more within a person's control than chance events. However, a quirk of human psychology makes us sympathize more with a victim of bad luck than a victim of bad genes or bad environments. Somehow luck seems even further beyond human control, even though of course a person has zero ability to influence who their own biological parents are. The movie taps into this feature of our mind and makes the Enid character a bit more likable.

But aside from this somewhat redeeming comment on development, and the own-goal portrayal of conventional life, Ghost World falls flat. The sarcastic dialogue is jarringly unnatural coming out of the mouths of girls who've just graduated high school -- if it sounds more like what a near-40 whiner would say, that's because it is. The Wikipedia article on the comic book says that its author, Daniel Clowes, has stated that he chose teenage girls as protagonists in order to sidestep criticism that his characters were mouthpieces for his cynicism. Sure, no one would ever find it odd that a 16 year-old Scarlett Johansson was talking more like a world-weary 40 year-old. Although, judging from all the praise the movie has received, it seems Clowes' little ruse managed to fool the critics (not that that's hard).

A running theme in the movie is the unforgiving march of mass consumerist culture over... well, it's not exactly clear what it's paving over. The movie was shot in Los Angeles, so it's not as if the Starbucks and faux '50s diners are replacing a distinguished past. In fact, that's true for most of suburban America. The only place where it would be burying something completely different would be in an urban area like Manhattan or a rural small town, neither of which case is happening of course. That's clear in the case of small-town America, and phrases like "the Disneyfication of New York" are really just ways of saying that it's cleaner and safer than before. It is impossible to wander around Manhattan and think, "Gee, so much consumerist culture surrounding me -- I can't tell if I'm in New York or an exurb!" This facile mocking of non-threats gets very tiresome.

And while the movie does a decent job at lampooning the self-importance of the art world, as depicted by Enid's art teacher, most people stopped taking the art world seriously at least 30 years ago, and a sizable minority 50 years ago. What would be truly subversive in the twenty-first century would be to take on the parts of the establishment art world that are not yet so gray that they might find it hard to defend themselves against charges of fuddy-duddery. Like, say, smug Gen X filmmakers. No one cares if you're quirky: you're still a mediocre talent with little passion and no insight.

This attitude is also reflected in the portrayals of normal people in the movie: restaurant patrons, movie theater managers, and anyone else who isn't a total weirdo, are all shown in caricature. This accurately shows the warped way in which Enid views the world -- to make mocking it simple -- but it's clear that the writer and director are on board as well, or else they would have reversed the perspective at some point and caricatured Enid as a stubborn brat who is (at least for now) beneath, rather than above, those she mocks.

At the website Rotten Tomatoes, which pools critical responses, Ghost World scores almost as well as Heathers (92 vs 94 out of 100), but the two movies about adolescent outsider girls couldn't be more different. Allow me to end by paraphrasing the latter:

You know what I want, babe?

[Shoots DVD of Ghost World]

Cool Gen X-ers like you out of my life.

* There may be ways to mitigate this in real life: try to bias kids to hang out with same-sex friends of similar attractiveness (if female) or of similar dominance (if male). Males do so naturally, by forming coalitions of similarly ranked individuals -- nerds and gym rats near the bottom, scholar-athletes near the top, and so on. Females do this too, but to a lesser extent: their cliques are not primarily based on attractiveness, though pretty girls do tend to hang out with each other. So, it is easier for same-sex competition over mates to threaten the stability of a social clique among females than among males.

Concretely, we could try to get females to join clubs whose filters are primarily about attractiveness or its close correlates. For example, nearly all dancers (ballet or modern) are pretty, whereas a catch-all "preppy" group will have far greater variation in looks. Similarly, by making available a wide range of cheerleader-like clubs, one ranked above the next, girls can join a club and make friends with those of similar attractiveness: the hot ones become cheerleaders and poms, while the less attractive join color guard (at least at my high school).

And while this minimizes within-clique competition, it also allows members at the same level to gang up on those of another level -- the hot cheerleaders would make fun of the plain color guard, while the color guard would hurl insults about anorexia or sluttiness toward the cheerleaders. We will never get rid of conflict, so the best we can do is make it group vs. group so that at least the adolescent doesn't have to go it alone. Someone will have their back when things get rough, and they'll have friends during inter-war periods. Obviously this doesn't apply to all contexts: poor urban males would form gangs that would threaten the larger social order, even if they started out as something benign like neighborhood basketball teams.