Maybe it’s Maybelline, maybe it’s internalized misogyny .
( Veronica Nocera / Rowdy Magazine Staff Writer)
If there’s anything the Internet loves more than slightly feral white boys, it’s a portmanteau of the word “study” and a related social media site. There’s Studyblr and Studygram. So it only made sense that Studytok would be the World Wide Web’s newest addition.
As it often does, however, TikTok has put its own spin on the idea of aesthetic, hand-written notes equipped in pastel highlighter and glitter pens.
The trend does what TikTok does best:, poke fun at a generic activity with a catchy audio playing in the background. In this case, the audio is a segment from the song This Side of Paradise by Coyote Theory, and the subject of comedy is note-taking itself.
The videos demonstrate an over-exaggerated kind of note-taking — the kind that gave Muji pens and Tombow dual brush markers an international audience. The punch line, however, lies in the content, contrasting the aesthetic appearance with a more grisly subject matter. Think psychology majors pulling out their best calligraphy skills for a lesson on depressive disorders or pre-med students testing some word art for the cancer chapter.
And while the trend itself is funny, mockery easily shifts from the subject of the notes to the taker themself, making fun of students who continuously put extra effort into making their schoolwork visually appealing. Once again, internalized misogyny finds a way to enter the equation.
But this phenomenon is harmful in more than one way. First off, what makes cute, colorful notes inherently feminine to begin with? The stationary? The designs? The putting more than 30 seconds of effort into something productive? More likely than not, the answer is upsettingly simple: society will associate anything with teenage girls if it means that they can relentlessly insult it.
And beyond gender bias, people are quick to fictionalize a correlation between aesthetic notes and lesser intelligence, implying that girls whose notes fit a certain stereotype are likely failing the class.
Not only is this excessively sexist, but it goes against the claims of psychology itself. Taking pretty, handwritten notes isn’t just fulfilling, it’s helpful.
Simply taking notes the traditional way, with pen and paper, has proven to be beneficial in terms of academic retention. Whereas taking notes on a laptop includes a greater disconnect between the transcription and internalization of knowledge, physically writing information out demands a more deliberate understanding of the topic itself.
The process of color-coding has also shown to be incredibly helpful in memory retention. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “color plays an integral role in our visual experiences.” When we grow to associate a certain piece or type of information with a specific color, it becomes easier to retrieve that knowledge once it needs to be applied in an academic setting.
Especially for visual learners, who rely on mental images of concepts and information, using distinct colors and fonts for their notes is more than just a way of making note-taking fun, but a genuinely beneficial study tactic based on psychological principles.
When it comes down to it, the Tik Tok trend itself was mostly harmless fun, but it’s the implications that lurk in the comments section and beyond that carry real weight. As most unjustified targets of mockery are, society’s excessive ridicule toward aesthetically pleasing notes is rooted in misogynistic beliefs.
Mostly, it’s probably just jealousy. No amount of washi tape and calligraphy training could put me on the same level as half the creators on Studytok.
But with midterm season on the horizon, I’ll sure as hell try.
Veronica Nocera is a Staff Writer at Rowdy Magazine. Her simple pleasures include hoarding stationary, rewatching 90s rom coms, and romanticizing the lives of 20th-century female authors. She's intensely passionate about the power of language, social justice, and the overlap between past and present. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!