Gen Z Feminists Use Dark Humor to Express Frustration


TikTok has become a major source of dark humor from Gen Z (Hunter Benegas/The Fordham Ram).

In the past several months, posts with the hashtags “#ihatemen” or “#killallmen” have been circulating around social media platforms, primarily on TikTok and Twitter. This new genre of social media content has been heavily criticized, even though the creators claim it is satirical. While the content is meant for comedic purposes, the genre has kickstarted a new wave of modern feminism founded on Gen Z’s use of dark humor as a coping mechanism. The trend exposes how frustrated women are with the state of the world in regard to gender equality and stereotypes about feminism. The subsequent backlash toward the hashtags is a reminder that sexism is still alive and thriving in the 21st century. 

One TikTok user, @lexaprobably, posted a video in June with the caption, “when a grown man touches your back and pushes against u when he tries to scooch past you #menincages2020 #ihatemen.” When Twitter user @idleavealone posted screenshots of comments left on one of her photos, responses included, “We all saw those photos, you getting fat sweetheart” and “Big tiddies.” Another user, @shellyzil05, defended her by responding with “#killallmen2020.” Another TikTok user, @kurapikacult, shared a video of her barking at a catcaller with the hashtag #menincages2020. Women are sharing their experiences of being followed or groped in public, while others are telling stories about being told to dress conservatively as children when male relatives came for Thanksgiving. 

While most of these posts have a satirical undertone, they speak loudly to how modern women are affected by the patriarchal society we live in. We still cannot walk down the street without being harassed. We still cannot report a sexual assault without being questioned about how we were acting or what we were wearing. We still struggle to be taken seriously in professional settings. We are still called angry and mean when we are assertive. We are still called prudes when we are not promiscuous enough or sluts when we are too promiscuous. 

This new genre of social media posts is just a different way of exposing these issues. Many of these posts are made by Gen Z, people born after 1996, who seem to cope with trauma and disaster through comedy. Gen Z consistently uses social media to make jokes out of major world problems. This trend was seen with the surge of comedy posts about the “World War III draft” and the coronavirus pandemic. Gen Z has been criticized for making light of serious situations, but humor is not necessarily a bad way to process trauma — it is just unique from previous generations’ coping mechanisms. The new trend of saying “kill all men” or “men in cages” is just another facet of that phenomenon. Young women are frustrated with the world, so they are expressing these frustrations through comedy. This new wave of feminism still has the same goals as previous waves; it has just morphed to fit the current generation. 

However, this genre of social media posts has been met with a lot of criticism, from both feminists and men’s rights activists. Some feminists, especially older women, are arguing that this trend is detrimental to the feminist movement, which is about equality among the genders rather than female superiority. While they do have a valid point, most younger people on social media can understand the satire of the posts. Social media comedy is a new medium for activism, and while the posts can be funny, they spark a larger conversation. The target audience for this type of humor is a younger demographic that sees the satire and can deduce the larger meaning. 

The non-female responses to these types of posts vary greatly. Some men, especially gay men, are laughing along and making posts of their own. Several videos and posts under the hashtags are made by men joining in on the satire of the content, like one male TikTok user, @le.teaspoon, who posted a video saying “when men …” and mocking throwing up with the hashtag #ihatemen. 

While lots of men are simply enjoying the content’s satire, others are incredibly angry and offended. Conservative commentator Alex Jones has posted on his site InfoWars about this genre of content, saying it’s an excuse for women to hate men. He taps into the men’s rights activist rhetoric calling the women “radical” and “unhinged.” This is an ironic choice of words considering much of the social media content dramatizes the “feminazi” stereotype for satirical purposes.

 Jones draws a comparison to the media’s focus on the epidemic of white, male mass shooters saying, “And though some might cry ‘false equivalence,’ there is an equally depraved, equally violent contingent of the feminist movement that doesn’t just want to push men to change their behavior — it wants to get rid of all men.” This comparison is exactly what he claims it is not: a false equivalence. It is sickening that he would compare a mass shooter to a young woman creating satirical social media content. 

Ultimately, this type of content is simply a product of Gen Z. Dark humor has become a hallmark of this generation, so it makes sense that they would address feminist issues in this way as well. Whether or not it is an effective form of activism is up for debate; however, there is no doubt that it is reflective of the current state of feminism.

Ava Erickson, FCRH ’23, is a journalism major from Denver, Colo.