The continued popularity of images like that of Sailor Moon in a blue high school sailor uniform, and Britney Spears dressed as a sexy schoolgirl in the music video of her hit song “…Baby One More Time” – both in pigtails – reminds us that schoolgirl fetish never went away. And now, a recent social experiment on TikTok suggests that female service workers get more tips from their male customers if they wear pigtails. As many of these women pointed out, sexualization and infantilization of young women and girls has long been manifested by: wearing braids.
“Unfortunately, women will be fetishized in different ways by how they look,” said a 25-year-old server who shared her results of the experiment on TikTok. “If changing my hair is going to affect that in a positive way, then it’s something I’m going to give a shot.”
The schoolgirl fetish is deeply rooted in sexism and reflects the view of some men that young, naive and submissive women are hypersexual.
To some, this may seem like a silly — even disturbing — trend, but it perpetuates the harm done to young women and should stop.
The schoolgirl fetish is deeply rooted in sexism and reflects the view of some men that young, naive and submissive women are hypersexual. It is a product of the patriarchy in our society and a kind of sexist vision that includes the discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping of women as weak and childish, undermine their capacity to assume important responsibilities in society as adults.
And for women of color, the reinforcing power of racism and hypersexualization has led to further marginalization. For example, East and Southeast Asian Women are often fetishized and seen as small, docile, submissive and tolerant. It is an unhealthy exoticization that predisposes them to possible gender-based violence. The murder of six women of Asian descent in the tragic Atlanta area spa shots in 2021 is such an example.
The pressures of social media convey a clear and straightforward message to women: make yourself look younger, sexier and thinner in order to be successful, be loved and live up to the expected norms in our society. These norms imply, among other things, that men have the upper hand.
In the TikTok experiment, we’ve seen women in service companies who wear braids being hypersexualized by male customers and themselves in exchange for more tips. (Schoolboys, on the other hand, are not typically portrayed in a hypersexualized way by heterosexual women.)
It only adds to some women’s false awareness that people – namely men – always judge a book by its cover. That male gaze can have one disadvantageous effect on women’s well-being. It can manifest itself in numerous ways, including increasing self-objectification, experiencing body shame, and social physical anxiety. Hypersexualized young women and girls often have other health problemsalso, such as depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and the inability to develop a healthy and healthy sexual self-image.
We should actively fight against that – not add to it.
Social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram have received a huge boost to influence our daily lives, especially young people. The hypersexualization of young women on social media is fueling the sexism ingrained in our society. It puts women, especially women of color, in a dangerous position, where men, especially male predators, seize the opportunity to lurk online and target women in various pernicious ways. Social media creates a vicious circle for women and girls to legitimize, internalize and hypersexualize themselves.
It has not escaped my notice that the female tipped workers in the TikTok experiment were on the horns of a dilemma. Either they wore pigtails to get more tips to earn a living, or they stopped wearing them to show their disapproval of the sexualization of young women and girls. However, no woman should be placed in this dilemma.
And what happens if wearing braids for more tips today isn’t enough to work tomorrow? For example, if more young women start wearing the haircut, its appeal to male customers may diminish. Does that mean these women need to do even more to please their male audience with the tips? It’s not unrealistic to see how things can escalate.
One of the positives about this social experiment is that it brings more awareness and recognition to the fact that many women are often faced with a disturbing choice: security or dehumanization in order to earn a living wage. When the pigtails trend is no longer a topic of discussion, let’s make sure this disturbing fact is not forgotten.