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Women Who Use Tik-Tok to Help Us Grow

So I gave in. I downloaded the app, learned the dances, I know the challenges and trends. I even made a video or two. I like — no, I love — Tik-Tok. 

But aside from Hype House-Clubhouse drama, proof of toxic friends, and food, I was surprised to stumble upon an interesting, beautiful side of Tik-Tok. There are a number of women on Tik-Tok who give thousands of followers necessary PSAs and helpful advice. While some have created their accounts with the intention to help viewers, others have a broad style with a video or two that happens to educate in an unapologetic and real way. 

Here are some women on Tik-Tok I admire for being educated, unapologetic, and inspiring. 

@paigelayle // “high” vs. “low” functioning autism

Paige Layle’s video popped up on my For You page a couple of weeks and as soon as I saw it, I felt like I had been reprimanded by a teacher — and rightfully so. Layle is an autistic McMaster student and she is quick to educate people about autism and harmful organizations and language. But she is even quicker to put people in their place for suggesting she should not talk about her autism because she doesn’t look like the typical autistic person — whatever that means. 

The first video I saw addressed the very idea being “high-functioning” autistic. Layle translated the well-meaning term for what it really was: a way to say that she, as an autistic person, functions in a way that is more digestible to those who are not austitic.

Layle explains it is hurtful because it takes away from the strengths an autistic person may have. It also negates the fact that inside her brain, she struggles. 

Between having friends on the spectrum and teaching kids at a special needs’ music camp, how they interact with others was part of my process of describing them and their abilities. What I thought was a compliment, I learned, was actually quite harmful. 

For those of you who are not usually around autistic people — or maybe don’t know you are — Paige gives you a closer look at what life with autism looks like for her. Even if her experience is not the one we would expect, it is valuable because it is her experience being communicated on behalf of her community, and she is doing her best.

@dakotawinyan // MMIWG + part 2 and part 3

As an Ihanktonwan Dakota and Lakota woman, Čanté Zephier’s TikToks expose the hypocrisy of people who sport the “get over it” attitude of indigenous genocide, while teaching how to effecitvely ally.

It is interesting to hear Zephier’s troubles because she lives in the United States, while we learn of Indigenous issues through a Canadian lens. The first thing I noticed is how she calls them Natives, so for the purpose of discussing her experience and her people, I will refer to them as Natives too. 

From cultural appropriation to language that makes Natives uncomfortable, Cante shares what is culturally insensitive, ignorant, and just plain rude. Chances are your Pocahontas jokes or sharing that a distant relative was part Cherokee to relate, will fall flat.

In a favourite video of mine, Zephier takes a stand against people standing in solidarity with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by smearing a red hand against their mouth. Zephier calls them out for using the symbol Native women despite them never having to deal with the trauma. While she acknowledges the allyship, the gesture takes the place of people like her, to whom it is a very real threat. At best, it is overstepping. At worst, it is clout-chasing. 

Not to mention, seeing red paint on someone’s face to represent natives (even in solidarity) is too closely related to the idea of redskins, which is still a problem today: see Cleveland Indians baseball team to prove racism is still alive and there has not been enough “reconciliation” for natives on the land that was stolen from them. 

Zephier is an unapologetic educator who is doing the work our education systems won’t, and I love her for that.

@mayaechols // prejudice vs. racism

Maya is a nineteen-year-old woman using her platform to explain the difference between prejudice and racism because there are still people who do not know the difference and often use the discussion as a match between who is yelling louder (or typing faster). 

Despite this, Maya’s delivery has conviction, and she does not have to raise her voice to be heard. The truth speaks for itself as she clearly defines racism: “political, social, or economic system in which a dominant race uses its power to oppress people of other races”. 

I like that she acknowledges black people can be prejudiced “as hell”, because I have seen it first hand, and I have perpetuated it, too. Saying white people can’t dance is a prejudiced statement. Disliking them because of the privilege they hold should not be confused with racism. But that does not hold the same power as racism. As a black person, I can’t call the cops on a group of white people hanging out in a wealthy neighbourhood to get them detained or arrested or abused. 

She also acknowledges that white people can be prejudiced too. Assuming black children are up to no good in her neighbourhood is not racism. But when that white woman calls the police to endanger the lives of those children because she is very aware of the power her race holds — that is racism.

Both prejudice and racism are bad, but they have vastly different implications. 

Maya says, “you cannot be oppressed if you are not a minority,” highlighting the power difference between prejudice and racism, which on a systemic and institutional level, can be the difference between life and death. 

I’m happy that her voice can cut through the noise and race discussions, and people can choose to listen, choose to learn, and choose to grow.

@kreftscouch // roommate disagreement

Dr. Janne Kreft is a psychologist and the “CEO of boundaries”, according to her Tik-Tok bio. Her page is space for empowering your consciousness and helping you navigate internal and external conflict in healthy ways. From social anxiety, to defence mechanisms, and unhealthy friendships, her videos not only identify a problem, but confirm issues you may have been slow to admit as a problem, then give you a step-by-step template on working towards a resolution. 

The first video I saw from her was about setting boundaries with a roommate, which I know we are all too familiar with. It definitely wasn’t an accident that dishwashing was the problem of choice. However messy your roommate is and however frustrated you may get, she walks you through an ideal situation where you:

Describe the facts → the dishes are left in the sink too long

Express your feelings → not fair having to clean up extra mess

Assert your needs → need a plan to avoid this happening

Reinforce your stance → it is unsanitary and would be easier if cleaned immediately

Mindfully stay on topic → do not want to discuss other issues before solving this one

Negotiate → having the dishes done by the end of the night for a clean start the next day

Kreft anticipates protests and criticisms from the defensive or indifferent roommate and gives you tips on how to work around them to reach your objective. Her voice doesn’t rise, she does not let other issues creep up to fuel an argument, and she has expressed herself honestly so there is an open line of communication between them. This example —  and many others — help you become aware of the way you deal with conflict. 

With Kreft’s help, you have the tools to be a healthier version of yourself for yourself.

@medicineexplained // explaining period blood colours

I don’t know the name of the woman (or women???) behind this account, but her bio prefaces Medicine Explained is not medical advice, but medical education. I have fact-checked a few of her videos, and they are accurate. She can’t heal you or guarantee you will get better with her tips, but she can make you aware of issues and potential problems in your body so you have a foundation for your medical questions.

She tackles general topics like breast lumps, timely topics like COVID-19 and social distancing, and dietary topics, like if eggs and carbs are good for you. The first video I saw described different colours your blood can be during your period. From black, to red, brown, and even orange (which I didn’t know was a possibility until the video), she explains one to three possibilities, leaving us, the viewers, to take the next research steps, if necessary. 

Quick, colourful, and clear, Medicine Explained gets the ball rolling for us to learn about our bodies and how to protect them.

@singdney // butch vs. stud lesbians

So, I didn’t know anything about the difference in the terms stud vs. butch when it came to lesbians, and Sydney Kain took me on a whirlwind of a history lessons. Her video is a strong reminder of the importance of intersectional feminism because women’s rights, gay rights, class rights, and black rights all came into play. 

While lesbians were a minority, white lesbians, who were called “butch”, were represented in the feminist movements of the late 20th century. In this case, Kain compares this to the black experience, which was being excluded from upperclass lesbian bar culture. In response, black lesbians crafted their own space, dubbed themselves “stud”, and made their own culture. 

To see it taken out of context, diminished, or even ignored, by the people who did not stand for them fifty years ago — and in some cases, do not stand for them today — is a slap to the face. While I only used queer, lesbian, or gay to describe these women in the past, it is important to know the history of words for people who are continually oppressed to avoid perpetuating what Kain calls a “mockery” of their struggle. 

Having a young lesbian woman who is dedicated to gay PSAs about acceptable terms, history and rights, and her experience as a young black lesbian is so necessary. While it is important for LGBTQ2+ members to find their place in society, it is evident that a hierarchy existed for who was more acceptable – and I believe it still exists today. 

I’m excited to watch, learn, and laugh more with Kain as she takes Tik-Tok by storm.

What I love about all of these women and their Tik-Toks, is the opportunity for growth. Without dedicating your whole time in quarantine to becoming an enlightened version of yourself with clearer skin and a new language under your belt, you can still learn a thing or two. You can rethink the way you deal with conflict, your interactions with people who are different from you, and understand systematic power imbalances you would otherwise ignore. Since you have nothing but time, consider giving these women some love and attention so they can make more content to make the world — or at least, our social spheres — a better place.

Journalism & Poli Sci '20. I love books, goats, breakfast foods, and spend too much time refreshing my blog: https://sherlynassam.wixsite.com/sail
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