Last week, I spent two hours of my life watching a 12-year-old reload his Nerf gun, shoot a paper bag at close range and flex his parent’s credit cards on a live Discord stream before getting banned by a moderator. The only other time I decided to visit a Voice Channel (VC) on the server again was when a user decided to screen-share furry porn for the sake of non-premium Pornhub members on the platform. Among these ‘regular VC things’ is an entire subculture—reappropriated to suit Dicord’s community guidelines altogether. Introducing the uwu girls of Discord, a niche genre of sugar babies who are highly specific in their needs, goals and approach.
Similar to XD and :-), UwU or uwu is a texting emoticon used to denote both happiness and cuteness. Remember how Chandler from Friends is acknowledged as the poster child for the XD emoticon? For uwu, visualise an anime girl’s face when she’s overjoyed or spots a cold-but-cute tsundere across the street. The two ‘u’s indicate closed eyes while the mouth is upturned into a bashful smile forming a ‘w’. The emoticon essentially captures a warm and fuzzy feeling—with a hint of blush to top it all off.
With enough evidence to trace its origins back to 2004, it wasn’t until early 2018 that uwu truly started conquering the internet. Google Trends for the search term hit an all-time high in November 2020, and has remained steady ever since. Over time, however, the emoticon has witnessed tremendous criticisms to reach where it is today.
Labelled “the common language of furries” and “Satan’s resting bitch face,” the usage of uwu is presently considered to be a war crime on the internet. “If you use this, the furries will name you their leader and normal people will try to destroy you,” an entry on Urban Dictionary reads. “You’ll also be called a weeb or weeaboo.” Among the 54 pages of definitions on the platform, users have also advised how gaming keyboards and video game controllers can be used “to destroy the demonic beings who use the word to summon Satan himself.”
Although the usage of uwu is considered a sin, what if I told you there is an entire subculture out there dedicated to channelling the forbidden emoticon into their lifestyle? And what if this subculture is in fact attracted to gaming keyboards and video game controllers rather than repelled by it like the rest of the internet thinks?
An uwu girl is the most uwu person on the planet. She is the literal embodiment of the forbidden emoticon. She walks and talks uwu. And what I mean by ‘talks uwu’ is that she literally says ‘uwu’ (pronounced ‘oowoo’) out loud. It’s similar to using ‘XD’ or ‘lol’ in a physical conversation—provided they were subcultures.
Decked in pink wigs and oversized hoodies pulled to make sweater paws, uwu girls lie in the intersection between soft girls and egirls. However, they should not be confused with the other two. They essentially merge a soft girl’s love for pastel colours, stuffed Sanrio plushies, heart patterns and blush-heavy makeup with an egirl’s gaming preferences. On Amazon, the subculture is synonymous with oversized hoodies, skater skirts, PVC heart choker necklaces and cat-ear gaming headsets. A quick search on Etsy and Depop, on the other hand, will softly plop you into a pastel land filled with kandi bracelets, bandages, knee-high socks, hoodies and heart-printed tank tops.
Till date uwu girls have an entire subreddit, #uwu on TikTok with 8.6 billion views, exclusive minecraft skins and GIFs on Tenor. They have also given into Rule 34 (also known as ‘if it exists, there is porn of it’) and inspired a porn genre on the adult entertainment site, Pornhub. Among this shift, however, a small group of uwu girls have flocked to Discord, an instant-messaging platform popular among gamers, with a highly specific purpose.
According to Input Mag, a Discord uwu girl is a “type of uwu girl who is usually faking or accentuating her uwu aesthetic to get money from men.” Donning cat-ear headsets, uwu girls on Discord can be found using sugary, high-pitched voices to chat with others across servers and convince admins to pay for her Nitro. They are also speculated to share their Amazon wishlists with Discord ‘kings’ and talk them into ordering their favourite items off of it. In this regard, uwu girls are considered to be a niche genre of sugar babies—with needs and goals reappropriated to suit the platform altogether.
“Pfft, are they actually a thing?” I hear all of you 2015 Discord OGs ask. On a quest to fact-check their presence, Screen Shot spoke to two uwu girls who are now self-proclaimed ‘Discord kittens’.
“I’m the uwu qween of Discord,” said Bri, who agreed to all the claims made by Input Mag. Joining Discord two years ago, Bri mentioned that she uses the word ‘uwu’ to denote something she usually finds cute. Does she own cat-ear headsets? “I actually ordered one!” Is it pink? “Yes! My favorite color uwu.”
According to Bunni, a user currently inching towards her fifth anniversary as a Discord kitten, uwu girls on the platform are synonymous with “stereotypical, feminine colours, high-pitched voices, cosplays and lo-fi music.” When asked what being a Discord kitten entails, she outlined how the “profession” involves “being really friendly with other users in a cute way.” Although Bunni joined Discord with the aim of merely socialising with others, she was quickly looped in as a Discord kitten. As for Bri, the ‘uwu qween’ has her own server, which is listed on Disboard. “New people join everyday and some of them start chatting too,” she added. Apart from engaging with users on her own server, Bri also admitted to joining random voice channels across Discord.
Now onto fact-checking the real deal: Nitros. Introduced in 2017, Discord Nitro is a subscription-based package where users can customise their own emojis, use an animated avatar, claim a custom tag, boost a server and upload files upto 100 MB. Nitro essentially offers a range of perks to the creators on the platform and helps users stand out in servers. With “bro, give me nitro” as her custom status, Bunni agrees to the claims about other users paying for her Nitros. “I once complained to my friend that my Nitro ended and he gave me a year of Nitro,” Bri added. “I’ve never bought Nitro myself.”
@dessyycOk guys we don’t actually do this 🙄😝 c: @elongatedmusk ❤️ #gamergirl #gaming #uwu #pov
Doesn’t all of this guarantee a ban on Discord though? I mean, I once got banned from a Voice Channel just because others could hear the crickets chirping in my backyard. “This is actually my new account since my old one got banned from most servers,” Bunni admitted. When asked if the moderators ban all uwu girls with a misconception about their intentions, Bunni disagrees. “One user reported me across servers and that’s why I got banned from all of them,” she added.
Harassment and verbal abuse is a common practice on Discord, believe it or not. Although Bri admitted to not having faced any, Bunni was quick to offer her views on the same. “I don’t think Discord can fix this flaw either,” she said. “I know my self-worth and that’s all that matters.”
During my chats with Yumi, an ‘ex-uwu girl’, the user admitted to coming across Discord kittens in chat rooms who leaned more towards the aesthetic part of the subculture. “A lot of them are very annoying,” she said. “But some are genuinely sweet. It really depends.” After hearing about their deals with Nitro, however, the user immediately regretted leaving the subculture. “I still don’t have Nitro!” she stressed.
Be it for the Nitro or items off their Amazon wishlist, uwu girls of Discord exist and they exist loudly. Are they actually healthy for the platform? Well if you ask me, I’ve seen more concerning stuff go down on there that needs immediate attention. Maybe reaping monetary benefits and engaging in a supposed “scam” can eventually help bring attention to the hypersexualisation of women in the gaming industry. Maybe the subculture will evolve and grip another platform with an entirely different purpose. It all just goes on to show how a three-letter word can influence culture single-handedly. Until then, uwu!
If, like me, you spend a worrying amount of time on TikTok and Instagram, you must have seen the ‘Hiiii’ vs ‘Bruh’ videos going around. For those who haven’t—this is a recent trend where new gens on the internet compare ‘girly’ girls with ‘tomboy’ ones. Here’s why this new trend stinks of internalised misogyny.
The ‘Hiiii’ girl (also known as the ‘🥺’ girl) typically embodies conventional traits that have been long associated with traditional ‘girliness’, such as liking the colour pink, makeup and clothes—characteristics that are not representative of any gender, and yet here we are again. She is fragile, cordial, and gentle (notice how these qualities are frustratingly archetypal to the patriarchal expectations imposed on women). The ‘Bruh’ girl, on the contrary, is more of a tomboy—she likes sports and video games, she is ‘low maintenance’ and has a quirky sense of humour. She is ‘one of the lads’, but with a vagina.
This trend initially started off as a fun way to compare different hobbies and personalities, which allowed TikTokers to relate to strangers online and create a greater sense of community on the video-sharing platform. But because this is the internet, it was soon taken wildly out of context, as users on TikTok started pitting the two types of women against each other, portraying ‘Bruh’ girls as superior, because they do not engage with any traditionally ‘feminine’ hobbies or activities, and are ‘not like other girls’.
Each of these tropes limits female complexity and uniqueness as it unintentionally portrays both the ‘Hiiii’ girl and the ‘Bruh’ girl as one-dimensional persons. Newsflash: you can be a female athlete who is also amazing at makeup. You can be an aspiring professional gamer and still be pursuing a career in fashion at the same time. You don’t need to select one main category. You don’t even have to identify as female to enjoy or do any of these things. Skills and hobbies are not exclusive to the gender binary, times have thankfully changed—we should do what we can to keep it that way.
So, why are we shaming teenage girls for their hobbies in 2020? The issue with people’s dislike of ‘Hiiii’ girls is that it is deeply rooted in internalised sexism and misogyny. It inaccurately portrays traditionally ‘feminine’ girls as tedious, passive, and superficial, without even taking into account that femininity is pushed onto women from a young age. It also makes an attempt in presenting traditionally masculine hobbies as superior.
Many argue that the entire trend exists as an attempt to gain validation from men, and there are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn between the gen Z ‘Bruh’ girls trope and the millennial ‘Pick me’ girls. ‘Pick me’ girls are described as women who try to distinguish themselves from other women, or pretend to not get offended by sexist things in order to appeal to men—the same girls who say they prefer to hang out with men because they represent “less drama.” Ironically in this new situation, it is the ‘Hiiii’ girls that are being ridiculed for seeking validation from men. Even self-proclaimed ‘Bruh’ girls are turning against other self-proclaimed ‘Bruh’ girls by branding them as fake.
For a generation that is considered as the most progressive, this trend doesn’t seem to reflect that, it certainly is odd how popularised it has become among teenagers. How can we judge women for internalised misogyny and sexism, if we ourselves as a society continuously impose these onto them? Teenage girls are constantly labelled and categorised into boxes: we call girls basic bitches (commonly referred to as VSCO girls among gen Zers), there are egirls, indie girls, ‘alternative’ girls, Instagram ‘baddies’—you name it, we categorise it. And while internet subcultures are great most of the time, there is no need to put any of them against each other.
Here’s the thing: it is impossible for anyone to just be one thing. Humans are well-rounded individuals with unique feelings, personality traits and hobbies. None of these are exclusive to sex or gender identity. And while this is just a silly TikTok trend, let’s remind teenage girls that they are not each other’s competition. After all, we’ve all been there and I can imagine none of us want the new gen to go through the same toxic scrutiny.