One of TikTok’s Biggest Stars Roasts Dudes for Their Misogyny, Racism, and Fatphobia

August 01, 2022

Drew Afualo’s laugh is a weapon, a cri de coeur, and a cleansing fire. It’s a staccato, full-chested explosion of high-pitched emotion and outrage. It’s also brimming with the shock of recognition: Of course this jerk would say that. Afualo says it’s just how Polynesian people laugh (she’s Samoan), but she deploys it as a kind of punchline and for a very specific purpose. She makes some of the most popular videos on TikTok, the app that effectively owns youth culture, by roasting dudes online.

The common threads uniting her targets are racism, fatphobia, and above all, misogyny, a poison familiar to any woman who’s voiced an opinion on the internet or walked a busy city street. In a typical video, which comes in at under three minutes, she shows a clip of a man shouting something about how he’d never date a fat woman or how a girl needs to try harder with her appearance. Then she cuts back in to laugh at him and break down what a loser he is...

TikTok has removed many of Afualo’s videos after her targets objected, and administrators have temporarily banned her account four times following complaints that putting a particular guy on blast constituted harassment. But her combative style is essential to her success and a necessary corrective, says Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University. She’s a real threat to the trolls, Tromble says, precisely because she understands them better than bots and can fight them on their terms.

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