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Does ‘Tiktok Feminism’ teach us to adhere to patriarchal norms?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

The introduction of the internet to Feminist discourse has brought about many benefits. Any woman with access to the internet can engage in discussions previously only encountered by those who had the privilege of education. The variety of women contributing to modern conversations surrounding women’s rights has therefore increased, with progressive feminist thought focusing on intersectionality and inclusivity as a result. With the introduction of TikTok, a social media platform in which anyone can obtain a large number of views not necessarily dependent on followers, marginalised voices can be heard by thousands, even millions. However, is ‘Feminism’ becoming a trend? In some cases, it seems the word is used to cover up and encourage more traditional gender norms. I will list some popular discussions and quotes you may or may not recognise from ‘FeministTok’ and ask you to consider if they align with modern intersectional Feminism.

“Ask not what you can do for the patriarchy, but what the patriarchy can do for you” This quote has circulated TikTok multiple times, and for the most part is meant as a harmless joke. However, creators with impressionable young audiences use this quote to encourage adherence to patriarchal norms under the guise of revolutionary feminist ‘girl power’. For example, showing the ‘glamour’ of being an OnlyFans creator, a sugar baby or a ‘spicy accountant’. These jobs are shown on TikTok as being fun and easy. Take from men as they had it coming to them, right? But using one’s body as a commodity for a man’s benefit doesn’t seem liberating to all… and contributing to porn sites funds an industry which traffics innumerable women and children every day (go to NCOSE for more info). With no disrespect to sex workers, the sex industry is not feminist, and it is certainly not safe. Call me radical, but I agree with the many modern feminist thinkers who argue that the patriarchy cannot ‘do’ anything for women, its very definition is women’s oppression. Even as a joke, this mantra can be harmful to young women who think adhering to the patriarchal sexualisation and commodification of the female body is in any way revolutionary or beneficial to women’s progression towards equality.

“I expect men to provide not because I’m a misogynist, but because I’m a misandrist” Again, this quote at first glance seems like a harmless joke. But this mentality of expecting men to financially provide for women because ‘men suck’ is just adherence to traditional gender roles in a different font. Encouraging women to enter relationships in which they are financially dependent on a man is not only dangerous, but it also encourages heteronormative gender stereotypes. Hiding behind the guise of modern feminism, it can be difficult to criticise creators who make these statements as they claim their thoughts are progressive.

“50/50 relationships do not benefit the woman”

Similar to the above statement, an ongoing discussion on TikTok has been circulating about 50/50 relationships and whether they work or not. Sharing your life with a partner requires the division of many things, but this argument focuses rent and housework. These things cannot be split down the middle as life isn’t that simple, perhaps your salaries are different, perhaps your commute is double your partners which would impact your rent division, perhaps you love cooking, and your partner hates it. Communication about these things with your partner is important if you are entering a joint living situation. Seems simple enough, right? TikTok disagrees.

According to many of these discussions’ men should be paying more than women because of gender imbalances in society. As women inevitably do all the housework (because that’s just what women are like), men should have to pay more rent. As women spend so much time and money to look beautiful for men, men should pay for dates (does this imply that your boyfriend pays you to look good for him?) As women have to suffer the gender pay gap, men should pay for their expenses.

If we look at all of these arguments individually, (expectation for women to be domestic workers, female beauty standards and the cost that comes with this, the gender pay gap), we recognise factually correct feminist statements about the inequalities of the patriarchy. However, these feminist facts are used to argue that women’s struggles in society should be rectified financially by men rather than broken down and challenged. AKA, women, and men should perform the traditional gender roles we have been trying to squash for decades. These discussions place the heavy burden of gender roles on both partners when they do not need to be. Division of money and domestic labour within a relationship does not depend on gender, it depends on mutual respect and communication. If your boyfriend buys you dinner it should be as a gift not because he is adhering to set of gendered rules prescribed by someone on TikTok.

Apart from anything else… not everyone is straight! What do these people think happens in gay relationships? Lesbians just get dinner for free because there’s no man to pay the bill?

By telling girls on TikTok that if you split the bill, you are a ‘pick me’, these creators inadvertently establish patriarchal ideals of male dominance in young minds. Especially when these arguments are pretending to be liberating and follow ‘trends’, it is easy to believe whatever the catchy little sound says.

Char Armitage

Nottingham '23

Third year English Student! Interested in film, cooking, Feminism and anything arty!