In May 2019, a meme loosely referred to as the ?boy?s locker room? meme circulated on popular channels such as Reddit on Twitter. This meme was intensely popular for a short period of time, with news sites such as Buzzfeed or Mashable posting articles compiling the ?best of? this meme with titles such as ?The boys? locker room meme is a sh*tposter?s dream.? The meme, well demonstrated in in this iteration by Twitter user @Jameski, thrives on bizarre and non sensical content.
This bizarre content serves as the punchline of the joke, equating boy?s behavior in the gym class locker room to whichever surreal gif or reference the poster chooses. Though typical of Gen Z?s surreal version of internet humor, these ?boy?s locker room? memes play upon common cultural stereotypes of teenage girls vs teenage boys. Thus, through exchanging iterations of this meme online, the community is actually satirizing and producing commentary on these cultural stereotypes. In @Jameski?s iteration, the girls in the locker room engage in social small talk, typical of most human interactions; however, in the boy?s locker room, everyone is wondering around like a lost Dorito bag, normal human interaction is lost. Through this meme, in a rather abstract sense, the supportive, social tendencies of women are contrasted against the lack of male community. By joking about ?comrade Ashely? in the girls room, this iteration is another prime example of this contrast:
As suggested by this meme, the girl?s locker?s are a community. In my experience, throughout my high school and middle school gym classes, us girls banned together. If you forgot your deodorant, needed body spray, an extra hair tie, or even just wanted to complain about the Fitness Gram Pacer test, someone was ready and available to help. There?s an atmosphere of camaraderie due to a shared struggle. This tweet by @emilemillerr offer?s another example of how the girl?s locker?s is a supportive place.
Although a bit shocking and humorous, this story suggests that it is the unique nature of the girl?s locker?s that allows for the sharing of intimate feelings and anecdotes like this one. To quote this reddit thread, one user says that in their gym class girls would even lend their extra sports bras to a girl in need. In the same thread, there are other mentions of shenanigans on par with the fabled happenings in the boy?s locker?s, such as one story of an impromptu belly class. But, even though it?s definitely absurd, a DIY belly dancing class is still an example of social community and togetherness.
This iteration of the locker room meme flips the punch line to the girl?s locker room activity. The image used as the punchline of this meme is a still from the 2019 summer film Midsommar. The film is an allegory for the death of a relationship, following the protagonist (shown in the middle) as she heals from her grief and comes into her own away from her ex-boyfriend. By using this image to represent the girl?s lockers, underneath the obvious exaggeration Tumblr user i2a is implying that the locker room is a space for women to heal in the presence of other women. The girl?s locker?s are a space for community.
In the real world, this contrast continues from the locker room and into gym classes ? there are clear differences between boy?s and girl?s experiences. These differences in experience, aside from being larger social differences between how men and women tend to interact with each other, could also serve a purpose. Research shows that girls generally have a less enthusiastic opinion of PE classes than boys do, citing excessive competition, dislike of activities offered, and fear of bullying from peers as a few of the reasons why they felt this way. Captioned ?i?m in pe again? this video pretty much sums up the emotional dread I felt back when I had to attend P.E myself. This ?starter-pack? meme (above left) showcases the stereotypes facing girls in gym classes. As comments below this meme?s posting on reddit confirm, girls are thought as less competitive, less athletic, and generally less able in gym class activities than boys.
I was that girl in dodgeball. I?d go straight up to the line and ask someone to hit me so I?d get out. Nothing worse than being a non-athletic, skinny orchestra dork on the receiving end of the hyper-competitive newly-developed testosterone rage of a 14 year old boy who really cared about winning that dodgeball game.
More comments on this same thread counter this notion, saying that the reason they felt they fell into these starter-pack?s stereotypes was because of over competitive kids in their class dominating the activities, not giving them a fair chance to play.
This TikTok combines a lot of the previous mentioned factor?s in the material it draws from. Firstly, it assumes that the girls, not the boys, are in a group together ? an example of the community that girls form for mutual support. Second, it shows the girls as targets for the dodgeball ?try-hard,? an archetypical example of the over competitive male classmates mentioned in both academic research and Reddit threads. It also implies that the the girls are at risk for physical harm. Just like the locker room memes, this video capitalizes on common cultural stereotypes, showing that they?re real and pervasive.
So it?s obvious ? girls face obstacles in gym class, and thus why forming bonds with their peers is so important. By having a safe space, such as the locker?s to create community and camaraderie with fellow women, most girls won?t be alone when facing obstacles such as ?dodgeball try-hards.?
While demonstrating many of the common stereotypes facing girls in P.E, one in this TikTok (that has over two million likes ? that?s a lot of people who can relate) particularly stands out. The girl in the video says: ?yeah but when we run can you like run by me and the we can like walk together?? By finding common issues, girls, like the one being parodied here, build friendships to work through obstacles together, even if it?s just running the mile. Falling into these ?cliquey-girl? stereotypes together allows them to have a defense mechanism against the feeling of victimization that the often entail.
Finding female community has its benefits, its something still needed in our current social atmosphere. This type of community among women also extends past the gym class locker room ? women in other sports, especially recreational ones, are finding their own communities online ? and becoming better because of it.