The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
A new sub-genre of girl has emerged on TikTok. The phrase ‘that girl’ is now being used on TikTok to describe girls that, simply put, have their lives together. Suddenly, my TikTok ‘for you page’ is flooded with young girls that fit the description of – or are in pursuit of – becoming ‘that girl’ themselves.
The aesthetic of being ‘that girl’ is being promoted by TikTok users as a lifestyle that seems to include working out regularly, eating mindfully, practicing self-care, and maintaining a positive attitude. But becoming ‘that girl’ is not at the expense of shifting one’s behaviour – the price of becoming this description is also costly. Being ‘that girl’ is clearly associated with owning expensive products such as the Dyson Air Wrap, a hairstyling kit that costs upwards of $600. It’s also associated with designer brands, with some popular examples being Aritzia and Lululemon.
TikTok’s rise in popularity, particularly during the beginning of the COVID pandemic, correlates with an increase in interest in self-care. Many of our ‘for you pages’ have been filled with girls documenting their skincare routines, workout routines, outfits of the day, and other aspects of everyday living. It appears that many young individuals have used the spare time they had during quarantine to improve various aspects of themselves, and TikTok has been an outlet to both express that and to create a standard for their self-improvement. Basically, my theory is that quarantine has led TikTok users to discover the hegemonic concept of what a girl should be: ‘that girl’.
I think there’s a certain beauty in girls collectivizing through social media to identify things they enjoy. The patriarchal pressure to be ‘not like other girls’ seems to carry less weight, now that we can all enjoy the same things without fear of judgment and celebrate our similarities.
However, there is something to be said about how trying to be ‘that girl’ instead of the girl you are might be… harmful? While that word feels too harsh for something as light-hearted as ‘that girlism’, it’s also worth reflecting on who benefits from this new trend, and what it means for those who take it too seriously.
Trends like this one are often taken advantage of by companies who want to market and sell products. I know a lot of my friends and I will buy things we see others rave about on our ‘for you pages’. Young girls are one of the most profitable demographics for companies to target. Therefore this suggests that ‘that girl’ is just another watered-down concept of an ideal girl.
The other question left to be addressed is: what if ‘that girlism’ becomes too consuming? I know I feel bad about the minimal amount of skill sets and habits I’ve acquired from my time in quarantine, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I still cannot whip up an Emily Mariko-style meal from scratch and I cannot say that I have picked up the habit of regularly going to the gym (yet!). The pressure of holding this lifestyle may not be a wholly positive one, especially if it’s fixated on.
In reality, to be happy and healthy, it’s necessary to find a balance between relaxing and being productive, whatever that may look like to you. But really, my main point is that it’s exhausting being a girl with a million different trends being thrown our way. Of course, it’s a privilege to even worry about ‘that girlism’ because there are definitely more significant issues regarding the commodification of young girls.
I think we all need to come to the conclusion that it’s not realistic to base our lives on the pursuit of becoming ‘that girl’ if it feels like a task to us. Dramatic claim alert: I think that there is definitely a subconscious pressure on a lot of girls who spend too much time on TikTok – like myself – to buy an Aritzia fleece set and somehow find happiness in that. However, it’s important to remember that in a couple of months, there will be a new concept of happiness that girls will be pressured to chase after, and then some more a couple of months after that, and even some more after that…