"Women's Work:" The Labor of ASMR Content Creation

Maria from Gentle Whispering ASMR, ASMRtist

Curator's Note

It would be virtually impossible to quantify exactly how many ASMR channels exist on YouTube, because the DIY nature of the genre lends itself to a kind of democracy—all one needs to create ASMR is a microphone and a voice. The genre also features a considerable amount of diversity across ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and kinds of content (sounds of inanimate objects versus whispering or soft speaking).

While there are male ASMRtists, ASMR’s most recognizable faces are young women whose channels boast millions of subscribers, including channels led by non-native English speakers. These ‘ASMRtists’ include Maria of Gentle Whispering ASMR, a Russian immigrant whose channel has over two million subscribers; Tingting ASMR, a woman from China with 1.75 million subscribers; and Latte ASMR, who hails from South Korea and has nearly 1.5 million subscribers.

While the main goal for most ASMRtists is to offer relaxation for their viewers, ASMRtists like Maria, Tingting, and Latte also put creativity and effort into their content, including elaborate set designs, realistic props, editing techniques, and expensive microphone technology. With so much labor and money going into their videos, should ASMRtists be compensated for their work? Some artists, like Maria, say they have been able to make a living through ASMR, including through advertisements at the beginning of their videos or sponsorships from companies who ask ASMRtists to mention or use their products.

Still, the stereotype of ASMR videos as “creepy” means that the genre is perhaps not widely recognized as an art form, instead being viewed as just a weird hobby that people engage in online. It seems unlikely that ASMR behind a paywall would ever become popular, given that ASMR is a genre rooted in the belief of relaxation and comfort for all viewers. ASMR also provides its artists with a way to share their creativity and express themselves online. But, to completely dismiss ASMR as just a hobby potentially devalues the very real work that goes into ASMR videos—work that is often done by women.

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