Does the “shit girls say” meme perpetuate sexism?

I have been living under a rock (OK, I was traveling in India and not keeping up with the latest internet memes) and I missed the series of videos that actually prompted the “shit so and so says” meme. The one that I had seen was Franchesca Ramsey’s “Shit white girls say to black girls,” and I thought it was a pretty smart, effective and funny look at some of the things white women say to black women (Jos posted it last week). It resonated with a lot of people, it pissed some people off, it was a nuanced take on a difficult to discuss issue and it provided comedic relief. Check out Tami’s take on why it is an important piece of race talk.

However, in watching this video get so much attention, I was suspect. Did I come back to a dream world where people care about interpersonal racism? I have trouble believing that this many people are interested in seeing racism outed in nuanced ways. My gut feeling was that people on the internet like to watch women make fun of each other (the same way they like to watch people of color) or they just like to make fun of women. My suspicions were confirmed when I watched the original series of videos.


While, I usually applaud men in drag, I can’t help but be critical of these characterizations of women. Are some of these stereotypes uncannily true? I’m sure they can be. But that’s the problem with stereotypes, it’s not about whether they are true or not, it’s that they are used to disempower people or deny them certain privileges. And I get that it is comedy, but it’s like the most boring and lazy comedy possible. You know, let’s make fun of girls cuz we already know everyone thinks they are dumb and annoying tee hee. These videos might as well be beer ads.

Naima Ramos-Chapman agrees. She writes at Huffpo,

I arrived late to the new meme “Shit Girls Say,” but my family members were quick to fill me in over the holidays. They showed me nearly every iteration of the original video series, hoping I would laugh wholeheartedly at the absurdity of watching men in drag speaking a nonsensical “girlish” language that irks, who else, but the men who have to put up with it.

I laughed — but only with half my heart.

When the meme got a racialized twist with Billy Sorrell’s “Shit Black Girls Say” version, I choked mid-chuckle. Both videos refer to adult women as “girls,” and portray them as weak, stupid, silly, bad with technology, and helpless. And in Sorrell’s version, a part about black women being stuck in abusive relationships is too disturbing given that they are more likely to be victims of domestic violence than white women.

Yes, why are we calling women “girls?”

So, while some of the spin-off videos have been smart reinterpretations of the original videos that lack any real edge or critical thinking–I am not ready to cheer at how many views these videos have gotten. And I’m not saying I haven’t LOL’d at some of them or that I am not thinking about making my own “shit people say to South Asians,” or that I don’t appreciate good comedy or the opportunity to use comedy to bring awareness to difficult issues. I’m just really suspect of why they are so hugely popular.

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