The Self Commodification of Women


Avery Ferguson, Staff Writer

“Hunger hurts, and I want him so bad, oh, it kills. ‘Cause I know I’m a mess he don’t wanna clean up.”

Fiona Apple released When the Pawn… on November 9, 1999. Recently, her hit song Paper Bag has had a resurgence on the social media app TikTok. Under this sound, teenage and young adult women post videos with paragraphs of writing. These paragraphs describe the “unhinged woman” and “femcel” (a woman who hates all men and stays celibate of  their own choice) they are. These tik tok videos describe walking in the freezing cold at twelve am “just to feel anything.” These makers of these videos describe the dirty dishes on their night side tables, “left to mold.” The videos describe crying at three am because men will “never understand just how badly hunger hurts.” This specific trend, along with many like it, are made to reject ideas of “acceptable” femininity, but, in actuality, are just yet another way for women to commodify themselves, becoming, yet another product for the consumer of society. This Tik Tok trend and commodification of women is incredibly harmful to the position of women within society and is harmful for the impressionable, younger generation of women. 

At first glance, this trend is just a way for young adult women to find people with similar habits, and is a way to reject the non-messy ideals of women society glorifies. This trend does not accomplish that, and it actually makes women smaller within society. This trend is a way of women packaging themselves up. The people who participate in this trend, and others like it, are just reducing their entire self into a paragraph. They reduce themselves to a few, easily digestible sentences in hopes of being accepted. This act of self-commodification is just another act that society has conditioned women to believe is empowerment. The trend only means to, once again, reduce women to almost nothing. It is used to make them smaller. This trend and commodification is just another tool of a male-dominated society used to make women take up less space. If women only reduce themselves to a few sentences, what impact in society can they have? Although this trend is supposed to show how women can be messy and non-conforming to society, they are just conforming to yet another societal standard.

This self commodification of women is also harmful because it promotes an unhealthy mindset within younger girls, which would later lead to them devaluing themselves within society. This trend promotes a “femcel”, “unhinged” woman, and, within this trend, any woman who is not “unhinged” is seen as “basic” or “unfeminist.” This is a very unhealthy mindset to instill in the minds of growing children. Teenage girls are the number one user of Tiktok, with 16.4% of the app’s users falling into the category. This trend of women commodifying themselves can influence these younger girls by promoting unhealthy lifestyles. Most of the women under this audio are urging others to make themselves smaller. The people who see the videos go on to make their own videos. This trend creates a vicious cycle of self commodification of women throughout all generations, until, eventually, women have nothing but a paragraph left of them. This influence also promotes a glorification of mental illness. These videos promote untreated anxiety, depression, and personality disorders -an example being bipolar disorder. The glorification does not promote women within society and is at the detriment to them. When people are urged to not reach out for help within their mental illness, they feel isolated and it actually increases the rates of suicide. Untreated depression alone increases a person’s chance of a suicide attempt by 20%. This promoting of unhealthy lifestyles, by urging all generations of women to make themselves smaller and by promoting mental illness, is not beneficial to women across all societies; this, once again, is only to their detriment. 

If women are to be seen within society, and if they truly want to break societal standards, they need to promote positive lifestyles. Women need to make themselves larger within society. This cannot be accomplished by promoting unhealthy, “unhinged”, behaviour. It will be accomplished, however, by creating an intersectional, collaborative feminist movement. Even if innocently intentioned, this Tik Tok trend only promotes the self-commodification of women at the detriment to the women themselves, as well as society.