Dylan Mulvaney backlash highlights hypocrisy regarding gender presentation

By Grace Hogsten

Copy Editor

Influencer Dylan Mulvaney faced widespread backlash online after releasing her debut single, a song celebrating her experience as a transgender woman. 

Mulvaney released “Days of Girlhood” on March 11, 2024, the second anniversary of her viral TikTok series of the same name, which chronicles the ups and downs of her life after coming out, from lighthearted fun to more emotional moments. 

Like her videos, “Days of Girlhood” combines heartfelt sincerity with unapologetic joy and excitement. According to Billboard, “the sugar-sweet pop single finds the influencer exalting the clichés of girlhood and honoring the impactful women in her own life.”

Social media users accused Mulvaney of creating a caricature of femininity, despite her single’s adherence to popular trends surrounding the concept of “girlhood.” 

“Dylan Mulvaney, if you were actually a woman you’d understand that it’s more than one night stands, going to therapy, popping pills, walks of shame and shopping. Stop mocking women,” TikTok user @rajjjmahall said in a video set to the song. 

Users like @rajjjmahal jumped at the chance to criticize Mulvaney’s gender presentation, even though the singer’s celebration of hyper femininity is strikingly similar to many widely accepted depictions of “girlhood” across social media. 

According to Dazed, “Mulvaney’s song simply indulges in what we saw in 2023: women leaning into the frivolity and childishness, that many argued they were denied in their younger years.”

Hashtags for viral phrases like “girl math” and “girl dinner,” which refer to simplified or trivialized versions of familiar concepts, boast hundreds of posts on TikTok. The videos at the top of the platform’s “girlhood” hashtag show young women going shopping, taking birth control, and maintaining their appearances by shaving their legs, painting their nails, and styling their hair. 

Mulvaney’s depiction of “girlhood” is nothing new, so the motivation behind the backlash to her song is clear. 

“‘I’m just a girl’ ‘Girl math’…You guys literally do not care until a trans woman does it. Stop pretending to be mad,” influencer Jacqueline Ajueny-James wrote in a post set to “Days of Girlhood.” 

While these trends can have harmful effects, social media users largely choose to praise cisgender women’s participation in them and blame transgender women for their faults. 

TikTok user @gumdropcherry posted a TikTok video of himself dancing to Mulvaney’s song behind on-screen text pointing out the hypocrisy of many criticisms of “Days of Girlhood.” 

According to the user, many white women are content to define femininity in a stereotypical way — often to the detriment of women of color — but condemn transgender women for doing the same. 

Posts criticizing “Days of Girlhood” and Mulvaney’s content also disregard the violence that transgender women face each day. 

“Dylan Mulvaney will never drive to a gas station and wonder if it’s safe to get out of the car. Dylan Mulvaney will never know what it’s like to go on a run at night,” TikTok user Lauren Elise said in a video responding to the song. 

Criticisms like this one not only reduce womanhood to a fear of male violence but ignore the fact that transgender women face violent hate crimes at an alarming rate. 

“Transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization,” according to the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles. 

 For the past two years, Mulvaney herself has received death threats across platforms and spent weeks afraid to leave her home in the spring of 2023, according to previous Elm coverage.  

Trolls’ claims that the song generalizes or makes a mockery of womanhood overshadow and erase the true meaning behind it; the greatest strengths of “Days of Girlhood” actually lie in its references to Mulvaney’s experiences as a transgender woman. 

“This was a project to celebrate the early days of transition and the joy that I found because so much of my series and my personhood got used against me by really extremist conservative media,” Mulvaney said in a TikTok posted a few days after the song’s release. 

“Girls like me gotta learn the basics / Last look, quick change, sip champagne / Playin’ catchup ’cause we missed the pre-game,” Mulvaney sings in the song’s first verse. 

“Days of Girlhood” blends aspects of femininity and womanhood with a beautiful and sincere reverence for the process of growing into an identity. The song is playful and upbeat, yet conveys meaningful sentiment. 

“I think it offers a pretty interesting insight into what the early days of transition look like,” transgender influencer and activist @justflintisfine said via TikTok. “A lot of us spent that time delighting in the small, ridiculous, stereotypical bits of gender that we felt closed off from.”

Mulvaney’s song and its 2000’s rom-com inspired music video provide a playful depiction of the singer’s experiences as a woman, in addition to the pivotal roles that other women play in her life. 

“Mom brought me into the world / Sister taught me how to girl / Best friend coached me how to text / The boy toy that I’m dating next / Girls who helped show me the way / They’re why I’m an It girl today,” she sings in the pre-chorus. 

Paired with the song’s carefree, upbeat tone, the music video’s colorful visuals and scenes of Mulvaney dancing and having fun with a host of other women, including influencers Ve’ondre Mitchell and Loren Grey, showcase the singer’s determination to express her identity and enjoy her life, despite the adversity she faces. 

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo caption: Influencer Dylan Mulvaney has dealt with constant transphobic harassment since she began sharing her transition journey online.

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