Posted Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011, at 6:42 PM
When the "S$#! Girls Say" stumbled dizzily into the blogosphere earlier this week, I was a little confused by all the women expressing ambivalence, including by my colleagues here at Slate, as to its meaning: Couldn’t everyone tell this was just a gay thing? After all, the Twitter handle was created by a gay couple, Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey, and the video that sparked all the controversy features a (badly made-up) drag queen. To my eyes, "S$#! Girls Say" is clearly just a kind of half-embodied internet drag character constructed from a mix of Valley Girl-speak, mug-clutching sitcom archetypes and, indeed, the unique dialect that emerges in certain gay male/straight female friendships. In fact, I’d wager that a lot of the phrases assigned to this character are actually s@%! gay guys say first and foremost—I only know one person who says “rude” (followed by the characteristically sassy full-stop), and he’s most definitely gay.
While watching the sketch, I was immediately reminded of a scene from a recent episode of Logo’s “gay housewife” show The A-List: Dallas, in which Philip, one of the cast-members, assists a wealthy female client in getting ready for a glitzy evening event. The lady must have used at least half of the expressions on S$#! Girls Say during the course of the session, and Philip responded with plenty of “I know, right’s” and “Shut. Up’s.” himself. It was all very performative, and the comedy of the scene came not from a misogynistic dismissal of the woman, but from the shear sparkle-power of the pair’s ridiculous repartee.
My point is that I don’t think "S$#! Girls Say" is meant to be a comment about real women at all. If anything, it’s a drag satire of the kind of stock language that we all half-ironically dabble in from time-to-time, depending on the nature of the situation. The appeal of this kind of rhetoric is precisely its canned humor, its ability to recall the absurd (and funny) speech patterns and antics of films like Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. "S$#! Girls Say" is about sending up a degraded version of English and a hyperbolic character that entertain even as they make us cringe. While the campy logic is no doubt lost on some, I have to believe that most intelligent viewers don’t mistake the farce for reality. Cause, you know girl, that would be, like, ridic.