Is The Term “Hot Girl Summer” Empowering, Or Has It Gotten A Bit Problematic?

In 2019, an annual tradition began for Gen-Z women and girls. Around May, the same craze resurfaces and, particularly on TikTok, it’s all anyone can talk about. I’ve started seeing it all over my For You page recently, and I’ve just gotten so curious as to why it’s such a big deal.

The craze is, of course, the female obsession with the term “hot girl summer” and the desperation to have one. Now, when it comes to slang, I can be a bit of an old soul. So it wasn’t until recently when I decided to stop scrolling past every hot girl summer TikTok and actually search up the origins of the term.

After some not-so-deep investigation, I learned that the term comes from Megan Thee Stallion’s 2019 bop. (Before you ask: I was aware of this song, but I just didn’t connect the dots. Please, don’t judge my naivety.) Initially, the message was clear and positive. As Megan said in an interview, the term is all about “women — and men — just being unapologetically them; just having a good-ass time.” Originally, the phrase was about “not giving a damn about what nobody got to say,” and being “the life of the party.” 

Group of people hanging out by the pool Photo by Eric Nopanen from Unsplash

My first thought was, that’s a positive message, right? It’s just a nice term about being yourself and having fun. Initially, that was the case; the phrase was innocent and even feminist-y. It was a way for women to say, “I’m doing this summer my way, and I’m not going to let anyone push me around.” This is a message that we should encourage among women, who are constantly told what to wear, how to act, and who to be.

Take the workplace, for example. Women are constantly told what to do, and deserve a dose of “f*ck what everyone else thinks.” Countless times, people remind us, “Don’t wear anything remotely revealing, or you won’t get the job.” Or, “Try to seem more serious, don’t get too excited, and God forbid you use too many exclamation points in your email.” Don’t ask me why, but there is a common assumption, usually aimed toward women, that being enthusiastic equates to being unprofessional. The point is, the term “hot girl summer” seemed to combat these assumptions, according to its initial definition by Megan Thee Stallion.

But over time, it has evolved to become less of a carefree message encouraging all women to be themselves, and more of a way to empower only those interested in hooking up.

Two people kissing at concert Photo by Daniel Dvorsky from Unsplash Now, obviously there is nothing wrong with sleeping around (as long as you’re being careful and safe, of course). If that’s how you want to spend your summer, go for it! I’m a firm believer that you should be able to do whatever you want with your own body, regardless of what others think. But there is something wrong with the way the message has begun to come across.

Unfortunately, more people now understand the phrase “hot girl summer” to mean hooking up with as many guys as possible in a summer. It is no longer a message to be authentic and express your true colours; it has turned into a contest of sorts to see who can fool around with the greatest number of people. I have distinctly heard people say things like, “She hooked up with four guys last summer; she had a hot girl summer.” You never hear anyone say, “She suddenly stopped listening to other people’s bullshit; she had a hot girl summer.” 

And sure, if sleeping around is expressing your true self, then the term probably has not changed much for you. But for a lot of people, it has become less relatable, and is now a way to undermine those who don’t feel like hooking up a lot. Instead of telling all women to be themselves and have fun, the term seems to now only empower those who take the summer to sleep around, leaving those who don’t like hooking up feeling lesser. 

Woman sitting alone on beach Photo by Cody Black from Unsplash Remember: by no means is it wrong to encourage or cheer others on, but by using this phrase in this context, we are also sending a message that it is not empowering to spend the summer single. And it is! Working on yourself and taking nobody else’s sh*t should be accepted and encouraged, as the original definition of “hot girl summer” suggests. Fun and empowerment can be expressed in so many different ways, so this definition shouldn’t be restrictive.

I truly wish that this phrase could dissolve this summer; not because I disagree with the original approach Megan Thee Stallion had with the message, but because I dislike how it has evolved. Perhaps if we entered the summer with the intention of enjoying ourselves (in whatever way we please) instead of attempting to have a “hot girl summer,” we would actually enjoy the glorious months we have all worked so hard for.