"Am I hungry?"
"First of all, ew."
"Let's be honest."
These are just a few selections from Shit Girls Say, a twitter feed that recently became a viral video. The meme, which parodies the inane phrases that women supposedly use all the time, is the brainchild of Toronto-based Graydon Sheppard, 29 and his boyfriend Kyle Humphrey, 25. The Twitter account has over 84,000 followers, and episode 1 of their Shit Girls Say webseries already has over 544,000 views. (Watch below.)
Watching the video this morning, which features Sheppard dressed in blatantly terrible drag and a squealing cameo from actress Juliette Lewis, I had a mixed reaction. On the one hand, I found it truly funny (The Twitter account's best and oh-so-meta moment may have been when it tweeted on Oct 19: "Pretty sure I've said 90% of the things on this list") -- and it sounded veeery familiar.
I would be lying if I said that I hadn't spoken many of the Shit Girls Say sentences word for word. And I'm all for laughing at yourself. But I also wondered what the tweets and the video might be saying about women -- and which women they're saying those things about.
It's clear that although the meme is called Shit Girls Say, the references aren't to young girls -- they're to women. The guys who created it are in their mid- and late-20's; they're not poking fun at teenagers, they're mocking their peers. And they're labeling the way those grown women talk as girly, inane, frivolous, etc.
For me this brought to mind a discussion that arose when new women's sites XOJane.com and HelloGiggles.com launched at the beginning of this past summer. The Daily Beast's Tricia Romano wrote a blog asking why media meant to target smart, mature women is still consistently packaged in a stereotypically "girlish" box:
If two new women's websites are to be believed, women want to read about boys, cute animals, their periods, and they want to read it in a Valley Girl accent. Oh, girls, they just wanna have fun.
Romano saw the new sites as part of a cultural tendency to think of women as girls -- children, in other words -- and not to take them seriously. And this attitude has the potential to be damaging to women whose work, personal lives and struggles definitely should be taken seriously.
It's also important to note that Shit Girls Say, as well as popular memes "White Girl Problems" and "90s Girl Problems" are satirizing a very specific demographic. These "girls" in their 20's and 30's are middle and upper-middle class and in case you missed it, they're white. Even the gender and race ambiguous "First World Problems" meme is illustrated with a photo of a crying white woman. So instead of Shit Girls Say, this meme is more accurately Shit Members Of A Very Specific Female Demographic Sometimes Say.
And some of the inanities Shit Girls Say considers womanspeak don't seem very female-specific, even for that tiny sliver of the population -- or very funny. Examples include: "I hope I'm not getting sick," "I have the hiccups," "True story" and "Are you busy tonight?" Somehow I suspect that men also get sick and make plans with their peers, and do so in pretty similar terms. What makes these innocuous sentences funny seems to be the fact that they're framed as stereotypically feminine (read: ditzy). To make the phrases seem even more ridiculous, the web series has them articulated in a whiny, sing-songy voice by a man in drag. The whole thing feels like an elaborate, slightly sophisticated take on the dumb blond joke.
But it's also worth asking whether the creators of the meme are being unfair to women or if the way women speak really is ridiculous and something we should we worried about. On the one hand, a lot of the tweets that ring true also express insecurity or at least a need for reassurance -- "Am I hungry?" "Did you miss me?" "Was I super annoying last night?" This seems potentially problematic for women who want to be in control of their careers and relationships.
But just as many of these phrases just sound like things certain people are more likely to say -- almost like a dialect, and no more wrong or right than "pop" vs. "soda" and "y'all." This makes me think that the problem isn't women themselves, and that the fascination with how poorly women speak comes from some ambivalence -- external or among women themselves -- about their ascent in the world.
Just yesterday Jezebel published an article addressing the latest Britney-Spears-reminiscent vocal pattern of young women, scientifically termed "vocal fry." Apparently we needed a whole study to alert the world that women have begun using "low, creaky vibrations" in everyday speech. And last year, people were up in arms about Kristin Gillibrand's purportedly Valley Girl-esque "upspeak," worried that, OMG, it might, like, totally ruin her political future! In all of these cases, the women whose speech patterns we're so concerned about are predominantly educated professionals, a group that has surpassed men academically and, in the case of unmarried, childless women in their twenties, financially.
The Shit Girls Say meme is, like lots of comedy, inevitably commenting on something larger. And though it's great and important to laugh at ourselves, once in awhile it's good to step back and think about what we're really laughing about.
Scroll through below to see some of our favorite Shit Girls Say selections -- and the ones that just confused us.
Follow Emma Gray on Twitter: www.twitter.com/emmaladyrose