As a millennial, I'm the target audience of this content and I don't buy it.
Being "that girl," a trend popularized on TikTok, seems like it advocates for women to prioritize self-care and -improvement. But there's so much more to the subliminal, and sometimes overt, messaging woven into the fabric of this viral content.
The problem is how strikingly similar this trend is to 1950s housewife propaganda. I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Common themes of "that girl" posts highlight morning routines that squeeze in everything under the sun, including therapeutic wonders of journaling; exercise routines to chisel abs and slim down thighs; fat-burning smoothie recipes; making the bed outfitted with perfectly chic bedspread and throw pillows; hot girl walks and 27-step morning and bedtime facial routines.
The trend also spills over into clothing with in-season fashion finds. Popular brands with trending items like Lululemon and Aritzia make the mile-long list of must-haves.
To understand why this trend is so problematic, we first need to recall what housewives were being told in the 1950s. Women were overprescribed drugs to treat incorrectly diagnosed 'hysteria' and 'depression' to get them back to caring for their kids and house. Women were also told to be presentable at all times, including bedtime in front of their husbands.
In short, 1950s housewives were cajoled into to being graceful, presentable, fashionable and pristine homemakers and caretakers. Any women who fell short of this standard were socially conditioned to feel like an unattractive failure.
Now, flash forward to 2022 and compare "that girls." This breed is put together at all times. They find time for self-care, housecleaning and decor and have the most fashionable outfits. A scented candle burns while they sit down to journal on freshly shampooed carpets to manifest their picture-perfect future.
There's certainly nothing wrong with taking time to do things that make you feel organized, centered and confident. In fact, those things can be majorly beneficial for one's mental health according to Northwestern Health.
However, we've again put a name to overt social expectations that women need to be perfect to feel good about themselves. The list of "that girl" habits and fashion finds only grows, as does the pressure to fit the mold. It's also been weaponized, and compared to 1950s, by extreme conservatives on TikTok.
Instead of truly championing wellness, which is defined as "the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health," by the Global Wellness Institute, the "that girl" trend tells women to place their value in achieving unrealistic standards.
But hey, what's new? We've found another way to try to convince women to internalize society's expectations rather than live their lives as they choose.