modern sexism

Modern Sexism Is in Full Swing on Social Media

Several college-oriented Instagram accounts are objectifying women while their followers remain oblivious.
April 20, 2018
10 mins read

It’s 2018, and the United States has yet to see a female president. A wage gap still separates men’s and women’s salaries while invisible stereotypes constantly build walls for women to overcome. In 1920, Congress passed the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. Even today, many believe that sexism died right then and there.

Unfortunately, sexism evolved in ways that allowed it to become less obvious. Modern sexism has found its way into the nooks and crannies, hiding in plain sight, so deeply ingrained in society that many don’t give it a second glance.

Take Instagram for example: Upon opening the explore page, many college students are immediately hit with multiple posts from accounts, such as Barstool Sports, 5th Year and TotalFratMove. Many universities and colleges even have their own Barstool accounts, posting relatable pictures and videos of student life.

But if you look closely at the content posted on these pages, the target audience becomes uncomfortably clear.

No one can deny the major success of the accounts. After all, anyone who has ever lived in a dorm room or stepped foot into a college frat party can instantly find the posts relatable. On Instagram, Barstool Sports reaches a total of four million followers, while 5th Year and TotalFratMove both have over one million.

Each post racks up thousands of comments, the majority of which include students tagging other friends to remark on the post being “so relatable” or “so you.”

Accounts like these have gained a following by posting funny videos and pictures summarizing the college experience. The posts clearly target current college students and recent graduates, as most posts include jokes about partying, grades and other school activities. But looking closely, many of the jokes seem to entertain men specifically, often at a woman’s expense.

While not all of the posts fit such a standard, the majority of them either directly or indirectly feed into sexist stereotypes. Although, modern sexism often hides in these accounts, ranging from something as obvious as a “smokeshow of the day” post to an inappropriate sexual innuendo, the connotations behind the posts pose the real problem.

Sure, many of the college-oriented accounts poke fun at men as well, but unlike the specific man or groups of men they embarrass, the posts about women parody women as a whole. For example, an account will post an embarrassing picture or video to target one male specifically, such as mocking the stereotype of a privileged, white male by calling them “Brad” or “Chad.”

But, when it comes to women, certain accounts categorize them into one group. The accounts play up the stereotypes that women act “crazy” in relationships, can’t handle alcohol and thrive off male attention.

This not only involves putting women into one very small box, but it relates to the history of women’s oppression that runs too deep. For centuries, women have had a history of others seeing them as objects instead of humans, and the accounts just encourage that mindset.


When criticizing the Instagram and social media accounts in question, many begin the argument that it “wouldn’t be sexist if pictures of men flaunting their bodies were also posted.”

Unfortunately, the accounts can’t fix the situation by evening the playing field on a few Instagram feeds. In reality, the issue runs deeper than some clicks on a phone screen. The posts pose a classic case of modern sexism, which is sexism ingrained so deeply in society that people can show it in obvious ways, and it goes almost completely unnoticed.

Old-fashioned stereotypes in society suggest to young girls that their bodies come first, and their other traits come second. When seeing revealing photos of men, girls are supposed to feel uncomfortable, while boys receive praise when caught with inappropriate photos of women because “boys will be boys.”

Women face heavy judgment regarding their appearance, and people often label them as “slutty” if they wear revealing clothes and “prudish” if they don’t. The double standards show yet another side of modern sexism, providing women with no way to win.

On top of the invisible stereotypes, the accounts specifically target college girls. They make fun of sororities, post videos of drunk girls and make jokes about controlling girlfriends and their dislike of Fortnite. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Barstool Sports originally found their claim to fame through their “smokeshow of the day” posts.


The posts began on their website and date all the way back to 2011 after the company moved from being a free magazine in Boston to being online. At the time, the website combined the “things men love most”: women in bikinis and sports. In other words, it played up every sexist stereotype that makes up modern sexism.

Along with the questionable way the company was created, the founder of Barstool Sports has been accused on multiple occasions for making sexist remarks.

In October, Barstool Sports had contracts set to have a television show on ESPN, until it was canceled abruptly when ESPN host Sam Ponder exposed the sexism behind Barstool in a series of tweets, quoting a blog post that stated, “The #1 requirement is that you make men hard” and another post that targeted Ponder specifically, calling her a “f**king sl*t.”

If the founders of these companies perceive women in such a way, how can people deny that their content is sexist?

The most unnerving part of the accounts does not involve the content they post but the popularity that they have. Even though their posts objectify and manipulate, the accounts constantly receive praise. Why do the accounts have millions of followers?

It all comes down to modern sexism. The people viewing the accounts don’t even begin to think of the sexist connotations behind the posts because men historically use women’s bodies for their enjoyment.

But, contrary to popular belief, women do not post pictures of their bodies so that men can enjoy them; they post the pictures because they feel good about themselves. When Instagram accounts repost women’s pictures, they suggest that men find their own entertainment through women’s bodies.


On top of this, it sets the idea that one ideal body type exists, as the majority of these “smokeshows” posted contain one big similarity: being skinny. This not only leads to unrealistic expectations for women’s bodies and to other women comparing themselves to a so-called “ideal body type.” In a nutshell, it sets a standard for modern sexism.

It’s 2018. Women should be allowed post what they want, get drunk partying with their friends and have relationships without men thinking of it as “entertainment.” Women deserve to do what they want without men overly sexualizing them and seeing them as objects.

If a woman wants to post a picture in a bikini, she deserves to be able to do it without men thinking it means that she wants their attention. Women’s lives are not entertainment for anyone but themselves.

Needless to say, nothing’s wrong with finding enjoyment in scrolling through funny college posts while you lie in your own dorm room, but know what the companies support aside from their relatable content.

Modern sexism commonly slides under the radar as the stereotypes no longer phase most, but that doesn’t mean it always must be this way. It’s 2018, and it’s time for women to be able to do what they want, strictly for themselves.

Rebecca Crosby, American University

Writer Profile

Rebecca Crosby

American University


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