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From “That Girl” to “Teenage Dirtbag”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bucknell chapter.

In an age of constantly changing Tik Tok trends, it feels hard to know the “right way” to define and portray oneself. Just a few months ago, the “clean girl” aesthetic took the app by storm. We all wanted guashas, Dyson Airwrap home blowouts, satin pajama sets, and early morning teas (“that girl” would never drink coffee). Now, almost overnight, we are seeing the “teenage dirtbag” trend takeoff, and I cannot help but wonder how confusing this must be for young, impressionable women.

As women, we are told from the time we are children how to act, dress, sit, eat, and speak. Being independent, but not so much that you seem unapproachable, is the best way to secure a man. Use your voice to aid the women around you, but do not dare to be too radical. The contradictions are truly endless. The main point, however, is that women are forced to become malleable in the face of these contradictions. One day we are the “girlboss,” just to be told that ambition is out of style and being the “cool girl” is actually in. 

Truthfully, it is exhausting. Keeping up with societal standards of how the ideal woman should act is arduous, and while many of us claim not to care, we all notice at the very least. We all wonder, at least every once in a while, if we are presenting ourselves in the way that is really best, and the fact that the standard is always changing does not help in the slightest. One day we are downloading a playlist for the optimal Hot Girl Walk, and the next we are told that the entire aesthetic we were just prompted to adopt has been completely overturned.

I know, especially as a college senior that is about to enter the “real world,” that it seems trite to give any thought to the change in audios trending on Tik Tok, but the hold that social media and pop culture has over all of us should not be discounted. This is not to say that those who are content creators are not making a valid living (I, for one, am obsessed with creators like Indy Blue and Ellie Schnitt), but it is important to be honest about those creators that encourage us to buy the next best product because they claim it will make us the best version of ourselves. These products and aesthetics have nothing to do with who we are and ultimately diminish our ability to be our truest selves. In constantly changing our identity, there is no time or space to find the one that truly fits. 

Identity is not a trend. We are all complex people with so many different facets of ourselves, but sometimes as women, it feels like certain parts need to be closed off to keep up with the current trends. Buy the Dyson Airwrap if you want. Or, go for a grungier / Y2K look. But I hope you do so not because a Tik Tok influencer is doing it, but because it makes you feel good about yourself. If nothing else, I hope we can all come to find peace with the fact that some days we are “that girl,” while we are the “teenage dirtbag” on other days. Because that, my friends, is the beautiful multiplicity of women.

Liz Whitmer

Bucknell '23

Liz, a Political Science major at Bucknell, is from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania and began writing for Her Campus during the spring semester of 2020. In her free time she enjoys watching Seinfeld, online shopping, and arguing about politics.