If you’re watching a film or TV show and see a young woman dressed all in black with a grungy hairstyle and a resting bitch face, be warned – she’s probably a feminist character written by a man.
Or perhaps there’s an impossibly attractive woman doing some cooking, alone, wearing just an oversized white T-shirt and socks, as she dances around the kitchen, using a whisk as a microphone.
Such is the single dimension of some women characters on screen and in fiction, often written by men. And TikTokkers are exposing the lazy writing.
Female creators on the video-sharing app are acting out all the unrealistic ways women are often characterised: sexy, seductive, clumsy, and whimsical, their looks and tics a cue to their inner soul.
Actor and content creator Caitlin Reilly was among the first to the trend, satirising how a woman in sci-fi films is often depicted: you know, the geeky scientist who probably wears glasses and keeps her hair in a tight ponytail, and is so dedicated to her work, she has no time for love or a social life.
Reilly’s breakout video, which includes such lines as “I’m a woman and a scientist, I can’t be both good at my job and nice”, has been watched more than a million times.
She has also mocked action movies for the way they paint women; helpless, emotional, forgetful. “I forgot the box of things that are very special to me, I have to go back”, and the hysterical mum shouting “please find my daughter,” are lines that have seriously tickled her Instagram followers, too.
Over on TikTok, the trend has blown up in recent days, soundtracked by Portishead, as young women ridicule the way they’re written into fiction in the most mundane scenarios, from having breakfast to going to sleep, from putting on their makeup to taking it off, from reading to dating to chewing gum.
In one clip, a woman experiencing a break-up sits wistfully, wearing just a top – many of these portrayals are trouser-less – as she licks ice cream seductively off a spoon. Ice cream is a big thing in the land of the male gaze, it seems.
In fact, many of these #writtenbymen clips are tagged #malegaze, spreading feminist theory about the problems with women being depicted from a masculine and heterosexual (indeed sexual) perspective to a new generation.
As well as drawing attention to sexism in screenwriting, some of the videos also touch on long-established and fetishising depictions of women of colour, of disabled women, and of trans women, as shown by creator AJClementine.
You’ll see what we mean when you check out others videos tagged into the trend. And while you’re watching them, please remember no woman in history has ever taken off her glasses to realise that she was beautiful all along.
She was “all that” already – without the nerd-to-hottie makeover by a man.