thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

What Do You Say to Sh*t [Group of People] Say?

In gender, race on January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Sarah Todd

I was of three minds, like a meme in which there are a thousand Sh*t Girls Say videos on Youtube.*

– Walfred Meevens

Since the Sh*t Girls Say videos have taken over the internet in a tornado of cheaply made wigs, I’ve been struggling to formulate a coherent opinion. On one hand, are they offensive? On the other hand, are they social criticism? On a third hand, are they funny?

The answer to this hand trifecta, I think, is: sometimes. It depends on the video, and even the particular moment within the video.

In some ways, the Sh*t [Whoever] Say format is ideal for revealing the privilege and ignorance behind many supposedly offhand remarks. One of the best of the meme bunch is Franchesca Ramsey’s “Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls.” Ramsey parodies the many racist remarks that often follow the preface of “Not to sound racist, but…” Her on-point delivery of offensive lines uttered with blasé attitude makes the video a legitimate, and witty, piece of social criticism.

Besides Ramsey’s video, there’s also Sh*t Straight Girls Say to Lesbians, Sh*t Straight Girls Say to Gay Guys, and many more I’m sure. Often in these videos, the person doing the parody is (or seems to be identifying as) a member of the group that would otherwise be on the receiving end of the comments. By lampooning all-too-common remarks that are at best inane and at worst actively prejudiced, the videos seek to make people hear what’s really being said.

However, not all of the videos are aiming for social criticism. The original Sh*t Girls Say features a man in drag tossing off harmless remarks: “Could you pass me that blanket?” “Do I look like a doily?” “Twinsies!” Sh*t Black Girls Say mixes ordinary comments like “Can you look in my bag?” with disturbing references to abusive relationships like “If you ever lay your hands on me again…”

In these videos, I question what–and who–is being mocked. Is the fact that black women are disproportionately victims of domestic violence supposed to be humorous in the second video? And what is the purpose, in both videos, of cataloguing and parodying assorted mundanities said by women? Sometimes it seems to be affectionate ribbing, and sometimes the driving idea seems to be that the things women say are boring, or shallow, or predictable. Moreover, many of the videos perpetuate stereotypical ideas of the members of the group they parody. And while there are some Sh*t Guys Say videos springing up, the fact that women have been the focus of this meme concerns me. Do these seemingly light-hearted videos have a more spiteful point at their center: that women shouldn’t say… anything?

At the sweetly hilarious end of the spectrum, my personal favorite of the genre may be the pretty apolitical “Sh*t gay guys say to their cats” by Rich Juzwiak.  (Sample line, as Juzwiak sleepily addresses one of his cats from beneath his comforter: “Winston, can you get me a cup of coffee, please? And two Advil.”) Although the title of the video specifies gay guys, I’d venture that the comments in it could just as easily be uttered by cat owners of any gender or orientation.

I’m relatively new to this phenomenon, so I’m sure this post only scratches the surface. What are your takes on the Sh*t People Say videos? And has the meme run its course, or is it about to get a fresh pair of New Balances?

* I am terrible at swearing, both out loud and in print. You know how Mila Kunis’s character in Friends with Benefits blinks when she swears? I wince. What can I say, I grew up in the Midwest! This is my goofy and admittedly prudish compromise.

  1. Also, I just came across a terrific post that really parses the problematic aspects of the videos:

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