Gina Twardosz | Friday, September 27, 2019
Every day, my friends and I like to sit down to dinner, catch up and then shout at each other about something we saw on the Internet. Usually, our loud discourse revolves around a viral tweet, but recently, TikTok has reigned supreme.
I do not have a TikTok account. I am too online to begin with and simply do not have the time to be a part of another social media cult. But, my friends are entranced by the “new Vine,” and their favorite videos are the ones that feature “e-girls.” TikTok has countless videos of these e-girls who are defined by the fact that they dress, look and act in the same girlish way.
At first, I thought these e-girl TikTok videos were weird and just a little dumb.
Yet, I could not help but consider my role in this newfound electronic girlhood. I consider myself to be very online, I’m active on social media and I always know what the new memes mean. After taking a long look in the mirror, I asked myself the question that had been plaguing my existence: Who are these cool, online teens and, more importantly, am I one of them?
During the hours and hours of mirror gazing research that I conducted, I often wondered if my ancestors had ever had to ponder something so profound. Am I on the cutting edge of a new philosophy, one that entirely revolves around the manifestation of girlhood via the internet?
As an investigative journalist, I felt that it was my duty to see this through and get the real scoop on e-girls. I had to get to the bottom of the phenomenon, and after ten seconds of searching, I found some answers.
In the Vox article “E-girls and e-boys, explained,” author Rebecca Jennings writes that e-adolescents are defined solely by the fact that they are “hot and online.” So far, this checks all my boxes, so maybe I am an e-girl, and I just did not know it.
However, Jennings continues on with a description of the e-girl and the superior aesthetic she uses to craft her e-persona: “She will almost never be wearing her natural hair color … and will almost certainly be wearing winged eyeliner. … E-girl staples include mesh T-shirts, colorful hair clips, Sailor Moon skirts, O-ring collars.” Well, this was disheartening to read. I have never dyed my hair, I am semi-allergic to eyeliner and I shop almost exclusively in the JCPenney’s ‘working moms’ clothing section.
Dejectedly, I began to realize that I might not be the e-girl I previously thought I was.
But, quest for my own e-identity aside, Jennings’ article was interesting in the fact that it highlighted the harassment teenage girls tend to face on the Internet. Jennings found that the term “e-girl” is often used derogatorily to disparage women. I have found this to be true to my, and many other young women’s experiences: Any time a young girl tries to carve out a unique identity for herself in a society that seeks to slut-shame women at every opportunity, she is lambasted for proclaiming her presence in a public way. Historically, women have been denied a space in the public sphere, and it makes sense that this would apply to the e-girl who attempts to perform her persona on the internet (which has now become a very large public stage).
The truth of the matter is, while e-girls and e-boys have arisen to the god-tier of meme status, they remain an interesting sociological study into that of internet subcultures and the ways in which the microcosm mimics the macrocosm.
Generation Z has been dubbed many times over to be the online generation. They have always had the internet and grew up using it. Besides the e-girl revolution of using technology to craft a persona and identity in the public sphere, Gen Z is using the internet to incite protests and revolutions on gun control and climate change, just to name a few. While e-girls may seem silly, they are indicative of a greater level of change and awareness that is spurred by the accessibility and cultural diversity of the internet.
Really, we should all hope to become e-girls someday. UwU.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.