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

Because acknowledging the consequences of popular online trends on girls and women is hot girl behavior. 

Similarly to many other female-oriented online trends, “Girl Dinner” took the internet by storm with thousands of videos, eventually even a jingle, and a significant number of “girl-coding” variations following the initial “Girl Dinner” posts. The term first appeared in a video by creator Olivia Maher, in which she refers to her meal of cheese, bread, grapes, and wine as a “Girl Dinner”. After all the euphoria it brought to female users of TikTok because it was ever so relatable, “Girl Dinner” started escalating. Some users started saying it affects young women’s body image, some started applying the “Girl” formula to things like driving and math, and opinions diverged on whether it should be discussed as a potential danger to young women or disregarded as something harmless.

Girl Dinner did start as a harmless trend: Emily Heil writes for the Washington Post that it started as a way to free women from “the expectation of society to nurture and provide for others, [to] enjoy the kind of self-indulgent ‘you do you’ eating that men have long felt entitled to.” In other words, it was a way for girls to have fun and come together over their quirky, sometimes unusual, meals. Initial videos depicted simple meals like pasta with nothing but olive oil and cheese, chicken nuggets and ranch, and unusual snacks like chocolate pieces mixed with strawberry yogurt. However, as time went by, these “Girl Dinners” started to look a little too, well, little. One creator has voiced her concern of a rendition of the Girl Dinner trend that consisted of three olives, going on to argue that the trend is not “quirky” or “cute”: “Some people have been saying it’s not that serious. It is that serious, it’s very serious. This is an issue so many young girls struggle with. I grew up in the 2014 Tumblr age, when I was young and impressionable, and I still have the whole thigh gap thing stuck in my head.” 

Further down the “girl-coded” slope, the fact that Girl Dinner has become somewhat related to unhealthy body ideals is not the main problem for internet users. Instead of bringing young women together and making it easier for them to relate to each other, those against any form of “girl-coding” believe it further excludes women and girls and perpetuates stereotypes that women can’t reach the same level as men.

Another user replies that terms such as “girl math”, “girl dinner”, and “i’m just a girl” “all [derive] from an inherent sense of knowing & efficiency, without the care or expectation for it to make sense to other people,” which illustrates the controversy around the issue. In the same vein, netizens have voiced concern over the use of the term “girl science,” which implies that something has no scientific backing but “just makes sense.” Is girl-coding for or against us? Can it be both?

The original “Girl Dinner” trend may have been entirely harmless and purely humorous, but its ramifications have caused distress amongst women who worry about younger, impressionable women and girls who might come in contact with the negative side of the trend. It has also become another way to brand ourselves, as it usually happens in the media: girlhood has been made into something profitable, with a reach of so many people that it might be possible to use it against women to further exclude them.

Emily Contoism, a professor of media studies at the University of Tulsa and studies food and gender, told The Washington Post, “Outside the patriarchy, ‘girl’ isn’t diminutive or derisive or condescending — ‘girl’ is complete and wonderful and fulfilled on her own terms”. That way, Girl Dinner might always be prone to having negative connotations towards women, even if the pure idea of it was to unify and celebrate the little things common to all women and girls. 

However, it’s one thing to want to represent traits of girlhood in mainstream media so that we all feel included and understood, and another to assign frivolous, immature, and unhealthy behaviors to girls exclusively. As Rebeca Jennings writes for Vox, “You could say that labeling normal human behavior as “girl-coded” only otherizes women in an already patriarchal world.”

I am a freshman majoring in Mass Communications at USF Tampa, with dreams of working as a Journalist/Filmmaker someday. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and watching films and shows about complex female characters, screaming the lyrics to Taylor Swift songs, and getting coffee even though I'm not supposed to.