I always said I'd never download TikTok, mostly because I found the advertising for the platform to be cringeworthy at best, and bottom-of-the-barrel garbage at worst. As the advertisements would have me presume, TikTok appeared to be offering the kind of content one might expect to see on the trashy side of Facebook; "prank videos", lip syncing to songs from the early 2000s, and of course many, many videos of people's pets doing something vaguely interesting.
However, after my quarantine boredom reached critical mass and much pressure from my roommates, I decided to download the app. Much to my surprise, it turned out there was an absolute boom of creative content that I never would have found had I not checked out TikTok in the first place. A regular smorgasbord of hilarious and unique content was now at my fingertips, and I was staggered by how impressive some of the content was in terms of raw creative potential. If you haven't bit the bullet and downloaded it yet, I highly recommend it. As Vine was to Millennials, TikTok appears to be for Gen Z.
That said, shortly after my introduction to the app I started to notice a troubling trend. As the app is based around replicating new videos with shared audio, there was one audio I saw resurfacing frequently— "The Luke Skywalker" Theme, in its Star Wars Episode 9 rendition. Though the audio wasn't initially used this way, lately it has had a common purpose: men complaining about women, while staring off into the sunset, with their back turned.
A few quotes from more popular renditions of this audio:
"I realized women don't love unconditionally. They just love if their conditions are satisfied."
"We now belong to a world where being too genuine and nice to women is actually a turn off... but they claim they want a 'nice guy'..."
"How can girls say they hate fake people, then lead you on and ghost you all in one day?"
"How come when a woman is talking to a guy and decides she doesn't want to date him it's considered putting him in the friend zone... but when a man does that it's considered 'using her' and 'playing with her feelings'?"
As you might have deduced, these TikToks often oversimplify, stereotype, and are intentionally reductive for the purpose of getting a quick sympathy like. But could this audio's usage be speaking to a wider issue? After all, women often take to the comments of these videos calling them sexist, misogynist, or childish, to which the men quickly retort that women had a similar trend not long ago on TikTok— an audio often referred to as "Make His Pockets Hurt" in which women made "gold digger-esque" proclamations and maneuvers, and another audio simply called "Kill All Men", which as you might have guessed mirrors the Star Wars audio in its own sort of strange way. Often, this audio (as far as I can tell) points to women making complaints about the male sex in a similar vein. The most common complaints deem men as predators, and as sexually manipulative; the male complaints about women seem to be centered around emotional and financial manipulation.
Attempts to reach across the aisle fail consistently, and any debate between these men and women is ended quickly with highly reductive language. Women that see validity in the men's claims are often accused of saying "pick me!" with men who see validity to the women's claims often being called a "simp" (an acronym with similar meaning albeit somewhat less clean). Any attempts to negotiate or fight the claims made in these videos by the opposite sex is met with similar name calling, men often calling women simply "females" and women reducing men to "wallets" or "lawnmowers."
Of course, likely during the course of reading this article you, dear reader, have chosen a horse in this race. After all, which of these "manipulations" is the worst and which ones are valid claims is something I have my own opinion about, but that is for another article at another time. Right now, what I'm most interested in is the potential that a relational gap is forming between men and women— one that doesn't seem to have an easy solution.
One could argue these trends on TikTok for purely comedic purposes, but that would be ignoring the larger trend. Twitter and tumblr hashtages, Facebook pages, and entire YouTube channels have been created devoted to one side or another. TikTok is just the most recent front opened in the long brewing war between men and women on the internet. But what can be done about this epidemic of reductive behavior? Just as with the political divide, there seems to be an increasing number of individuals on both sides of the river that actively, passionately hate the other side. This isn't merely theory: one need only look to online communities, such as subreddits /r/MGTOW or /r/Trufemcels to see the level of vitriol being brought to the table here.
As the divide between men and women seems to grow deeper by the day, one must wonder if the efforts of these individuals wouldn't be better spent fighting a common enemy. After all, the complaints from both men and women seem to point towards one thing— social expectations. And as has been repeated by many individuals much smarter than I, the creator of this toxic social situation is often referred to as "The Patriarchy." Even if you don't agree with the naming convention, it has a fair amount of responsibility in this trouble. The Patriarchy is why men are considered expendable, women stereotyped as domestic servants, and why the "family unit" carries so much baggage in its theoretical composition.
So, perhaps working together to dismantle this harmful system is a better use of our time than calling each other names. But this is all hopeful speculation, as a combined reform effort would require someone to extend a hand to the other side— and for someone else to reciprocate.
And, if things continue as they do, I don't see that happening.