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Keira Albert — October 13, 2023

How TikTok Users Are Standing Up For Domestic Violence Survivors

Keira Albert

In recent years, users on TikTok have started to stand up in order to make change where they think is necessary. One recent example being a change in a term that has been used for years. Dating back to the early 1950s, sleeveless tops, or tank tops, have been referred to as “wife beaters.” However, this term is incredibly insensitive to survivors of domestic violence and users of the social media platform have decided that it is time for a new name.

The History of the Term “Wife Beater”

In 1947, the term “wife beater” was coined when a murder case from Detroit had a man arrested for murdering his wife in the tank top. It wasn’t initially popularized until the release of a 1951 film called A Streetcar Named Desire. This film has strong themes of domestic and sexual violence. The top was worn by actor Marlon Brando who plays Stanley, a character who abuses both his wife and his sister-in-law throughout the course of the film. Unfortunately, this character has a lot of discourse surrounding his name, as many people tend to “root” for him due to his initial charming personality and physical appearance. A more recent example of this popularization is seen in “The Sopranos” by main character Tony Soprano. 

A Call-To-Action Across TikTok

But times have changed. Domestic violence is not something that we, as a society, want to normalize, hence the call-to-action from various TikTok users. These users have decided that the old term has got to go, as it is thoughtless and inconsiderate to victims of domestic violence. In order to combat the negative connotations of the term, many users have started referring to the top as a “wife pleaser” instead. While the term has not reached everyone, it has started to stick in hopes of erasing the harmful word from modern vocabulary. However, there is still plenty of discourse surrounding the new term. Some people have found the new word to feel forced, and some have even gone as far to defend the old term. But, this group of supporters for the harmful term has been frowned upon, with many claiming that supporting the old term is abnormal. 

The surge in popularity revolving around the #MeToo movement is still used to empower survivors to tell their stories and speak up about the violence they have endured. Because of the impact of this trend, many young people decided that “wife beater” needs to be removed and replaced with something less inappropriate and less triggering for victims. In fact, there are several TikTok videos about this topic that aim to promote the removal of the outdated term from our current speech. Some of these videos are in direct conversation and call out those who use the term, but others provide support through the simple use of the newer term. 

Regardless of how the topic is being discussed, bringing it to light helps to reduce the use of the other term online. Currently, #wifepleaser has 11.7 million views on TikTok and #wifebeatershirt has 20.3 million. Despite the disparity between the numbers, it is important to note that the newer term hasn’t been around nearly as long as the outdated one has, and it is already gaining a lot of traction. It is crucial for us as a society to protect victims of domestic violence in any way possible. By using this new term, we are protecting these victims from potential triggers, neglecting the normalization of domestic violence, and making it incredibly essential that we all use “wife pleaser” going forward.

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