"Shit Girls Say" might be subversive, but it's probably not.

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Dec. 13 2011 12:26 PM

Can Someone Do Me a Favor and Explain This "S&%! Girls Say" Video?

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Laura New and Mandy Jiroux of the band The Beach Girl5 have a chat

Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Torie, I know, right? It's just so hard to figure out how to feel about this video. I'm half amused and half offended by "Shit Girls Say." I want to write the creators and ask, "Could you do me a huge favor? I'm sorry, but it's a little hard not to feel like you're suggesting that it's annoying that women tend toward ingratiating and apologetic. It's a super funny video, but if it's not too much trouble, could you tell  me what you mean by it?"

Regardless of the intentions of the creators, what I got from the video is what you got, Torie: that women are socialized to be deferential. My first inclination was to think that if men find it so annoying when you say, "Can you please turn that up/down?" then perhaps it's time to say, "Hand over the remote, since you clearly can never get the volume levels right." Or perhaps instead of asking, "Can you do me a huge favor?" you could just make a list and hand it over without asking. That would be much more pleasant, right?

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It's possible that this was the intent of the creators, though the vast majority of comments and links I've seen with regard to this video apply a straightforward, "Man, women are so annoying with the talking and the acting like they have a right to just be in the world." Still, I'm not one to judge a piece simply by audience reaction. For instance, most of the fanbase of Mythbusters just likes guns and explosions, but I respect it for being a pro-science show all the same. Still, I think that the creators intended the video as most of the audience is taking it. If you were trying to do a genuinely subversive take on gendered language in America, you'd have the same actor acting the same way, but dressed in men's clothes, to heighten the absurdity. 

But even if you read it in the most generous way possible, I just can't support the basic premise that these language patterns are so very female. I'm trying to imagine my reaction if a male friend or my boyfriend called and, instead of saying, "Hey, can you look something up for me?" just told me what to do. Luckily, that doesn't come up, because as much as this is labeled "shit girls say," men also are adept at using deferential and placating language when asking for help. If you presented phrases to  me like "Can you look something up for me?" and "What's my password?" without context, I would probably characterize those phrases as "male," because I see men asking women to remember stuff for them more than the other way around. I'm also unclear on how "shoving chips into your mouth" became stereotyped as female. Wasn't that always assumed to be dudely behavior?

But I will give the creators "Shut. Up." Pretty much only women say that, and it's mainly because in a man's mouth, people might think he's actually telling someone to shut up. I always like that phrase, because I'm a fan of casual irony. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today