To be a girl that simply poops is to be boring, mundane, aspiring to nothing at all. To be the b*tch that sh*ts is to be ethereal, admirable, and untouchable. In pursuit of being the “main character,” we, b**ches that sh*t, have adopted a philosophy of vulgar embellishment to accessorize just about anything, from language to fashion. This use of vulgarity is nothing new but has now become a confounding theme in Gen Z cultural identity and reflects more than just an adolescent compulsion to provoke.
The phrase, coined by TikToker and Twitch streamer @angelxoxotv, became a popular TikTok sound earlier this year, used as the soundtrack to various fit checks, thirst traps, and literal selfies from the toilet seat. Users of all gender identities posted themselves at their most confident (or most brave), hyping themselves up to look their best and do their best, taking a firm stand against succumbing to the ultimate failure of being a “girl that [just] poops” (A similar vein of trends is the tendency for compliments or praise to be given in the most vulgar terms, like “f**k it up,” “you’re that b*tch,” with increasing levels of vulgarity denoting a higher compliment). A girl that poops represents anyone or really anything that promotes complacency and whose lack of innovation or inspiration has been deemed culturally normal for too long. What’s interesting about this trend is that it is by no means exclusive; anyone can rightly deem themself a “b*tch who shits” by virtue of being bold enough to exclaim such dirty, vulgar words. It seems the purpose of this show of vulgarity is simply to separate oneself from “normal” and subscribe to the belief that one can be more.
The term “vulgar” itself is often misinterpreted and relegated to describe cuss words and sexual content when its original meaning was used to describe common people. The term was used by those of elite or higher status who looked down upon the poor and deemed them too crude. In essence, vulgar’s true meaning is to be different or contrast the celebrated norm and can be used to describe those that go against what certain corners of society decide is culturally acceptable.
The idea of vulgarity as something to look down upon has long since been taken back by “common people” and been rebranded and recontextualized, most notably by the Black and Latino queer and trans ballroom community. This ballroom culture emerged in '70s Harlem when white queer and trans people viewed them as unsophisticated and lewd, kicking them out of white-only ballrooms. What materialized from this dismissal was a safe ballroom space where everyone could be as “unsophisticated” or “vulgar” as they pleased. This sparked an outpour of creativity and expression (out of necessity) that created a whole new culture and vernacular. To “slay” was to succeed, be the recipient of “shade” meant to shape up or ship out, and to “serve c*nt” was the greatest achievement of all: to be fierce. It's worth mentioning that through this explosion of expression, those white queer and trans people that once cast out those of color now saw the rich culture developing in Black and Latino ballrooms and wanted to join in on the “vulgarity.” While it’s no doubt this culture has been pervasive in mainstream pop culture since its inception (largely without credit), its “Renaissance” over the past year can be at least partially attributed to Beyonce’s latest album and tour, where she celebrated Black and Latino queer and trans culture (one that has been heavily targeted in recent years) both in the studio and onstage, with such “vulgar” lyrics as “pop it like a thotty,” “bad b*tch, I’m the bar,” and of course “get yo money, money, c*nty, hunty.”
To be vulgar is to soar above the crowd and stand against confinement by oppositional powers. This idea of marginalized/oppressed groups creating their own culturally “vulgar” means of escape in times of intense social stress is nothing new: 70s counterculture in reaction to Vietnam, Harlem Renaissance in reaction to continued racism post abolition. More recently, we’ve seen things like the "Free The Nip" movement pop up as a response to rampant double standards and gender inequalities.
In this Post Covid/impending economic doom/the world literally burning era, not to mention being born into a Post 9/11 world and having grown up hearing about or experiencing school shootings, it seems Gen Z is slapped in the face with a million new stressors every day, expected to bear the burdens of mistakes or oversights of previous generations. The culturally normal response (as understood by generations before us) would be to bear the full weight of the stresses and don a severe demeanor. We’ve instead chosen to be “vulgar” and adopted a culture of absurdity and whimsy, where we release our stresses by seemingly doing what makes very little sense and being “unserious.”
We see this exceedingly through our use of social media, where every post is self-aware or ironic; the most ridiculous, bordering-on-offensive tweets gain the most traction; the most intimate thoughts or experiences around sex and bodily functions are posted for the world to see—all with absolutely no shame. We see it in our fashion where nothing has to make sense or be deemed appropriate: wrong shoe theory, sheer garments, maximalism, intentional clashing, ironic T-shirts, Maison Margiela Tabis. It’s in our music: most notably Sexxy Red’s “Pound Town,” with the iconic lyrics “I’m out of town, thuggin’ with my rounds, My coochie pink, my booty-hole brown.” It’s in our cinema: Megan Thee Stallion is starring in “Dicks: The Musical” this year. Each of these aspects is “vulgar” enough to make previous generations scratch their heads and wonder, “What the hell is wrong with the kids these days.”
Gen Z’s use of vulgarity is an exercise in catharsis, not evidence of moral decay. We’re simply taking notes from decades of countercultural movements in response to stressors. We have the instinct to embellish the otherwise mundane, if not downright depressing, because it’s the only way we know how to survive the bombardment of impending doom being thrown at us. Everything in our world is so serious it's absurd. The only thing left to do is match (and surpass) the absurdity: why not get un-serious? Why wear a T-shirt and jeans when you could wear a corset top with basketball shorts and ballet flats? Why say, “You look great” when you could say, “You graduated C*NTford University with a Bachelor of SLAYence in serving?” Why be normal when you could be vulgar?