On TikTok, a young white woman in a pristine white dress with little blue flowers delicately picks up a dainty cup of tea and a lavish looking raspberry tart in a field of poppies. Birds are chirping. A voiceover plays: “Anyone else wanna just, like, move off the grid into a cottage in a nearby forest where you can bathe in a nearby stream and make your own quilts and grow your own herbs and spices and dance with the fairies, because…same.” #fairies #dreamlife #lesbian #cottagecore.
So what is cottagecore? And why is it speaking to millions of young queer people all over the world? Well, to answer that we have to acknowledge that cottagecore is just one aesthetic community thriving on Tumblr, Instagram, and TikTok alongside fairycore, goblincore and the dramatically named dark academia. Clicking these hashtags is like opening a big, digital dress-up box that, since 2018, has inspired its fans to make moodboards, playlists and even fanfiction dedicated to their favourite visual microgenres.
More than just an aesthetic fantasy, as Isabel Slone wrote in the New York Times, cottagecore “offers a vision of the world where men are not consciously excluded; they are simply an afterthought.” Many enthusiasts, like Instagram user @cottagecore_faerie, are determined to reject toxic masculinity and include people from all across the LGBTQ+ community. "It's extremely important to welcome people into this community," she told the NY Times. "Queer people are also so heavily objectified and sexualized in media, and this is something where we can just be ourselves."
Admittedly, most cottagecore content features mostly white women, but that’s changing. Daphne, a 17-year-old, mixed-race lesbian in Oklahoma finds comfort in cottagecore imagery. “It makes me feel very serene,” she said. “It lets me escape the troubles of the world, even if it’s just the few minutes a day that it takes me to post, to look at some frogs just chilling on a lily pad or someone harvesting some veggies.”
Daphne’s Instagram account, @sapphic.daph, is a collection of images featuring Black revelers — mostly women — smelling flowers, picnicking in parks, drying herbs and luxuriating in nature. “Some representation can show that we, too, can live happily, and I’m glad I can provide that content for my fellow Black people,” Daphne said.
Cottagecore is a beautiful creation made by mostly femme people used as sacred escapism, a place to visually relax (if only through a screen). And from that place, a more fantastical life can be imagined and held. A life full of sensory pleasures, and we argue, more sex. Ultimately for many, queertok, farmcore, fairycore, and cottagecore, have made us believe in humanity again. And it’s also taught us that coziness in a field of flowers is absolutely one of our sensory fetishes.