TikTok’s Trending Sexism

A smartphone with the Tik Tok logo, against a purple background.

With both subtle and overt misogyny all over the internet, it was only a matter of time before it made its way to social media newcomer, TikTok. The growth of the app has not come without controversy, as TikTok has faced backlash after allegations of promoting eating disorders and removing content hashtagged #BlackLivesMatter surfaced. In the last month, there’s been a new trend circulating on the platform—and it has nothing to do with the latest catchy pop song and accompanying choreography. Men have started to leave sexist jokes under young women’s videos, labeling them “sandwich makers” and “dishwashers.” Some jokes have even taken it so far as to reduce women to sex toys. But the young women have started hurling back responses with similar snarky humor.

In the same vein of the objectifying comments made by men, women on the app have taken to responding with “OK, wallet.” Clearly, Generation Z is throwing it back to the 1950’s—when women’s contributions were believed to be solely in the kitchen and men were bringing home the bacon. TikTok user Jessi Balcom says, “If you want to play the joke that it’s the 1950s and we belong in the kitchen, then when we play that joke back, you would be the wallet. These are things that women and young girls have had to deal with for way too much of their lives.”

In the movement to call out sexism, this isn’t the first time that women have used humor to reverse gender roles. NBC News remembers the 1960s “ogle-in” held on Wall Street by radical feminists. Mimicking the kind of street harassment they faced, women cat-called men on their way to work with the goal of giving them a dose of objectification.

The tactics used with “OK, wallet” aren’t new. Though the intent to hopefully drive a wider discussion around the harassment women face, some just aren’t so sure. User Nico Bacigalupo says, “I feel as if a lot of women/feminine-presenting people respond with [OK wallet] as a way to combat the people who don’t actually want to create a dialogue about why sexist language is not appropriate.” Rutgers University women’s studies professor Kyla Schuller also notes the drawbacks that come with this language reversal, saying, “It’s effective, but it’s never effective on its own as the only strategy, because it fights fire with fire, and so you’re stuck within the same parameters.”

While these young women seem to be giving men a taste of their own medicine, we can’t help but wonder if, in the fight against online sexism, we can nix the perpetuation of dated gender roles altogether.

Take Action! Let’s remember the role language plays in upholding stereotypes and continue to challenge sexism online.