As a millennial, I'm the target audience of this content and I don't buy it.
Being “that girl,” a trend largely popularized on TikTok, seems like it advocates for women prioritizing self-care. It actually does more harm than good for the more than 7.9 billion viewers of this content because there is concerning subliminal, archaic messaging woven into the fabric of these viral videos harkening back to mid-20th century housewife rhetoric.
This might seem like an extreme, unfounded statement. However, more and more people agree that the trend targets young women, and encourages striving toward unattainable perfection.
For those not already familiar with who “that girl” is, she wakes up at the crack of dawn, works out in a matching set, meditates and journals, makes her bed, eats a healthy breakfast, drinks a green smoothie, makes a perfectly frothy latte with no added sugar, takes vitamins, tidies the house, lights a candle, completes a multi-step facial routine, applies a no-makeup makeup look, and picks out a perfectly trendy outfit — all before 7 a.m. every day. Then, she has a bedtime routine, which is just as detailed and time-consuming as her morning routine.
The trend is not limited to daily routines, however. It now prescribes must-have products for everything — housecleaning, furniture and interior design, premium and drugstore makeup, shampoos and face wash, clothing brands, scented candles, kitchenware and more— with extreme specificity.
It is impossible to be “that girl” without viral Aritzia clothing pieces, for example.
Those questioning the validity of alarm regarding this trend fail to recognize damage being caused to the well-being and mental health of young women consuming the barrage of “that girl” content.
Narrow definition of beauty and wellness
One major issue with this trend is “that girl” content is largely homogenous. Trending products and hacks proliferate across social media platforms, creating a tribe of young women who only look and live one way, despite the luscious diversity of women in America.
Research shows a societal narrow definition of beauty, is extremely harmful to women. A University of Nebraska study reported “the effects of idealized beauty in advertising are overwhelmingly negative, harming women’s body image, mood, self-esteem, health, consumption patterns, expectations and many more.”
Encouraging undereating and unhealthy dieting
Trending “that girl” content does little to support body positivity and holistic, sustainable health habits.
This is because “that girl” content often focuses on clean eating and weight loss, which adds to existing pressure on young women. Many videos inspire women subscribe to strict workout regimens and calorie-restricting diets in an attempt to look like “that girl” influencers. This is particularly concerning given the more than 30 million Americans with eating disorders, 20 million of whom are women and 95% of whom are between the ages of 12 and 25.
Michelle Scott, a psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist, told GLAMOUR, “Social media doesn’t create eating disorders but it gives us the means to look at something we might want to be if we don’t feel good about ourselves.”
Overemphasis on productivity
“That girl” content also takes productivity much too far. The overemphasis on productivity leaves little time or space for decompression and relaxation, both of which are beneficial for mental health. In fact, this trend aims to convince women that self-improvement routines are relaxing and “satisfying” in themselves.
However, self-care is most soothing, and thus beneficial, when it provides respite, not when it is a distorted societal ideal of womanhood disguised as the key to boosting self-worth. In fact, rigid and lengthy daily routines may very well be contributing to growing rates of burnout and stress among Americans.
Be free, not a follower
Clearly, the “that girl” trend does more harm than good in so many ways. Why?
Nothing good comes from telling women, or anyone, how they should live their lives. Rather than society dictating what a perfect woman is, people should be free of judgment to find and make their happiness in the way that best fits who they are as an individual.
It is high time young women stand up against sneaky, overt “that girl” messaging and pursue true contentment, whatever that may look like for them.