Our ‘girl world’ is holding women back

We live in a girl world, where we eat “girl dinner,” perform “girl math” and go on “hot girl walks.” Summer is for “hot girls” and the latest aesthetic is “clean girl.”

Girls and women predicting trend cycles is nothing new. Since the beginning of fan culture, young women have propelled public interest in boy bands, young adult or romance novels, new films and more — and are also ridiculed for having these same interests. 

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

But, those interests are popular in the mainstream for a reason: Young girls fuel our pop culture and perception of the “next big thing.” 

The internet economy and its trends seemingly rely on girls’ approval, but recently social media apps such as TikTok have taken that approval and constructed a worrisome box out of it. 

Concepts such as “girl math” refer to the idea of jokingly using flawed financial logic to justify questionable purchases, which is silly and cute on its own, but can go to the lengths of portraying women as irresponsible, in certain contexts. 

On a similar note, the clean girl aesthetic has morphed from the encouragement to dress minimalistically and take care of one’s health to an exclusive and unattainable vision of lifestyle and body image. 

Even the beloved “girl dinner” has taken a relatable trend about gathering various snacks to create a substantial meal, into one that justifies undereating and disordered thinking. 

Generally, I see the “girl” trend as a way to claim things as our own, to categorize our interests and perhaps even unite our gender, which is a sensible human desire. 

However, in our quest to bring us girls together, we’ve inadvertently held women back.

The oversaturation of the internet prefix “girl” has caused it to be applied to certain hobbies, topics and interests in a way that infantilizes and diminishes the experiences of girlhood and womanhood. 

For example, one TikTok user recently posted a list of “girl hobbies,” such as social media stalking, shopping, grabbing a coffee — a $7 “little treat” — and doing skincare. She suggests women to list activities such as these when we are asked what our hobbies are and don’t know what to say.

The problem is that these are not real hobbies, and co-opting the feminine label to describe a lack of real interests seriously discredits the true range of experiences that come with being a girl or a woman. 

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy makeup, shopping and scrolling on Instagram over an overpriced iced beverage, but problems arise when our hobbies and interests are being limited to matters of superficiality. Content like this makes it seem as though all girls are good for is looking pretty and spending money. 

A similar concept also came to light when TikTok user Nikita Redkar posted a video using a fabricated example of friend group drama to explain the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

She is known for her videos about topics such as girl math and often uses analogies about girl friend group drama to make more complex topics digestible. 

However, there is a line to be drawn when her video format is dumbing down — what many internet users call “bimbofication” — one of the most horrific, violent, complex and nuanced conflicts of our time.

The way in which we apply these “girl” labels can easily end up feeding into the age-old, dangerous idea that femininity detracts from intelligence. We are equating the girl label with trivialization, superficiality and even stupidity. 

Some of these trends or labels might come from a good place. The creators may want girls to feel comfortable expressing typical feminine traits or help educate them by using analogies to make complex topics more relatable. However, our relentless usage of the label is propelling us back in time. 

Breaking out of the confines of misogyny means cutting the association between feminine and dumb, or “girly” and trivial. 

So, don’t ever stop yourself from enjoying your little treat, taking your “hot girl walk” and smacking a pink bow on every outfit you own, but don’t forget — girlhood is so much more than what the confines of internet trends suggest we are.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you, Lea Rivel for this commentary. Young and not so young women need to exert their agency in the world, not diminish their worthy place in our adult society.