By Rohini Banerjee:
‘Why Should Hot Girls Have All The Fun?‘ goes the title of the latest video of the all-woman run Youtube channel ‘Girliyapa‘ (a channel under the TVF banner). And if that title doesn’t make you cringe already, the rest of it definitely will. They produce and create comic sketches, musical comedy and so on- but their selling point is that these sketches are by women, and for women. But this video completely defeats the point of that. Here’s the basic premise of it: Three girls sit together in a restaurant, while a guy ogles at one of them (the supposedly “hot one”, who liberally uses hashtags and drinks green tea…because, hey, stereotype!). Somewhat peeved by the guy’s shameless staring, the other two friends decide to confront him—they walk up to his table, and start calling him out…for ogling their “hot” friend instead of them. Yes, now it’s time to start cringing non-stop.
Their arguments range from bizarre to mind-boggling; they are sexist, anti-feminist, demean rape culture, encourage objectification and harassment and in summation: are endlessly problematic. To list every single problem with the video would make this piece never-ending, so here’s a small gist of the painfully tone-deaf things said in the video:
One It’s important to celebrate diverse bodies, diverse expressions of feminity—but not by seeking validation from the male gaze! One of the two girls is plus-sized, and the other one is “tomboyish”— two traits that, in patriarchal terms, is not deemed desirable. But instead of questioning why these traits are not considered desirable, and not celebrated as ‘beautiful’, by going up to the man and asking him to objectify and ogle them in sleazy ways they instead reinforce the fact that only the heterosexual male gaze can determine what’s desirable and what’s not. They could have shut him down for objectifying their friend and left it at that, but the whole ‘no, objectify me instead!’ rhetoric just drives home how desperately we need feminism.
This video takes the trope of turning women against other women to a whole different level. In order to prove their desirability, the two girls constantly ridicule and demean their friend for liking traditionally ‘feminine’ things such as makeup, fashion, and in general, being conventionally attractive. It’s appalling, and feeds into age-old misogynistic myths such as female friendships are fickle, and that girls fight over boys all the time, and that conventionally attractive girls are ‘dumb’ and so on. “Her face has more filters than Instagram,” remarks one of them (talking about her love for makeup).
But what it doesn’t tell you is while it’s okay to be ‘tomboyish’, it is also okay and perfectly valid to love being ‘feminine’, to love ‘dressing up’ and makeup. All women are beautiful and should be celebrated, and just because one woman receives more male attention (which shouldn’t even matter, by the way), does not mean other women put her down and harangue her because of it.
Feminism, of course (though the other F-word is an apt reaction to this video). The two girls blame feminism for their reduced chances of being ogled by men. Like that’s a bad thing? What they are essentially referring to, is how with an awareness of feminist issues, one becomes more aware of things like rape culture (which, in case the makers of this video didn’t know, is the natural progression after ogling and objectification), and becomes cautious about the way they look at women against their consent. Feminism is actually protecting you from unwanted staring, harassment, and ultimately, rape. But by totally dismissing all of that, they deny the existence of rape culture, and that’s beyond messed up.
Further, it reinforces the patriarchal myths which police the self-worth, dignity, and freedom of women, and reduces their agency. By subscribing to this myth, this video tells the thousands of people who have watched it that being a feminist makes you less attractive, less respected—when in reality, feminism preaches the very opposite.
The video ends on a particularly perplexing note. As the guy they were bombarding with their ridiculous arguments runs away scared, the two girls find themselves being actually ogled by another man in the same restaurant. They shudder, cringe and call him a ‘creep’ and a ‘loser’. When finally faced with a real-time situation of objectification, they are disgusted by it. This could have been a potential source of commentary, but THEN, the two girls almost revel in the attention, masochistically. They begin fighting over exactly which one of them the guy is staring at, one of them even calling the other a ‘jealous bitch’. Disturbingly, it portrays women as vain, fickle, self-absorbed and only obsessed with being desired by another man. And if that’s not problematic, I don’t know what it is.
For a YouTube channel that’s called ‘Girliyapa’, and has women writing and directing comedy sketches, they had the unique opportunity of being subversive, of challenging problematic tropes—but instead, they end up perpetuating the same. And if this was an attempt to actually counter objectification of women, it was disastrous, to say the least. It disappoints me, more than it disgusts me. I was hoping against hope that something positive could come out of it in the end, but alas, that didn’t happen. It continues to represent women in warped, messed up ways—like mainstream media wasn’t doing that enough already!