When the Shit Hits the Fan: On the “Shit [People] Say” meme and why it matters

17 Jan
Screen shot from Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls video

In case you missed it, there’s a new meme on the block and its kind of my favorite thing ever! The video that got things started, Shit (white) Girls Say, makes up for its own lacklusterness with the brilliance that it inspired. I have to admit, it’s been a while since I’ve been around groups of straight white women to know if those characterizations are true or not, but it smacked of sexism that made me think it’s more projection than accurate performance. It was followed by  Shit Black Girls Say which failed to capture the things I say as a Black girl. These weren’t simply reflections of “shit girls say” but a demographic of straight white and black women with a particular class background. The infantilizing title aside, “Shit Girls Say” poke fun at women through the use of the male gaze.

I realized what didn’t make these funny to me was exactly what made the ones that came after them work so well: Privilege, or rather the lack there of. The power differential in “Shit Girls Say” is skewed. Men dragging women and parodying what they believe to be their words as marginalized people in society has significant limits. In contrast, the videos that have marginalized folks speaking for themselves and back to the power structure by simply repeating the privilege denying questions and statements they field, are solid gold!

None has more fully made its way around the Interwebs than Shit White Girls Say… to Black Girls. I have heard every one of those statements. And according to facebook, so have many many of my friends. Comedian Franchesca Ramsey brilliantly pulls the meme out of patriarchal hands and creates the opportunity for folks to see and hear privilege in action. Her appearance on Anderson discussing her viral video actually underscored many of her points. Anderson was shocked an awed that she had experienced what she described in the video and the sad truth that many white people still don’t know what racism means came to the fore.

Shit White Girls Say… to Black Girls begat so many gems:

the list goes on. A friend on facebook quipped, “I’m almost starting to feel sorry for white girls. almost.” And that got me to thinking about the limits of this meme.Laughing at the ridiculously offensive things that white women say to women of color is one thing but it’s much harder to laugh at the threats of violence that are often embedded in the things white men say to women of color. Watching Shit White Guys Say to Asian Girls didn’t make me laugh it made me sad and it made me pause and think seriously again about power differentials across axes of color and gender.

Watching Shit People say to Native Americans left my heart feeling heavy. Shit Black Guys Say  did make me chuckle but again, my laughs were stifled by the dishonesty directed at female partners laid bare (I was super excited to see a comedian favorite of mine from my favorite web video ever). Shit gets real and not very funny when the power differential is wide.

And  as much as I love the witty way that people are speaking back to oppression through this meme, I realized that some conversations are just too fraught to be distilled in this way. I started to think about conversations amongst different “girls” of color, what a Shit Black Girls say to Arab Girls (or vice versa) might look like. I don’t think that this format could hold the complexity of such a conversation and it definitely couldn’t be the one sided, question/statement only nature that these videos suggest. But now as the meme starts to peter (maybe?), we might be open to thinking about conversations and exchanges amongst the margins and how that might shift the camera lens.

8 Responses to “When the Shit Hits the Fan: On the “Shit [People] Say” meme and why it matters”

  1. Nikesha January 17, 2012 at 4:21 PM #

    Each video from “Shit Black Girls Say” to “Shit Black Gays Say” to even “Shit Baby Mamas Say” and “Shit Southern Guys Say” is steeped in stereotype; and sometimes it’s stereotypes about the group by the group being stereotyped. That doesn’t make the stereotypes okay it just goes to show how much of a one dimensional view we sometimes have of each other and of ourselves.

    These “Shit… …Say” videos while funny should be used as an icebreaker between all people of all races, colors, creeds, ethnicities, sexualities, genders etc. to have a meaningful discussion about why even though we are laughing at ourselves everything displayed really isn’t all that funny.


    • peachi January 17, 2012 at 5:37 PM #

      Umm, except the author writes: “I have heard every one of those statements.” How, then, are these stereotypes?

  2. Rachel Kantstopdaphunk January 18, 2012 at 10:25 PM #

    and this one!

  3. tenacitus January 19, 2012 at 8:53 AM #

    I like what you wrote. I don’t think there’s one about what cis caucasian men say yet.

    • Riss February 1, 2012 at 3:36 PM #

      I work with high school students in NY and there’s some serious tensions between the Black/African American and African immigrant girls. The “shit” they say to each other is rife with stereotypes and leads to physical fights between them. How would recommend having “conversations and exchanges amongst the margins” with this group?


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