By Gillian Koch
Since the beginning of quarantine, TikTok has increased in popularity as it has become an outlet for millions of users to share their daily “life hacks”, talents, thoughts and opinions. With such an astonishing reach, this platform has become the perfect place for individuals to address a range of controversial topics, including everyday problems that women face living in a male-dominated society.
On Sept. 7, a video was posted by user @smythsdisco, asking women the hypothetical question — “What would you do if there were no men on earth for 24 hours?” While it’s easy to miss this viral video with just the flick of your thumb across the screen, a more detailed look into the comment section revealed many hard-hitting and painful truths.
“I’d leave my drink down at a bar and go to the bathroom, not having to scull my drink and actually enjoy it.” –@opheliahughes
“I would blast music through both of my airpods, wear a mini skirt and tube top, and take a walk late at night.” –@sweet.creatvre
“Dance around town at 3 am without fearing for my life.” –@l4ur3in11
“Wear an actual bathing suit and go to the beach.” –@mxo.cruz
“I would sleep outside and stargaze without having to worry about being attacked.” –@kendlem
“Not hold my keys like knives when I’m leaving work at night.” –@sarahmonstera
“Sleep at night peacefully.” –@lxgall
“Walk back from school without looking behind me constantly.” –@_juliet_b_
“Not lock my car as soon as I got in.” –@shelyely
Those are just a few of the thousands of disheartening comments that shed light on a major issue that our world has, and continues to face — gender inequality and oppression.
An overwhelming majority of women noted similar everyday activities they would feel safe participating in if men were removed from the earth for a day. From late night walks alone to leaving drinks unattended, their comments reveal the many things that we, as women, avoid due to our fear of being kidnapped, raped or harassed.
In response to the backlash against the video, many women calmly replied with statements including, “we are fully aware that not every single man is threatening” and “to say that we’re crying victim or over exaggerating is not true. These things happen every day.” While it is true that there are many men with pure intentions and kind hearts, it’s hard to ignore the countless horror stories that have circulated our world and always seem to have similar endings.
Whether the discussion is about sexual assault or the gender pay gap, women are faced with numerous hardships that have stemmed from a long history of blatant disrespect and misogyny. We are taught at a young age to dress appropriately, watch our drinks, walk home with friends, keep one headphone out and go about life in a way that we don’t find ourselves hearing “she was asking for it.”
Men have taken their power and comfort for granted, while women have unfortunately become accustomed to altering their lives to stay safe in this world. The 100,000+ comments speak for themselves, and there is no coincidence that many of them share the same ideas. As a 20-year-old female college student, I myself have become too familiar with a lifestyle that consists of “more appropriate” outfit changes and predatory men.
Even after the comment section went viral, thousands of men were still quick to condemn women for “playing the victim card” and unfairly targeting them — missing the video’s purpose entirely.
But what is truly unfair in this situation is not that men are being held accountable for their actions, but that we have come to a point where women fear some of the most basic actions in life. What started off as a simple TikTok has transformed into a platform for women to speak out on the gender inequalities of our world — a sign that change needs to be made. But what exactly needs to change?
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made a statement to women in 2014, which I believe still stands true: “Stay Home. Or don’t. Go out with your friends at night. Or don’t. Go about your day exactly as you intend, on your terms. Because women don’t need to change their behavior. Men do.”
Gillian Koch (she/her/hers) is a staff writer for Bell. She is a sophomore at UW–Madison studying retail and consumer behavior with a focus in product development and a certificate in global health.