Last September, comedian Amy Schumer posted pictures of the covers of two US magazines – Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life – on Instagram with the caption “No.”
The girls’ magazine featured stories about fashion and hair. The boys’, headlined Explore Your Future, was full of interesting things to do. The post went viral. “Wow. @amyschumer I second that emotion,” responded actress Blake Lively. “Ladies, let’s not let this happen anymore …”
The pressure for girls to focus on how they look or fashion themselves after adults has been much discussed. Most of this, however, has focused on “traditional” forms of media – books, magazines, TV shows – but this does not accurately depict the changing mediascapes of girls’ lives, in particular, the growing significance of YouTube.
YouTube has attained a global watch time of over 500 million hours daily. Growing by 60% each year, it is prevalent in many young people’s everyday lives. But how do YouTubers typically construct and celebrate what it means to be a girl? In 2014, there were at least 45,000 YouTube channels that featured beauty-related content. In June 2016, there were more than 5.3 million videos that capitalise on the female appearance on YouTube.
Haul videos are one of the most popular genres uploaded by young female YouTubers. In haul videos, YouTubers typically introduce and describe the products that they have purchased, after each shopping trip.
Popular American YouTuber Bethany Mota (MacBarbie07) first uploaded videos about the fashion purchases from her shopping trips back in 2009, which saw her subscribers on YouTube grow exponentially. She reportedly earns around half a million dollars a year from YouTube, just by shopping and filming what she buys.
British YouTuber Zoe Sugg (Zoella) – who has over 11 million subscribers – also regularly updates her female fans on where she shops. The labels mentioned include ASOS, Topshop and H&M. According to Vogue, Sugg has become one of the biggest fashion influencers, with more than 950 million casual views today on her channel.