So Shit Girls Say has made it. Not only is it a massive internet sensation loved by heaps of both men and women, it is now also a book. Is it sexist? I think it quite unarguably is. It’s also so timidly inoffensive that it’s hard to see why anyone would bother getting particularly angry over it in itself. But whether offensive or funny, true or just clichéd, it’s still puzzling quite what the extent of the appeal is.
Why go to the trouble of making a whole bunch of videos just to point out that most women say “like” or “ew” a bit more than most men do? Or even to make witty jokes about how women don’t know how to use computers? It’s not like there’s any shortage of safe spaces for men to mock women in this way. Try Clinton Cards. Or Zoo magazine. Or the pub.
Perhaps the curiosity about the appeal is partly because of the stark contrast between Shit Girls Say, and the video it sparked in a sort of counter-parody: Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls. That video is both uncomfortable to watch for a lot of white girls – including me – for its truisms, and also extremely funny, again, for its truisms. And humour being a totally subjective thing, I have to add that I found the slightly less viewed Shit Straight Girls Say to Lesbians so funny that I almost choked on a Yorkie bar. (Is “I laughed so much I choked on a Yorkie bar something “girls say”? Probably.)
It’s not that Shit Girls Say doesn’t ring true, exactly, because I’ve definitely said plenty of the things in the clips. I’ve known plenty of guys say them too but to be fair, the two guys who made this film didn’t call it Shit Girls Say - No Man or Trans Person Ever Says These Things Ever. On the other hand, the jokes in Shit Girls Say seem so generalised that you might as well make a video called Shit People Say When They Stub Their Toe and show a bunch of people saying “ouch.” (There is probably a YouTube video kicking around somewhere which does, come to think of it. It probably has several millions of hits and comments decrying it is as racist against the pinkness of white people’s toes or something.)
It’s hard to explain why we laugh at the things we laugh at sometimes. The reason Shit Straight Girls Say to Lesbians resonates with me is probably some level of reassurance that I’m not the only person who finds it irritating when, for example, straight women sing ‘I kissed a girl’ seductively at me for no apparent reason and expect me to be flattered/turned on/entertained, or when they ask what you do in bed or when they say things like “You look nice – not like that!”
And it’s not just that I’m happy laughing at other people, because Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls is also hilarious, and so are many of the videos that followed depicting the Shit White Guys Say to Black Guys.
But the really interesting thing about all these videos is that they invite a discussion about race or sexuality in such a non-confrontational way that they make the point so many have been struggling to make for a long time: that you might not be a racist, you certainly might not be a terrible person – you might even have lots and lots of black or gay friends! – but it is still possible that you say things which are racist - things which are maybe contributing, on some level, to the othering of black people or lesbians.
Shit Girls Say doesn’t seem particularly ill-intentioned or hateful – although it has definitely prompted some eyebrow-raising, hateful follow-ups like the disgustingly racist Shit Black Girls Say. But it does beg the question; what’s the point? What exactly is the joke here? The two guys who made it declare themselves feminist allies. Are they? There’s so little about the actual ‘jokes’ in the clips which is particularly funny, or insightful, or refreshing to hear, that I can’t help but wonder if the joke isn’t that girls (or to be accurate, women) say things which are actually funny. I can’t help but wonder if the joke for a lot of people is actually just: “girls.”