“Stupid Girls” by P!nk was something of an anthem to my high school self. At the time, I had a hard luck case of special snowflake syndrome. My identity was formed in direct opposition to traditional femininity and the current trends among my peer group. “Stupid Girls” reinforced a lot of my internalized misogyny. Lyrically, the song sends some problematic messages, and when coupled with the visual of the video, reinforced my teenaged notions that it was us vs. them when it came to being girls and women.
The video itself is very clearly a product of its time, turning ten this year. It uses caricatures of female celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton to make its point about how these “stupid girls” don’t care about anything other than themselves and how they look. At the time, it spoke to me, because I definitely did not meet that narrow standard of beauty nor did I care for the trends in fashion using that standard as an expectation of how I should be.
A very well known musician using her platform to call out these trends heavily impacted me and reinforced the mantra of my teenaged identity: I’m not one of them. This mindset I had was toxic. I used it as a means to scoff at my female peers and tear them down to make myself feel superior.
A decade and a lot of growing up later, I’ve realized every woman is entitled to her life and her story regardless of the traits she embraces for her identity as a woman. I also found I enjoy many things classified as traditionally feminine that I previously eschewed to put distance between myself and other girls.
As an adult, the portion of the video that makes me squirm the most is the bathroom scene. P!nk plays a character that gags herself with a toothbrush after claiming she’s had too many calories. It paints a picture detailing eating disorders as something shallow girls do rather than the complex illness they are. Granted, since 2006, pop culture has changed quite a bit, and issues, such as eating disorders, are more and more often being discussed with the gravity they deserve. Society is becoming more critical of popular art, and I’m fairly certain that if a musician today had a similar scene in their music video they would be called out on it.
Overall, the song and video received a lot of praise when they came out. Other celebrities hailed it as a feminist anthem rebelling against the unrealistic expectations of women in the media. When it was released, P!nk received the Best Pop Video VMA from MTV for “Stupid Girls.”
In interviews and on her website in February 2006, P!nk has discussed the motives behind the song.
“My point is only this: ‘SMART’ and ‘SEXY’ are not oil and water. They can actually work together. You don’t need to dumb yourself down in order to be cute. You also don’t have to have the latest $10,000 hand-bag to be cool. You can have braces and play the trumpet and you are still just as important as the cheerleader or the skateboarder.” Read the full letter here.
I understand her need as an artist to clarify her intentions, but that doesn’t make the interactions and feelings I’ve had with the song and video less valid. Art belongs to those who connect with it, and I clearly used the song to justify some of my animosity towards other girls.
Every once in a while, iTunes feels the need to remind me of 16-year-old self’s taste in music. When I listen to the song I think briefly of my high school self and hope she’s happy with the women she is now.