I’ve been noticing recently that all my favourite female made art also tends to graphically depict women being gross, so I thought I would do a little investigation to see why this could be.
Firstly, I would like to hypothesise that this is all just a response to seeing men do gross out comedy for so long with the no female input. The sitcom ‘Drifters’, basically picks up where ‘The Inbetweeners’ left off, (the last ‘Inbetweeners’ film was released in 2014 and ‘Drifters’ started in 2013). In the show, a trio of female friends struggle through life and realise that employment, love and popularity aren’t as easy to achieve as they had hoped. The sitcom covers STDs, competing with porn, binge drinking and the unfortunate truths of drug taking, basically, the star and writer Jessica Knappett refuses to shy away from the ugly parts of being a woman.
Similarly, the American sit com ‘Broad City’, started in 2014, shows the dark secrets of being a twenty something woman in New York. The two best friends graphically show the dirty realities of lactose-intolerance inspired diarrhea, conjunctivitis, pegging and even bed bugs. By representing both main characters as flawed, and at times thoroughly disgusting, the show revels in ‘dude culture’. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly at Comicon in 2017 Ilana Glazer (co-star and co-writer of the show) explains, ‘Our show is not going to see that time when they’re not calling it ’female’ shows anymore … we’re just like dudes to me and dude isn’t a gender thing it’s a vibe thing.’
Glazer also revealed in a 2015 interview with Katie Couric that a lot of the absurd events of the sitcom are actually inspired by anecdotes from friends and their own lives. Likewise, Jessica Knappett, of ‘Drifters’, revealed that ‘tragically quite a lot of it is based on real life’. Both exposing the not-so-revolutionary idea that women can be imperfect, in both TV and real life.
Perhaps, this second wave of all-female gross out comedy is a response to the female body being hyper sexualised and idealised for so long. About half a decade before both these sitcoms, was the rise and fall of Megan Fox. As she tells in her ET interview with screen writer Diablo Cody, Fox felt so objectified by the media that she had a nervous breakdown in 2008. Megan Fox’s treatment by Hollywood shows the capacity of hyper objectification to cause harm to the female psyche and therefore the reason for this push back of on-screen representation of imperfection.
In her new book ‘How to be a Woman’ Caitlin Moran explains that by mystifying the female body women are shamed into subservience. This then would explain why she also uses her book to describe the phenomenon of post-bath leakage, so that other women can feel seen. She also discusses the injustice that women are not able to talk about orgasms or sexual pleasure in the same way as men because there is no proper word for female cum. And she highlights that we rarely even label our own genitals correctly, often using the word vagina when we really mean vulva. (No one has ever mistaken a mans balls for his penis.)
This would also then explain why other feminist writers use their art to demystify the female body. Writers like Sandra Cisneros delves into what it means to be gross and female in her poem ‘Down there’. She ‘indulges’ herself, even apologising to the imagined male reader for detailed descriptions of her ‘rag time’, which she elaborates is ‘Gelatinous. Steamy, and lovely to the light to look at.’ Novelist Angela Carter remarks on the freedom that comes from being ‘notoriously foul-mouthed’ and features bodily functions within most of her prose.
We can see then that ‘gross out’ is not a new tradition among women, but it is the first time in which we have had the opportunity to write, act and star in our own television shows. Hopefully, sitcoms like ‘Drifters’ and ‘Broad City’ are just another step towards total de-stigmatisation. As Germaine Greer says, ‘if you think you are emancipated, you might consider the idea of tasting your own menstrual blood- if it makes you sick, you’ve got a long way to go baby’.
Featured Image by Cowomen from Pexels