Tik Tok. We all have it. And we all spend hours daily aimlessly scrolling through the For You page. As an avid user myself, I can attest that Tik Toks can be hilarious and relatable. Embarrassing to admit, but I often quote popular Tik Tok sounds when I speak. When something happens in my life, I can quickly relate it to a sound I heard on the For You page earlier that day. This platform’s power was evident when thousands of users successfully sabotaged Trump’s Tulsa rally by registering for seats and not showing up. Clearly, Tik Tok’s users and community are highly impressionable and the content we view is registered subconsciously.
About 90% of the videos of my For You page are weirdly tailored to my interests. Whether it’s about oatmeal, the breakfast food I eat daily, or about everyone’s Hamilton obsession in middle school, it’s almost scary how accurate some of the videos are. Nonetheless, I find it super amusing and enjoyable. These videos are created out of good fun and are harmless. Now, the other 10% of my For You page pisses my feminist self off. There are two trends in particular I find problematic: the number and letter rating system and the “ick” concept.
The rating system is relatively new and typically involves guys commenting on or duetting girls’ videos with a numerical/alphabetical rating. This rating is based on three different criteria: a 1-10 of a girl’s top half and bottom half and a letter grade for her face. The highest rating is a 1010A+, yet I have rarely seen that genuinely commented on a girl’s post. Every Tik Tok on the For You page is public, so random users have been rating girls they don’t even know. From the perspective of a girl receiving a negative rating, or positive one for that matter, laughing it off is easier said than done. Ignoring stranger’s opinions, especially regarding superficial aspects is difficult. Objectifying women and relaying that appearance determines their worth is an ongoing societal issue. It’s impossible to encourage self-love and confidence with trends like this thriving on Tik Tok with no interference or regulation. Women who have and have not been rated have urged for the trend to stop. And rightfully so. Unsolicited hate has no place on Tik Tok. However, some of the girls complaining about being rated are the same girls participating in trends that stoop to this same ignorance and target guys.
This brings me to the “ick” trend. The “ick” is a feeling of repulsion one experiences regarding someone they were previously infatuated with. Short definition: a turnoff or something you find really unappealing about a crush or romantic interest. Girls across the platform are sharing examples of things guys do that “give them the ick.” Examples include every day instances like a guy simply ordering at a restaurant, raising his hand in class, or trying on clothes at a store. All completely normal human activities. All things the girls creating these videos have done as well. Whether their masculine facades admit it or not, this trend can result in guys feeling insecure and self-conscious about doing natural, every day things and sets women on a pedestal. Pretty much every scenario has been categorized as an “ick”, which holds guys to unrealistic expectations and normalizes girls scrutinizing male behavior.
Ladies, we can’t expect the rating system to vanish and demand respect from our male counterparts when the “ick” trend continues to produce the same negative side effects. Playing the victim card in the rating system scenario is only validated if women treat men fairly, and vice versa. Yes, the rating system is terrible. But it’s hypocritical to criticize guys for trends like this when women do similar things without facing the level of public scrutiny men face. I can guarantee that if a man had popularized the “ick” notion, women would be just as enraged as they are about the rating system. Because women have historically been subject to gender discrimination, many believe it’s justifiable to fight fire with fire and impose the same damaging concepts on men. Retaliation has become a common tactic for setting sexist remarks.
Regardless of who started this back-and-forth gender war on Tik Tok, women and men need to realize they are both at fault for hurtful gender-related trends. Comparing the level of harm the “ick” vs the rating system cause is like chasing one’s tail. At first glance, some may argue the rating system is more blatantly sexist. This ignores the fact that these trends, no matter how minor, both have an impact on an individual’s self-esteem behind the screen. If feminists are seeking equality, we still need to hold men accountable for their actions but should be seeking solutions rather than introducing new issues. The same applies for men. If men don’t want to be criticized for doing things like merely plugging in their phones at night, they have to stop judging girls solely based on their appearance.
I’m also not denying that when incorporated tastefully, poking fun at gender stereotypes can’t be comical. Although I try to refrain from promoting or intertwining sexism and humor, gender norms are a highly relatable aspect of society and these types of jokes are popularized in the media However, I think I speak for everyone when I say I’d rather read a witty and comedic comment related to the video I’m watching than hear that Michael, a 21 year old guy from Kentucky thinks Courtney, a 14 year old girl, deserves a 43C rating. It’s just not as funny. But, I’m not the joke police. And point being, if you ultimately cannot resist making a joke that could be interpreted as sexist, make sure it is very obvious it is a joke and could not be construed as a hateful comment. Both the “ick” and the rating system cross the line in this sense: these trends can’t be considered humorous by the vast majority of viewers and could definitely result in damaging side effects.
In conclusion, we all need to forgive one another and reach kumbaya on Tik Tok. No more rating systems, no more “ick”, no more victim cards, and no more objectification. Although Tik Tok is a platform for teenagers, we need to act like adults and only promote trends and content that’s humorous and harmless. I’m sure these trends are not created with malicious intentions to rip apart anyone’s self esteem necessarily, but they aren’t benefiting the commenter, the person who receives the comment, or any viewers. When it comes to sexism on Tik Tok, women and men are two sides of the same coin, and the only way to limit any further trends from erupting, is to educate rather than retaliate.