The TikTok pigtails trend should end now

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  one month ago  •  52 comments

By:   Emma Zang, Assistant Professor (NBC News)

The TikTok pigtails trend should end now
To some, women wearing pigtails to try to get more tips from men may seem like a silly — even if unsettling — trend, but it perpetuates harm against young women

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Aug. 29, 2022, 11:33 PM UTC By Emma Zang, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University

The continued popularity of portrayals like that of Sailor Moon in a blue middle school sailor uniform, and Britney Spears dressed as a sexy schoolgirl in the music video of her hit song "...Baby One More Time" — both of them in pigtails — remind us that schoolgirl fetish has never faded away. And now a recent social experiment on TikTok suggests that female workers in the service industry earn more tips from their male patrons if they are sporting pigtails. As many of these women pointed out, sexualization and infantilization of young women and girls have long been manifested by wearing pigtails.

"Unfortunately, women are going to be fetishized in different ways by what they look like," said one 25-year-old server who shared her results of the experiment on TikTok. "If changing my hair up 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, reflecting some men's views that young, naive and submissive women are hypersexual.

To some, this may seem like a silly — even if unsettling — trend, but it perpetuates harm against young women and should end.

The schoolgirl fetish is deeply rooted in sexism, reflecting some men's views that young, naive and submissive women are hypersexual. It is a product of the patriarchy in our society and a type of sexist view that encompasses the discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping of women as being weak and childish, undermining their abilities to shoulder important responsibilities in society as adults.

And for women of color, the compounding force of racism and hypersexualization has led to further marginalization. For example, East and Southeast Asian women are often fetishized and viewed as being petite, docile, submissive and tolerant. It's an unhealthy exoticization that makes them susceptible to potential gender-based violence. The killing of six women of Asian-descent in the tragic 2021 Atlanta-area spa shootings is one such example.

The pressure of social media conveys a clear and straightforward message to women: Make yourselves look younger, sexier and thinner in order to be successful, to be loved, and adhere to the expected norms in our society. These norms include seeing men as having the upper hand.

1661437089333_now_mnn_pigtail_experiment_220822_1920x1080-vnfhvh.jpg

Women participating in TikTok's 'pigtail experiment' say results suggest fetish of younger girls


In the TikTok experiment, we have seen that women in service industries who sport pigtails are hypersexualized, by male customers and by themselves, in exchange for more tips. (By contrast, schoolboys are not typically portrayed in a hypersexualized way by heterosexual women.)

It only adds to some women's false consciousness that people — namely men — always judge a book by its cover. That male gaze can have a detrimental effect on women's well-being. It can show itself in a myriad of ways, including increasing self-objectification, experiencing body shame and social physique anxiety. Hypersexualized young women and girls often have other health problems, too, such as depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders and an inability to develop a healthy and wholesome sexual self-image.

We should be actively fighting against that — not adding to it.

Social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram have gathered massive momentum to influence our daily lives, particularly young people. The hypersexualization of young women on social media gives an impetus to 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 around online and target women in different pernicious ways. Social media creates a vicious circle for women and girls to legitimize, internalize and self-hypersexualize themselves.

It's not lost on me that the female tipped workers in the TikTok experiment were caught on the horns of a dilemma. It was either they wear pigtails to get more tips to make a living, or they stop wearing them to show their denouncement of the sexualization of young women and girls. However, no woman should be put in this dilemma.

And what happens if wearing pigtails for more tips today isn't enough to work for tomorrow? For example, if more young women start to wear the hairstyle, the appeal of it could wear off for male customers. Does that mean these women need to do even more to please their male audience for the tips? It is not unrealistic to see how things could escalate.

One of the positive things about this social experiment is that it brings more awareness and acknowledgment to the fact that many women are often faced with an unsettling choice: safety or dehumanization to earn a livable wage. When the pigtails trend ceases to be a topic of discussion, let's ensure that this disturbing fact doesn't fade into obscurity.

Emma Zang

Emma Zang, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University, where she studies family, health and aging, and gender inequality. She is a Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @DrEmmaZang.


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Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

When I think back to my past, I don't recall ever having any kind of relationship or attraction to a girl in pigtails.  I can't even think of ever seeing one (except maybe in the movies) although I'm bound to have seen them but it was never something I have taken particular notice of.  I didn't realize that pigtails had such sociological significance.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
1.1  evilgenius  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    one month ago
I didn't realize that pigtails had such sociological significance.

There are whole channels of porn online associated with pigtails fetishizing women to look younger than they are. 

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
1.1.1  JBB  replied to  evilgenius @1.1    one month ago

Erotica featuring women dressed as school girls is not new. It has been popular since the Victorian Era, since the invention of photography.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
1.1.2  evilgenius  replied to  JBB @1.1.1    one month ago
...since the invention of photography.

Women have been fetishized and objectified since men put pigment to parchment and chisel to stone. 

 
 
 
Jack_TX
Senior Quiet
1.2  Jack_TX  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    4 weeks ago
I didn't realize that pigtails had such sociological significance.

They don't.  

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1.2.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Jack_TX @1.2    4 weeks ago

Agreed.  I think I was making that point as well.

 
 
 
Jack_TX
Senior Quiet
1.2.2  Jack_TX  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.2.1    4 weeks ago
Agreed.  I think I was making that point as well.

Ah.  I missed the subtlety.  My mistake.

Seriously though, stuff like this is tedious.  Yet another feminist unhappy with something men are doing, pretending it's somehow a threat to somebody and demanding everybody stop doing what they're doing.

We're so far gone this time that pigtails somehow represent the thin end of the wedge that will drive western civilization to ruin.  

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.2.3  Vic Eldred  replied to  Jack_TX @1.2.2    4 weeks ago

It's what a Yale Professor spent her time on. Notice the concern of libs here who made light of it.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.2.4  devangelical  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.3    4 weeks ago

gosh darn those academic elites and their quests to further expand all knowledge...

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.2.5  Vic Eldred  replied to  devangelical @1.2.4    4 weeks ago
and their quests to further expand all knowledge...

hum...pigtails!

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.2.6  devangelical  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.5    4 weeks ago

yeah, well, I would have researched why most male descendants of mediterranean immigrants ended up dressing the same and using the same cologne after 100 years of arriving on the east coast.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

You can't declare this image to be "off topic".

OIP-C.wwfIsVNqYUZjrClr_nGiuwAAAA?pid=ImgDet&rs=1

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
PhD Principal
2.1  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2    one month ago

jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
2.2  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2    one month ago

LMAO... good one Buzz!

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.2.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2.2    4 weeks ago

Look at all those potential Christmas hams............

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2.2  Ender  replied to  Trout Giggles @2.2.1    4 weeks ago

Talk about some nice pork butt...

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
2.2.3  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Ender @2.2.2    4 weeks ago

You guys just love to ham it up!

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Guide
3  Greg Jones    one month ago

I thought Abby wore her pigtails well. She also looked nice with hair down

.abby_13.jpg

99644_1111b2_lr.jpg

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
3.1  Freefaller  replied to  Greg Jones @3    4 weeks ago

If they're not braided are they actually pigtails?

 
 
 
Thomas
Sophomore Guide
3.1.1  Thomas  replied to  Freefaller @3.1    4 weeks ago

They are then called ponytails 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
4  JohnRussell    one month ago

If an employer ( a bar or restaurant) requires pigtails, I think that would be a problem. If the young women wear pigtails on their own accord, I dont think it is anyone else's business. 

 
 
 
Jack_TX
Senior Quiet
4.1  Jack_TX  replied to  JohnRussell @4    4 weeks ago

Don't we all wish it was that simple.   

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
5  JBB    one month ago

Pigtails are a neat easy way to keep hot hair up ond off one's neck while working on hot Summer days...

Sometimes the easiest explanation is the right one.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
5.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  JBB @5    one month ago

jrSmiley_13_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
5.2  cjcold  replied to  JBB @5    4 weeks ago

This old dude wears his long hair in a ponytail for the same reason. Plus, the young babes dig it.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
6  evilgenius    one month ago

I understand the point of the article, but I don't necessarily agree with it's point. The way it talks about the male gaze and fetishizing women by trying to talk women out of wearing pigtails and such - if we were to take this point to a further conclusion wouldn't women have to wear burkas to avoid accidently turning on any passing man. Just as women shouldn't be judged as hypersexualized submissive objects, not every man should be assumed a predator.

Many men do need to understand respect and boundaries. Just because you have a penis doesn't mean that waitress is into you and wants you to hit on her, dumbass. You are not a slobbering humping dog, quit ruining it for everyone else.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
6.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  evilgenius @6    one month ago

That is a very thoughtful answer.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
7  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.    one month ago

This caught my eye since one of my daughters always wears her hair in either pigtails or one long braid. She does it because it's neat and easy and her hair doesn't get in the way when she is doing lab work. It does make her look younger, (she's 28 so she isn't that old), but I doubt she feels sexy doing it. So when I saw this article, I was curious to see what the reaction was.

I think the professor might be a tad over responding to this. I think it's more about the industry she is referring to (being a waitress), rather than men in general. I was a waitress in college, and some guys were total pigs to me and would overstep their boundaries and I never wore pigtails. I asked my daughter if guys came on to her more since the pigtails, and she laughed and said no. She said that the only time men sexualize her is when she is wearing something low-cut. Then they talk to her chest, LOL. Some things will never change, LOL. Mother nature will always win out.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
7.1  evilgenius  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @7    one month ago
I think it's more about the industry she is referring to (being a waitress), rather than men in general.

I believe this started from a Tik Tok video a month or so ago where a waitress claimed she got better tips when she wore pigtails. It sparked a conversation I see off and on in my newsfeed. 

I think the professor might be a tad over responding to this.

As stated above, I agree. Though the conversation is probably needed there are many perspectives that should be considered and this professor hasn't thought that all out. Attraction, sex, gender roles are a shifting target at any given time and what works for one doesn't always work for others. Often lacking in the conversation is respect for each other. 

I'm also reminded of something that came across my Twitter feed this morning:

800

Talk about fragile male egos... jrSmiley_97_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
7.1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  evilgenius @7.1    4 weeks ago

Woo.   Good thing I was in the 30% that "could".   I didn't get married until I was 35 and then fathered a daughter and a son who have both become highly successful in their careers.  

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
7.2  Vic Eldred  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @7    4 weeks ago
It does make her look younger,

Pigtails belong to what age group?

Isn't this about Pedophilia?

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
7.2.1  devangelical  replied to  Vic Eldred @7.2    4 weeks ago
Isn't this about Pedophilia?

uh, not to anyone else here...

 
 
 
Thomas
Sophomore Guide
7.2.2  Thomas  replied to  Vic Eldred @7.2    4 weeks ago

No. It is about fantasy, sex, and manipulation of men or anyone else in the quest for higher tips. 

If it were about pedophilia, the stereotype would be a pre-pubescent male. I don't think that would make for good tips.

 
 
 
charger 383
Professor Quiet
8  charger 383    one month ago

If you are working for tips and want more money, follow the trend

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
9  devangelical    one month ago

yikes. this topic is quicksand for males. no comment.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
10  Trout Giggles    4 weeks ago

When I waited tables I had short hair. Didn't stop certain assholes from hitting on me

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
10.1  cjcold  replied to  Trout Giggles @10    4 weeks ago

When does mild flirtation become serious "hitting on"?

I have to assume it is different for everybody depending on their personality. 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
10.1.1  devangelical  replied to  cjcold @10.1    4 weeks ago

I've been off the market for so long, women would have to wear sandwich boards that specifically stated their intentions towards me.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
10.1.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  cjcold @10.1    4 weeks ago

How about reaching across the bar to grab me? Fortunately the other fellas in the bar stopped him

 
 
 
Jack_TX
Senior Quiet
10.1.3  Jack_TX  replied to  devangelical @10.1.1    4 weeks ago
I've been off the market for so long, women would have to wear sandwich boards that specifically stated their intentions towards me.

Just as well.  Given the whole "me too" situation, you probably need a notarized affidavit, as well.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
10.1.4  devangelical  replied to  Jack_TX @10.1.3    4 weeks ago

yeah I miss the good old days. prime them with substances and then let them rape you. >sigh<

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
11  Ender    4 weeks ago

Cornrows people...

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
11.1  cjcold  replied to  Ender @11    4 weeks ago

Too much effort and/or expense.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
11.1.1  Ender  replied to  cjcold @11.1    4 weeks ago

Well at least ones hair would be a frizzball when taken out...Then one can look like this...

384

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
11.1.2  cjcold  replied to  Ender @11.1.1    4 weeks ago

Please just put a bullet into the back of my head if I ever look like that.

Reminds me of an old song my friend Billy Lynch used to sing with Lee McBee.

"She Used to be Beautiful But She Lived Her Life too Fast"

"Running Around the Room Drinking Out Of Everybodies Whiskey Glass."

RIP Lee

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
11.1.3  devangelical  replied to  cjcold @11.1.2    4 weeks ago
Please just put a bullet into the back of my head if I ever look like that.

sally once gave me a vacation on NV for saying that if anyone ever caught me in the bathroom with a laptop to please shoot me. I don't think she took too kindly to me after she posted a picture of her husband and upon seeing his shoes I remarked "what size outboards (boat engines) came with them, or do you just use oars". oops...

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
11.1.4  cjcold  replied to  devangelical @11.1.3    4 weeks ago

I don't remember that. 

Pretty sure that neither of us deserve sanctions for our long term honesty.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Professor Principal
12  Nerm_L    4 weeks ago

Seems like another attempt to blame an object.  The problem ain't pigtails.  The root problem is an assumed persona used to manipulate people.  Apparently that assumed persona provides a competitive edge.  And the success of the assumed persona establishes an expectation by those being manipulated.

Success attracts imitation.  But the imitation only works by playing the part and being willing to manipulate people.  It's the success of the manipulation that establishes both the need to compete and the expectations by those being manipulated.

Using manipulation to obtain a competitive edge transcends pigtails.  Keep in mind that the focus on pigtails (on the object) is an attempt to manipulate people, too.

 
 
 
Revillug
Freshman Guide
13  Revillug    4 weeks ago

Come to think of it - I do tip the Russian (Ukrainian?) waitress a little more when she is wearing her hair in pigtails.

Or maybe I just tip her more when I think she is having a bad hair day and needs someone to do something nice like tip on the high side of the suggested range. There is a lot of talk about wage growth at the lower end these days but I doubt this particular restaurant pays well.

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
14  cjcold    4 weeks ago

Perception is everything.

Just look at the evolution of Marcia Clark's hair styles during the long OJ Simpson trial.

(by the way, OJ did it)

 
 
 
Revillug
Freshman Guide
14.1  Revillug  replied to  cjcold @14    4 weeks ago
(by the way, OJ did it)

It's a always a bad look when racist cops try to frame a guilty man.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
15  Ender    4 weeks ago

I whip my hair back and forth

 
 

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