Based on TikTok, that is what it’s best to learn about us:
Elena drinks her morning tea out of a Moe’s Books mug. She wears black Mary Jane Docs. She rotates between utilizing a black Baggu shoulder bag and the smallest measurement Telfar. Her secret’s child blue and reads “house” in white cursive on the top, as a result of when she misplaced hers and her roommate replicated it, that was the one possibility. It hangs with an iridescent glass coronary heart. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Tomorrow Intercourse Will Be Good Once more by Katherine Angel, Methods of Seeing by John Berger, and Essays One by Lydia Davis are on her nightstand.
Chase makes use of an Eleanor Roosevelt Faculty graduate mug for her morning espresso. She wears platform checkered Vans. She treks round with a Candy Pickles Bookstore tote bag daily, and her keychain sports activities a mushroom-shaped private security alarm, a mini The place the Wild Issues Are Brooklyn Public Library card, a friendship lanyard her child cousin made, and a carabiner. On her nightstand are these books: Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer, Terrace Story by Hilary Leichter, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, and Midnight within the Backyard of Good and Evil by John Berendt.
The app neatly suggests that’s every little thing you must learn about us “women.” However what did you find out about us? Do these things categorize us as femcels, clear women, or teenage women in our 20s?
What if, as a substitute, we informed you about our ex-boyfriends? Or our snack-filled dinners? What Taylor Swift period we’re in? Would that get you nearer?
Possibly you are really asking about our trauma — no have to get into our intersecting identities or politics to know “girlhood” right here.
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As a result of in 2023 — the “Yr of the Woman” or the “Woman-aissance” — extra substantial sides of your persona are on the again burner. What issues most is a superficial identification with numerous merchandise and experiences that supposedly outline girlhood, a time period that is come to use to pick out elements of womanhood.
Whereas media shops and types touted the “Yr of the Woman,” microtrends overlapped with continued assaults on reproductive justice, the platforming of abusers, world battle — the record goes on — and tendencies billed as community-building had been typically simply thinly veiled consumerism.
However that does not imply the “lady” second lacks potential at its core. How can we flip these memes into motion, for good?
Mashable’s tech reporter Elena Cavender and social good reporter Chase DiBenedetto talk about how “lady tendencies” captured the general public consciousness, but didn’t construct neighborhood or create change.
From the Darkish Ages to the Woman-aissance
Chase: My FYP is at present filled with reward guides, which isn’t that stunning across the vacation season. However these reward guides really feel totally different: There’s the “Literary it lady” reward information, that includes outsized sun shades and Ssense bathrobes, and the “Vanilla lady” reward information, that includes Laneige lip masks and leg heaters.
Elena: Simply the phrase “vanilla lady” offers me girl-aesthetic fatigue.
Chase: The movies are a form of fruits of a yr of aesthetic-driven lady tendencies, just like the viral “lady dinner,” a snack-only meal alternative turned meme. Others included “lady math” (a technique to justify spending cash on girly objects), the “lazy lady” job (a low-effort job and synonym for “quiet quitting,” each in response to burnout tradition — there isn’t any cause to gender this), and the “*insert random animal, meals, or object* lady” starter packs.
Elena: Notably, many of the yr’s lady tendencies didn’t have a “boy” counterpart, and in the event that they did, nobody cared in the identical manner. One other girlish pattern was “delulu,” a repackaging of delusional, used particularly when associated to courting males.
Chase: There was additionally a bunch of “lady summers,” just like the viral #TomatoGirlSummer (35 million views on TikTok) and #RatGirlSummer (30 million views) that appeared to embody “area of interest” aesthetics and quirky persona traits listed as defining expenses for the hotter season. The Woman-aissance even went past these app-based tendencies, which you lined lots, Elena.
Elena: The discharge of Barbie ushered in a yr of lady media and added gas to the hearth of “reclaiming” the phrase “girlhood” to be utilized to seemingly any gendered expertise, even those who happen effectively into maturity.
Usually the girlhood celebrated on-line is white, clear, and, effectively, girly. As Refinery29 put it, “To not be confused with ‘womanhood,’ ‘girlhood’ is the beaten-up ballet flats and pleated mini skirt to your mother’s mid-height mules and smart knee-length silhouettes.”
Chase: Pink was all over the place. Many on-line started revisiting previous childhood and teenage media on this path of reclamation as effectively. Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album GUTS and exhibits like The Summer season I Turned Fairly reignited a cross-generational obsession with being a teen lady — once more.
Elena: Many associated to Barbie‘s journey within the movie and the way it replicated the harrowing finish to girlhood — the track Billie Eilish wrote for the soundtrack, “What Was I Made For?” typically accompanied these movies. The ending of Barbie even impressed two teenage women to start out a well-liked weblog titled Girlhood.
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Chase: Movies to Eilish’s track included emotional self-reflection on what it means to be a girl, or comparisons of their childhood personalities (i.e., toys) and desires to these of their grownup selves. Many spawned remark sections full of ladies and women reminiscing on their lives, society, love, you identify it.
Based on TikTok’s end-of-year report, movies with #Girlhood racked up 1.5 billion views in 2023, virtually a 4,000 p.c enhance in comparison with 2022.
Elena: Taylor Swift, who in her Time Particular person of the Yr profile spoke concerning the current validation of stereotypically female issues like girlhood, love, breakups, and glitter, additionally had an unbelievable yr. She invited followers to decorate up as totally different eras in her life and likewise theirs at The Eras Tour and allowed for additional connection to followers’ girlhoods by way of her venture re-recording her early albums and The Eras Tour film.
Chase: Movies of younger women and their moms (or sisters or besties) connecting in film theaters throughout screenings throughout the nation turned, for a lot of, an emblem of female connection and resistance.
Elena: Even misogynistic, masculine characters turned avatars for teenage women. Succession‘s Kendall Roy turned “babygirl,” “girlfailure,” and a “teenage lady.” Even the titular Oppenheimer wasn’t exempt from being “girlie-fied”. However twisting up these male icons into women does not change the truth of being a girl in 2023.
Chase: “Girls on TikTok know what they’re doing after they dub their meals ‘lady dinners’ or coin phrases like ‘scorching lady stroll,'” argued Rebecca Jennings for Vox. “They know that this yr the highest-grossing film and what could turn into the highest-grossing musical tour in historical past heart on the very conundrum of ladies of their 30s experiencing their very own variations of girlhood. They know that folks will at all times care about what women do, as a result of women usually are not but ladies and due to this fact much less simple to despise. Women are extra obtainable for consumption, and women have extra obtainable to them.” Jennings equates this posting conduct to the advertising methods of publishers, manufacturers, and different firms who capitalize on society’s youthful obsession. It is also a method that obfuscates the true calls for of ladies.
The Woman-aissance was higher on paper.
Elena: Woman tendencies had been trending, however within the background, horrible information continued.
Chase: With the 2022 repeal of federal privateness protections supplied by Roe v. Wade, 2023 ushered in continued assaults on reproductive justice within the type of repressive state legal guidelines and threats on reproductive healthcare suppliers; extra situations of prison prosecution of pregnant individuals; and the rise of free speech- empowered anti-abortion organizations. Abortion fund networks across the nation noticed a decline in assist versus the yr prior, whereas Republican management pushed payments that restricted entry to reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care even additional.
Based on the ACLU, greater than 500 payments introducing LGBTQ censorship, anti-transgender insurance policies, restrictive healthcare, and customarily anti-LGBTQ insurance policies entered 2023’s legislative session, additional reiterating gender essentialism. On-line, advocates battled reported shadowbanning and demonetization for rallying round these causes.
Elena: And it wasn’t all glitter, sparkles, and girlhood on TikTok. Unrealistic magnificence filters and the endless stream of movies urging younger ladies to have 20-step skincare routines to stop getting older naturally coupled with the rise of weight reduction drug Ozempic made scrolling social media a vanity gamble.
Chase: On-line harassment noticed a startling enhance, too, with watchdog teams reporting that greater than half of all People have skilled on-line harassment of their lifetimes, and 2023 witnessing a pointy enhance in on-line hate on social media platforms.
Elena: To not point out that on-line areas are significantly dangerous for precise women.
Chase: In opposition to the Woman-aissance, the web witnessed a mainstream rise of “manosphere” content material, or the “on-line ecosystem of influencer content material constructed round conventional masculine norms of self-sufficiency, dominance, toughness, and stoicism,” Mashable’s Rebecca Ruiz explains. Males made within the picture of Andrew Tate, like TikTok comic Matt Rife, nonetheless share overtly misogynistic movies to thousands and thousands. Anti-feminist tradwife tradition nonetheless dominates running a blog spheres and trending TikTok movies.
Elena: These tendencies on TikTok created an environment the place ladies felt answerable for the road (or subway) harassment they get in the summertime months. “Subway shirts” or “outfit dampeners” went viral on the platform as a method to guard in opposition to harassment. As Mashable intercourse and relationships reporter Anna Iovine wrote, “The concept that sporting a cumbersome shirt will cease harassment, nevertheless, perpetuates myths: that garments trigger sexual harassment or assault, and that victims are accountable for what occurs to them.”
Help for survivors of home violence additionally backtracked, with Ezra Miller (who was accused on a number of counts of bodily and emotional abuse) sustaining their starring function in The Flash and Jonathan Majors persevering with his Marvel ventures regardless of home violence expenses and an energetic trial. In different Hollywood information, the canceled HBO present The Idol made a mockery of abuse by way of its depiction of the the abuser because the sufferer.
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Chase: AI additionally launched newly urgent considerations for marginalized communities, together with the proliferation of AI-powered deepfake porn and little one sexual abuse supplies.
Elena: The cherry on prime of a protracted yr of regression for ladies was the autumn of significant on-line ladies’s areas like the web site Jezebel, the final of an period of feminist media.
Obstacles in organizing areas round “girlhood”
Chase: Concurrently, conservative teams, mens’ rights activists, and right-wing organizers have proven a historic knack for turning memes and web moments into political organizing (and propaganda) alternatives. In 2022, the revitalization of QAnon memes through Donald Trump’s Reality Social spurred a brand new wave of enthusiasm for the conspiracy, alongside the manosphere content material circulated by way of TikTok. This yr, conservative boycotting was taken to a brand new stage when the best reacted to a Bud Mild marketing campaign that includes trans creator Dylan Mulvaney.
To be honest, the web has additionally been an efficient instrument and rallying agent for leftist causes up to now, just like the Defund the Police motion and much more current pro-Palestine organizing.
Elena: It was additionally a landmark yr for labor, with the profitable SAG-AFTRA, WAG, and the UAW strikes.
Chase: That is true, and polls say that the overwhelming majority of younger individuals are pro-labor organizing. This yr additionally noticed intensive motion by youth activists on local weather change, gun reform, and LGBTQ security. So why did not the Yr of the Woman (and its many memes and microtrends) act as impetus to interrogate the underlying themes of the posts?
Elena: On the subject of lady tendencies, we’re caught within the place of commiserating, reasonably than the community-building essential to result in collective motion.
The novel potential of girl-centric web moments is at all times curtailed by materialism and company greed. By nature of TikTok and types’ social media presences, these tendencies are rapidly commodified and bought again to us, earlier than we even have time to make sene of the pattern. Whereas a easy pattern like lady dinner won’t appear to be a name to motion, it hints at bigger points confronted by ladies. However when tendencies like lady dinner are so quickly adopted by manufacturers, it encourages shopping for stuff as a substitute of reflection.
Chase: Precisely what occurred with the famed lady dinner and Popeyes’ sides-only meal deal.
Elena: As a case examine, not solely did manufacturers soar on the pattern, but it surely was additionally co-opted by pro-anorexia areas on-line — muddying what lady dinner actually means. Having enjoyable on-line became: Purchase issues! Eat much less! Conform to white supremacist magnificence beliefs!
Chase: Slightly than performing as launch pads for motion, most of those tendencies cut back the concepts of each womanhood and girlhood into very particular aesthetic and material-based experiences, as you talked about, Elena, after which go on to strengthen solely these sorts of aesthetics as legitimate for societal reflection — limiting their common organizing potential virtually instantly.
Elena: Sure, they take a reductive and slender view of lady / womanhood that tends to heart not solely whiteness, however particular shows of wealth.
Chase: Moments of sincerity — or stabs at therapeutic your internal little one — shared through microtrends are became materialistic fodder, too. This fixed consideration on items informs how ladies and women publish on-line usually, just like the “what’s on my facet desk” pattern one way or the other indicating a girl’s pursuits and persona.
Elena: The tendencies additionally lend themselves to an infantilization and romanticization of wrestle. Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Model) vault observe “Now That We Do not Speak” birthed a TikTok pattern to the lyrics:
“I haven’t got to faux I like acid rock / Or that I might prefer to be on a mega yacht / With necessary males who suppose necessary ideas / Guess possibly I’m higher off now that we do not speak.”
Primarily ladies shared the atrocious issues they not must faux to love for his or her ex-boyfriends. The pattern was a second the place ladies got here collectively to share their tales, however reasonably than problematize these widespread experiences in pursuit of a brand new strategy to relationship males, it normalized this terrible therapy.
This kind of TikTok second occurs virtually each time Swift releases or rereleases a track. There have been so many alternatives for widespread productive conversations inherent to the pattern that simply do not occur.
Chase: Normalizing as a substitute of problematizing is a good way to place it. And if there is not any downside, we do not have to fret about options… but.
So what ought to the girlies do?
Chase: Social motion students have quite a lot of theories on how finest to make the most of the web for data gathering and collective motion, so I will not faux to be the knowledgeable right here. However I do suppose these closely identity-centered memes ought to be used extra deliberately.
Elena: Leftist teams like NYC for Abortion Rights have taken to using widespread memes just like the Sylvanians, Barbie, and so forth. to speak information and motion objects to their followers. Framing this very important data in widespread imagery and aesthetics makes it enjoyable and extremely shareable.
Chase: As well as, final yr’s #Bimbocore resurgence proposed hyperfemininity as a mode of liberation for a lot of, though it has since been challenged by the rise of tradwife aesthetics, which equate conventional womanhood with purity and tranquility.
In Swift’s TIME interview, she equated 2023’s rise in recognition of lady tendencies, aesthetics, and artwork as an identical win for feminism. “What has existed for the reason that daybreak of time?” she proposed. “A patriarchal society. What fuels a patriarchal society? Cash, move of income, the economic system. So really, if we’re going to take a look at this in essentially the most cynical manner attainable, female concepts turning into profitable implies that extra feminine artwork will get made. It’s extraordinarily heartening.”
However equating social justice wins with how a lot cash flows within the course of “women” is simply exacerbating the issues we talked about above — and lady microtrends are funneling money to firms.
Elena: At a time when TikTok is more and more turning into a search engine for younger individuals, we have to be taking conversations on the platform significantly and using it to create change.
Chase: Proper. What’s 2024 going to be the yr of?