What is a DUFF? And why is it the newest school girl insult?

Well this is one acronym we probably could have lived without…

There’s a term that’s been cropping up more and more around the internet during the past few months… and that term is “DUFF”.

“Like the beer from the Simpsons?” I said, when a colleague asked if I’d come across it.

No, not like the beer, I was told.

“The DUFF”, as I have now learned, is an American acronym and it stands for the “designated ugly fat friend.”

Or rather, the friend who people apparently keep around to make themselves look better by comparison.

Mae Whitman starring the new film “The DUFF”.

Like me, 17-year-old high school student Kody Keplinger was unfamiliar with this new and completely unnecessary  label, but overheard it in the cafeteria one morning.

“When I first heard it…I thought, ‘That’s hilarious and super clever.’” Keplinger recalls in the New York Post. “Then, I thought — ‘Wait, that’s super mean.’ And then: ‘Oh crap, that’s me! I am the DUFF of my group!’”

Turns out Keplinger wasn’t alone. A quick survey of her peers revealed that many women upon learning about DUFFs assume that they are one.

“I realised that everyone is insecure and thinks they’re the DUFF,” says Keplinger.

That’s when she decided to write a book about it.

Author Kody Keplinger (seated) with the cast of the film.

Since it’s release in September 2010 that book has become a best seller. It’s also spawned a Hollywood adaptation, set for release in Australia in April. The tagline of the film is “You either know one, you have one or you are one.” Yeah.

And watching the trailer, I was reminded of the innumerable teen flicks that have come before it, in which perfectly ordinary girls are told they aren’t perfectly ordinary but actually unacceptably hideous and uncool, only to be transformed in to Rachael Leigh Cook somehow, cough, She’s All That.

For Christ’s sake Laney, just take off those dumb glasses, they’re obviously making you look like a hideous dork.

But from what I can tell, the problem with The DUFF is in the marketing, not the message.

“The filmmakers cared a lot about the heart of the story,” Keplinger says. “As long as the message remains intact — that everyone feels like the DUFF at times — I’m 100 percent thrilled.”

And it appears that’s exactly how a lot of women feel. Thousands have taken to social media to reclaim the term posting to Twitter under the hashtag #IAmTheDuff



Several celebrities have even been snapped wearing “I am the DUFF” t-shirts.

Here’s the thing though #IAmTheDuff is still problematic.

It is still a derogatory label used to make women feel inferior. Even those self-identifying as DUFFs highlight a chronic lack of self-esteem among young women who have constantly been told by the media and popular culture that they aren’t good enough. And it’s totally untrue.

As Keplinger has pointed out, we may all feel like the DUFFs from time to time and this is valid. But labels like these remain damaging and cruel and women shouldn’t have to “reclaim” them.

Perhaps a more useful hashtag would be #NooneIsTheDuffIAmGoodEnoughExactlyAsIAm, but maybe that’s a bit long for the 140 character twitter limit.