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How TikTok Made Me Realize Why I Need to Live My Life Like a “Man”

Every TikTok user knows the addictive feeling of scrolling through the For You Page mindlessly. I am also guilty of doing this, but sometimes I come across a video that I can learn from. There is definitely an educational side of TikTok; whether it be study tips, reviews on products, tutorials, cooking videos, etc. A while ago, I came across a video that has since changed how I carry myself.

Sadly, I cannot find the TikTok and it has gotten lost in the 1000s of videos that surface every day on the app, but I’ll try to describe it to the best of my ability. It was posted by a young female college student filming herself typing an email to her professor. The beginning of the TikTok shows the email written very politely, including exclamation points in unconventional places, making the text have a positive tone. Then the visual flips to her backspacing the parts of the email that added the happy connotation, such as how sentences were worded and the exclamation points. There was a caption that read: “Typing my emails like they’re from a man.” 

She began retyping the email, instead, with a more serious tone and fewer adjectives. The email was shorter and more to the point. The video ends with her sending the revised manly email. I paused for a second and thought to myself that sending an email framed in that way could come off short and abrupt; an impression I didn’t want to make on my professors. Then I thought about it more, and about how when the same tone comes from a man, it is seen as assertive and self-advocating. By questioning the abruptness of the email and associating the wording with rudeness, I realized that I was letting myself fall into the conditioning that women go through in society. The conditioning from media, authority figures, social pressures, gender norms, etc., that pressures women to be gentle, kind, considerate, and subtle. 

This TikTok challenged those behavioral standards that women are expected to follow and showed that women can be assertive too. In a BBC article, it is said that “researchers analysed 200 exclamations used in professional discussion groups, and found that females used 73% of the exclamation marks. The study concluded that women use these marks more often than men do in order to convey friendliness in their professional interactions.” The societal pressure for women to people please and appear friendly manifests in how women present themselves even in digital language. Men do not have to worry about appearing friendly or appealing to whoever is making an impression of us the same way women do.

The caption shows the contrast between how men are expected to present themselves, versus how women are. But this doesn’t apply to just email wording, it applies to how women speak about themselves to others, how they navigate the workplace or school environment, and how they see themselves take up space. Living like a man adopts a mindset of self-assertion, a detachment from misogynistic social standards, and a sense of freedom from the invasive thoughts that make women question their regular behaviors and attitudes.

I noticed all the times in my life that I reapproached a situation, second-guessing how I was coming across to the other person, whether professionally or socially. I always just attributed this to a perfectionist mentality or being self-aware of how I was being perceived. However, this was a conditioned way of thinking and also depletes confidence. Because being self-aware should not be about lessening oneself, women should not have to feel like they have to diminish their personalities, wants, and intentions to be more appealing in any setting.

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Talazen Smith

U Mass Amherst '23

Talazen is a Spring 2021 Her Campus member for UMass Amherst. She is a Junior majoring in Legal Studies and minoring in Sociology. She is also a Content Editor for the UMass chapter, a writing tutor in the UMass Writing Center, and a member of Alpha Chi Omega.
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