Sunday, March 30, 2014

Girl Code: #Stereotypes

MTV’s Girl Code is the female version of the previous hit, Guy Code. The show hilariously explains the “code” or guidelines that girls live by (or should be living by) in different situations. The girls (and a couple guys) on the show cover just about everything from purses, pets, and nails to the more serious(ish) topics of contraception, STD’s and virginity. On MTV’s website (, they describe the show as a “strong and smart female driven comedy series bringing millennial viewers a new, hilarious how-to-manual full of over the top tips to push the envelope and open the dialogue about the wonders and woes of womanhood.” Not only is the content of some of the discussions these women have productive in challenging stereotypes and gender norms, but women (and women comedians) openly talking and making jokes about some of these topics is itself pushing against gender norms and stereotypes. On the other hand the show also participates in reinforcing certain gender norms and stereotypes through its emphasis on stereotypical topics and through some of the show’s design and cast choices. 

            A majority of the women on Girl Code are heterosexual. This skews the shows message and makes reinforces the idea that heterosexuality is the norm. In the 8th episode of season 2 the ladies talk about boyfriends. They go through the types of boyfriends and the best and worst things about having boyfriends. When they shift to the one lesbian on the show, Quinn Marcus, the only things she contributes is that boys pay for everything (hello gender norm) and says that was one of the things she missed about dating boys and one of the things she considered when she was thinking “do I really wanna be gay?” The other thing that jumps out and blatantly reinforces stereotypes and gender roles is that all of the women wear make-up and have their hair done nicely, except for Quinn. This reinforces the ideas that heterosexual women are supposed to wear make-up to be feminine and that lesbians aren’t feminine because they don’t wear make-up. Feminine stereotypes also show up on the backdrop. The show is filmed in front of a green screen so they could easily put anything behind them but it’s oftentimes very girly. They include gemstones, jewelry, paper doll cut outs, purses and ridiculous key chains (like puppies and hearts, practical things…not). These feminine stereotypes are also present in the topics they discuss.
            There are three to four topics per episode and usually at least one can be interpreted as being stereotypically feminine such as purses, nails, being scared, being insecure, texting, wine, dieting, being needy etc. While these topics can be seen as stereotypical on the surface, and sometimes that is all they are in discussion as well, they are sometimes challenged by what the girls have to say. The first topic of the 8th episode of season 2 is purses. They all generally come to the conclusion that they don’t judge a girl if she doesn’t have one of the really expensive purses, but that it isn’t worth it to spend that much money on a purse which goes against the stereotype that girls are obsessed with expensive purses. Many of their discussions do end up challenging the stereotypes and gender norms in this way. An article about the motivations behind the show says that the show “isn't afraid to dive into perennially sensitive notions about the gender gap” (Zeitchik, 2013).  The show discusses many potentially embarrassing topics (which are embarrassing to women because women have traditionally been held to different standards and are policed more intensely than men by society) such as being gassy in the 3rd episode of the first season. The women are all really opposed to talking about it at first but then they dive right in and their casual conversation about it makes it seem normal, which it is. The fact that the women are so open about so many things especially sex goes against the gender norm. In their book on sexuality, Strong, Yarber, Sayad and DeVault (2008) talk about sexual scripts which are the “acts, rules, and expectations associated with a particular role” and are a part of gender norms (Strong, Yarber, Sayad, & DeVault, 2008, p. 143). They say that traditional male sexual scripts focus on “sex over feelings” while the female sexual script “focuses on feelings over sex, love over passion” and the traditional female sexual script includes the ideas that “sex is for men,” that “it’s not okay to touch themselves ‘down there,’” that sex is bad in a “casual or uncommitted relationship,” and that “women shouldn’t talk about sex… because they are not expected to have strong sexual feelings” (Strong et al., 2008, p.144-5). The topic of sex (almost always heterosexual sex) is covered in some way in most of the episodes. The women say that there is nothing wrong with it and they encourage women to do what they want to which blatantly goes against this traditional sexual script. Not only do the women discuss these topics but they make jokes and discuss them in hilarious ways which also goes against gender norms.
            In her article on Tina Fey’s comedy stardom, Patterson (2012) says that “the notion that women are not funny has been steadfast cultural myth in U.S. society, masculinizing comedy as both vocation and industry” (Patterson, p. 237).  Hole argues that comedy “places women within traditional patriarchy as the butt of the joke, or the passive respondents of humor” (as cited in Patterson, 2012, p. 238). The fact that most of these women are stand-up comics and that all of them are constantly making jokes on this successful TV show goes against these norms. They successfully turn every topic into comedy and while they sometimes might be making fun of themselves (reinforcing that women are the butt of the joke) they always portray confidence and refuse to let the stereotypes make them feel bad about themselves.
            If the women on this show did not reinforce some of our gender norms and stereotypes, we would have a hard time recognizing them as credible women and we would not be able to relate which would have an impact on how humorous we find their jokes to be. The show is filled with a constant back and forth between asserting a new understanding of what it means to be a woman, and portraying the traditional stereotypes and gender roles of womanhood. While most of the women that appear on the show are conventionally attractive and reinforce heteronormativity in their discussion of relationships, the fact that women comedians are able to talk openly about a wide range of topics including sex does a lot to challenge the stereotypes and gender roles of women.
Works Cited
Byrne, D., Ricci, P., Ling, R. (Producers). (2013). Girl Code [Television Series]. New York: MTV.
Patterson, E. (2012). Fracturing Tina Fey: A Critical Analysis of Postfeminist Television Comedy Stardom. Communication Review, 15(3), 232-251. doi:10.1080/10714421.2012.701991
Strong, B., Yarber, W.L., Sayad, B.W., & DeVault, C. (2008). Human sexuality: Diversity in contemporary America (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Zeitchik, S. (2013, April 24). With 'Girl Code' and 'Guy Code,' MTV deciphers a franchise. Los Angeles times. Retrieved from


  1. Your blog post caught my eye because I love this show, it is hilarious. When I am watching the show I did not realize all the stereotypes that were being presented in the show and after reading your article I agree that there are a lot of stereotypes being enforced. They do make it seem like every girl likes all girly things like purses and wine and makeup and they make girls look a little ditzy at times. They are making the viewers think that ALL girls are like this or should be like this if they want to be considered feminine. I didn't even realize until you brought it to my attention that there is a difference in how they express the lesbian comedian to viewers. That alone is a huge stereotype that is being expressed to the audience that lesbians are not as feminine and pretty as heterosexual girls. Your blog post makes me want to go watch the show and pick out all these stereotypes. I really enjoyed your post and you made very informative arguments about the show and the stereotypes it is expressing to viewers. Nice job!

  2. I agree with Kristin about your choice of TV show to write about. I think the most interesting thing you that you brought up was the fact that all the women are heterosexual. I never thought about the fact that it is target to one specific audience. This television show takes the stereotypes of women and talks about them in a comedic way. As we've talked in class comedy is the best way to approach any social issue/topic.

  3. Interesting article. I enjoyed reading it. I don't watch this show but was curious to hear about its stereotypes (or challenging of them).
    Overall, I think you're trying to tackle too much. Because of this I think you didn't have enough room to expand on your points. For example, the Tina Fey paragraph was a good start but you could have said a lot more in regards to the show and how that quote related to the show through specific examples. I encourage you to ask the question, How? How do these women go against gender norms in hilarious ways? Your pictures showed this to me but I wanted more in your writing. Give more details on a more focused, narrowed point.

  4. From Lauren Friedman: I love this show! I always tune in whenever I see it on the TV guide and I enjoyed reading your blog. I will agree with you on the fact that this show challenges gender norms while are the same time reinforcing them. I am also a huge fan of Tina Fey, so I was delighted you used her as a source. Fey mentioned that U.S. society has labeled woman as not funny, but many women have proven and overcome that stereotype. For example I think that Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest woman I have ever seen, but most of her comedy is related to her weight, which makes her "the butt" of the joke. I admire female comedians because they have most likely worked twice as hard as any male in the comedy industry.

  5. This show for me has always seemed a little overwhelming. On the rare occasions that I do watch it, it seems like a constant rush of information of what a typical girl’s life is supposed to be like. Some of the stuff is relatable but most of the time I feel that topics like “purses, pets, and nails” get really redundant and boring. Even though the women are funny, the trivial things they discuss most of the time do reinforce the ditsy stereotype of femininity that we see all around us.
    You did bring up some interesting points about how they may be reinforcing stereotypes by making fun of themselves, and through comedy they show that they are refusing to feel bad about it. It is important to note that they do challenge some of these stereotypes. But the fact that they turn the more serious topics into a comedic aspect makes it hard to take their challenges to typical femininity seriously. When they break from the norm it is seen as comedic, not empowering. Over all this show may have entertainment value but very little social value.

  6. Very interesting topic! I really enjoyed reading this because it is so true! I never realized how many topics that are made difficult for females to discuss but not males. The constant back and forth does at times seem overwhelming but it is necessary because of this fact. Over, great post!


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