why it’s funnier when girls say ‘shit girls say’
When I innocently came home from work the other day, the video ‘Shit Girls Say’ was sitting at the top of my newsfeed. Several of my friends, most of them female, had posted it, and as I clicked play, I thought ‘oh fuck, here we go’.
This was mainly because I was expecting it to be horrifically sexist and offensive, and I was pre-emptively exhausted by all the conversations I was bound to have in which I would explain why it’s horrifically sexist and offensive. But I was surprised. Not pleasantly or unpleasantly, just surprised; I didn’t find it offensive, but I also didn’t find it funny.
Things can be offensive for a lot of reasons, but often it’s because there’s some real or perceived truth to it. This is why I’ve historically been more offended by someone saying I’m ugly or unfunny – because I feel the quality of my appearance and humour are contestable – than someone saying I’m dumb. It’s hard to be offended by something that’s so blatantly untrue (har har).
Anyway, I suppose I would’ve been offended by the video if I thought it was characterising women in a way that was derogatory but representative of how a lot of women do behave. Or I might’ve thought it was funny if it was characterising women in a way that wasn’t derogatory but representative of how a lot of women do behave. But it really didn’t evoke any feeling at all, and I imagine this is why it hasn’t gotten people/feminists as riled up as I was expecting.
Kelsey Wallace over at Bitch did a wonderful job of explaining her confusion over the video’s popularity. So I thought I’d explain why I find Jenna Mourey so much more hilarious than Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard, even though some of her content could be considered anti-feminist. And it’s essentially because she’s part of my ingroup.
Your ingroup is basically just the group to which you belong, whether because of race, gender, activities you enjoy, or whatever. People generally feel more amiable towards members of their ingroup (which might go some way in explaining why I prefer Mourey to the ‘Shit Girls Say’ duo), but there’s also presumably some level of shared experience. And there’s where things get a bit complex.
I’m not of the school of thought that spoken words are going to have the same meaning irrespective of who says them. For example, queer people calling each other queer probably won’t rustle many feathers (and not just because they can rebut with ‘takes one to know one’) but although the word ‘queer’ has been reclaimed, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be levelled against someone as an insult, dependent on the context and who’s saying it.
This reliance on context became really apparent to me after Slutwalk. I had felt quite ambivalent about it as the event approached, but when someone made the point, ‘will this mean it’s okay for guys to call girls sluts?’, I realised I couldn’t support it (although granted, the Adelaide event did not have reclaiming the word ‘slut’ as one of its goals).
I am really uncomfortable with the word ‘slut’ and when it’s used in a negative way, I think it’s just as appalling for girls to say it as it is for guys. However, I have used it in reference to myself and my female friends, and likewise been okay with them doing so when it’s used in a non-derogatory, funny, semi-endearing way (less ‘hey slut’, more ‘I’ve been slutting around a bit’). But being female means comprehending what a loaded word it is, usually because it’s been used in a really awful and ugly way to degrade and devalue you, and then deciding to use it in a safer way. Of course, a man might also intend it in this way, but there are far fewer men than women in my life who I would think have given the weight of ‘slut’ much consideration, and who I’d find it acceptable to hear the word from.
That’s essentially why I find it hilarious when Jenna Mourey mocks girls, and why I don’t (usually) find it funny when guys do; because as a woman, she has certain understandings and knowledge about women and how they are treated, and thus understands the weight of what she says. When you’re making fun of your own ingroup, it’s a kind of informed humour, rather than just ignorantly mocking that which you have never experienced and can’t properly understand.
Until all people are equal, I imagine it will continue to be far funnier when people mock members of their ingroup, and far more offensive when people mock members of their outgroup.
But ‘Shit Girls Say’ still won’t be funny.