How’s  a female pothead different from a stoner dude?

About a year and a half ago The Atlantic ran an article which posited that smoking weed reflected poorly on a woman’s image. “Marijuana and the Modern Lady” claimed that the stoner was an image reserved for men. “A woman—especially a hardworking, college-educated adult woman—would more likely be portrayed as pathetic instead of funny” if they smoke pot, it said.

What the article doesn’t say is this: weed-smoking women have a better image to reach for than the lay-about male “stoner.” When Ilana Glazer clears a bong on Broad City, she looks like a boss. When Seth Rogen smokes his cross-joint, he looks like a lovable goofball. When Rhianna and Miley Cyrus toke on camera, they look dangerous, edgy, powerful. When Wiz Khalifa puffs or Action Bronson rips a dab, they’re just another rapper getting high.

The image of a powerful woman getting high is bold and eye-catching in a way that an image of a powerful man smoking weed isn’t. Could it be that it’s actually empowering for a woman to hit a blunt? Could it be that women not fitting easily into the “lazy pothead” mold isn’t all bad?

Take another example, one from the business world. Cheryl Shuman is CEO of Cheryl Shuman, Inc., a PR and marketing firm for cannabis-related products, mostly aimed at the affluent female niche. Shuman herself is a brand, appearing in feature articles in The New York Times and as a pro-marijuana pundit on Fox News and CNN, a carefully crafted symbol that radiates three things – femininity, weed, and success.

There are no equivalent male stoner entrepreneurs in the media. Ed Rosenthal isn’t sexy. Tommy Chong doesn’t seem particularly powerful. Willy Nelson isn’t particularly masculine. They don’t need to. They’re dudes. That’s where an unfair double standard creeps in. To be taken seriously as a female stoner, you have to be successful and hot. To be taken seriously as a male stoner, you don’t actually have to be taken seriously – being funny and high is enough.

So, about college girls

Since the female weed role models are so much more active and exciting than their male counter-parts, does that mean that more young women are living the loud life? And does it mean that the ones who are might be more active and exciting than their male counterparts? We don’t know. Those aren’t rhetorical questions. We actually don’t know yet and want to.

Here’s what we do know. According to a study reported last fall by the University of Michigan, dude college students smoke more than lady ones, with one in every 11 guys smoking on a “daily or near-daily basis,” while a consistent stoner is only found in one out of every 34 women. But the same study showed that all college students (men and women) are using more pot than they did 20 years ago. Actually, a lot more. One in 20 college students now steadily smoke, compared to less than one in 50 students from 1990 to 1994.

So, more college girls are smoking, and there are more badass stoner women in the media than ever before. What does that mean for the future? Will our future be controlled by high-octane weed-infused feminity? Will the end game of humanity be a war between ganja girls and exponentially-multiplying artificial intelligence? Hard to say, but yes, probably, most likely, mm-hmm.

Photo via GirlsThatSmokeWeed.

Parker Winship