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.
While many different TikTok collab houses have been emerging in Los Angeles, their potential for growing into something bigger has also been noticed—both by TikTok influencers themselves and by TV studios. The essence of a good reality TV show is drama. Shows such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians (KUWTK), Jersey Shore and The Hills gathered a spectacular audience simply because we love gossiping. In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari went as far as calling it human nature.
“What is the link between KUWTK and TikTok collab houses?” some of you might wonder. Well, just like everyone else, TikTokers are prone to drama. Last Monday, the collab house called the Sway House went to another house, the Hype House, to confront TikTok star Chase Hudson about comments he had made earlier online. Earlier in the day, TikTok influencers from different rival houses had been bashing each others on Twitter, Instagram Live, and TikTok. This became known as the ‘TikTokalypse’. Now, does it not sound like the perfect brand new reality TV show beef?
Going back to the TikTokalypse, here’s exactly what happened afterwards on The Real Preteens of TikTok. Shortly after arriving at the Hype House mansion, the Sway House boys resolved the argument in private. At 1 a.m. the TikTok star from the Sway House Jaden Hossler tweeted: “we talked. no fighting. it’s settled.” On that same day, film critic Hemanth Kumar tweeted “This is a TV series waiting to be made. Who’s calling dibs on this one?”
Apparently, Kumar would be late to the party as it’s been revealed by The New York Times that “over the past several months, every major TikTok collective has already taken steps to pursue a potential reality show.”
The most-followed influencer on TikTok, Charli D’Amelio, is exploring the possibility of a reality TV show focused on her and her family. D’Amelio signed a production deal with Industrial Media, the producer of shows like American Idol and 90 Day Fiancé.
Production studio Wheelhouse is working with the Hype House on a reality TV show defined as “the modern day Mickey-Mouse club.” The Clubhouse, another TikTok influencer collective, is working with International Creative Management (ICM) to produce a show using an in-house team while also being in conversation with production company Concordia Studio.
Meanwhile, the Sway House and its management company TalentX haven’t signed anything yet, but have confirmed they have been holding meetings and exploring their options. Talking to The New York Times, Warren Lentz, TalentX’s CEO said: “It’s clear there’s a strong appetite and there’s white space that a streaming platform or network hasn’t stepped into. We have come up with five or six different show ideas that we’ve been talking with outlets about. I do know other houses are having those conversations as well.”
It seems pretty obvious that reality shows based on this new generation of influencers are on their way. And while watching TikTokers come up with video ideas doesn’t sound all that exciting, their complicated relationships and interactions with different collab houses definitely look like a good start. Don’t get too impatient, however, as these influencers’ age might be a problem for production companies. Unscripted shows featuring a similar age range are less common, especially without having an adult around.
But, even without having the chance to watch these feuds on a TV screen just yet, aren’t TikTok users already able to follow the drama on their phones? By contemplating to give collab houses their own reality TV shows, production companies might not be offering us the chance of learning more about these influencers’ lives, but, instead, they might have found the perfect way to steal TikTok’s thunder. Could TikTok be the end of reality TV shows as we know them?