It's time to put an end to 'girl' trends that infantilise women

painting of girls or women holding hands going round in a cycle
We need to end girl trends that infantilise womenWestend61 - Getty Images

Call me a bore, but every time I hear the word 'girl' precede a certain behaviour, I wince a little inside. This year alone we've had 'girl math', 'girl dinner', and now 'girl hammer' (arguably the worst one of them all) all whipped up on TikTok to cute-ify women doing normal things like making a meal, spending money or doing DIY.

While I know some will say these trends are just a bit of fun, they still just don't sit right with me. We're not just talking about 'hot girl summer' anymore, we're talking about looking at the way in which we – women, by the way, not girls – do every damn thing, through an infantile lens. And regardless of whether we're 'in' on the joke or not (as the ones often creating the content), we're still playing right into the hands of misogyny.

So, let's recap our girl dictionary. First up, there's girl math, when women illogically justify their spending habits. Yes, this may be tongue in cheek, but it's quite-rightly been pointed out that we shouldn't always have to justify those silly little things we spend our money on. Also, it paints women as financially irresponsible – an accusation that men have levied against us for centuries.

Then there’s girl dinner – ie putting together picky bits of food to make a meal (think Quorn eggs, some crackers and hummus, and a side of carrot sticks or grapes). Yes, I've enjoyed plating myself up some interesting snacky concoctions before, but is that because I'm a girl-woman? Or is this simply an easy fuss-free meal?

Lazy girl jobs are apparently professions that get you by but don't burn you out. Okay, anti-hustle culture makes for a nice change, but the language here still matters, because putting our wellbeing first isn’t 'lazy'.

Top of the heap as the worst one so far is girl hammer, when we need to use a hammer but don't have one so tactfully reach for something else (our hairbrush or mascara, what else!?). I don’t even know where to begin with how patronising this is. Women are more than capable of basic DIY.

Whether these are supposed to be tongue-in-cheek harmless trending terms or not, ultimately they are feeding into a trend in which we refer to ourselves as incapable infants. Sorry but all the adult women I know have tools in the cupboard, eat substantial home-cooked meals, and can be trusted with their money. So… why are we trying so hard to patronise and belittle ourselves when we’ve spent centuries fighting against the stereotypes of women being useless, impractical children?

BACP-registered psychotherapist, Hannah Beckett-Pratt explains that while many view 'girl' trends as 'cute' or 'fun', "they are not considered serious, intentional or autonomous, words we might use to describe adults. Interestingly, there are not many 'boy' prefixes for males. Even terms which subjugate men in some way still use 'man', for example 'man flu'."

The 'girl' trends also offer up a feminine version of the 'norm', perpetuating the idea that women are weaker, smaller, and stupider. In gendering some behaviours, like a girl version of calculations, we are also, explains Beckett-Pratt, "reinforcing that it is unusual or different for women to occupy these spaces."

The psychotherapist continues: "Girl trends are part of a bigger problem of binary gender scripting. These are underlying social codes of how we think we 'should' think, feel and behave according to our biological sex. These scripts are very polarised and allow no room for traits that 'belong' to the opposite sex script."

Beckett-Pratt explains that: "Gender prefixes in public discourse such as 'girl' trends are an extension of these scripts and unconsciously encourage conformity to binary categories," which limits us all, whether women, men, trans, or non-binary.

cropped shot of a woman in denim jacket scrolling on phone
Inside Creative House - Getty Images

Obviously, women taking part in these trends online and IRL in conversation aren't intending to belittle themselves or offer up free points for the patriarchy, but that is the ultimate impact. In order to fight against this, Beckett-Pratt argues, we should "consider the use of 'girl' trends more intentionally." By this she means, really consider why and when they’re being applied.

"The issue is they prevent further self-awareness, so we do not question why we are doing certain things or have particular needs or desires. We see a trend post on socials, identify with it and then feel a sense of belonging after joining in. But if we do this enough – as with the 'girl' trends which now constitute millions of posts – we pigeonhole ourselves in a much greater sense."

A reminder: womanhood can look like a lot of things. We can be grown adults while still being fun, playful, 'free', and youthful, without completely infantilising and limiting ourselves through language. Let's do what we can to keep things moving forwards, not backwards, for everyone. I can only hope that just as we realised 'girl boss' was a bit, well, ew, we'll realise that 'girl hammer' really isn't it, and start respecting ourselves as fully-formed adult women.

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