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‘Girl Dinner’: The TikTok Trend That Sparked A Cultural Change In Women’s Identities

In a world where information is widely accessible by tapping a screen, brands have the opportunity to get to know their audiences deeply. What do their daily routines look like? What do they do right when they wake up and before they go to bed? What are their preferences in entertainment, music, and food? 


At the heart of this understanding lies the humorous yet universal concept of “girl dinner.” 


This viral TikTok trend shows women consuming a chaotic medley of snacks instead of a traditional dinner. Assortments like a bag of chips with leftover chicken nuggets, a glass of wine and a piece of candy have come to represent a defiance of societal expectations about what constitutes a proper meal.  


But this isn't merely about food. The "girl dinner" phenomenon reflects an overarching shift in how women view themselves, their place in society, and how they relate to one another.


It is imperative that brands recognize this shift when appealing to their consumers. When the cultural vernacular of a target audience changes, it can either amplify a barrier to entry or create an opportunity to enter a growing market — the difference lies in whether or not a brand can speak their language.


Girl This, Girl That


What started as girl dinner has turned into so much more. TikTok audiences have started to use the word “girl” as an adjective that describes the universal experiences of women. We’ve heard of girl room, girl nightstand, and even girl math. But what does it mean for something to carry the “girl” adjective? 


Let’s take the girl nightstand as an example. Unlike traditional bedside tables, a girl nightstand would be messy and covered in seemingly random objects that only have an apparent connection to other women. The items on them might be considered unconventional — unlike the typical night lamp and water glass — but it serves as a vehicle for unity among women. It represents the universal experiences of womanhood.


A more popular example would be “girl math” — that is, using logic that might be considered faulty by some to justify actions women often take. For instance, scheduling hair-wash days to align with your plans is girl math. Adding more clothes to your shopping cart to justify paying for one-day shipping is also girl math (and is really a cost-benefit analysis). As put by X user Imani Barbarin, “girl math is essentially the recognition that time, convenience, and money are interchangeable currencies.” 


Girl as an Identity


This use of ‘girl’ as an adjective can be explored as a cultural movement in the 21st century’s feminist space. The traditional gender norm of what it means to be a woman lies in the social construct of femininity. Historically, femininity has been constructed as gentle, kind, small and fragile. Now, it is authentic, messy, imperfect and even loud. 


This isn’t a new issue. French philosopher Simone De Beauvoir wrote in her 1949 book The Second Sex that men oppress women by “characterizing them, on every level, as the ‘other’… Man occupies the role of the self, or subject; woman is the object, the other.” She explores how female identity has been dictated by men and designed to appeal to the male gaze. 


However, “girl” does not. “Girl” is the first time where women are defining their own identity — by women, for women, and under the female gaze. While the male gaze places importance on a woman’s body and her sexual appeal, “girl” places importance on the thoughts, experiences, and intellect of women. It is a universal experience that women unanimously understand, and women feel empowered in the “girl” reality.


And why use the word “girl” instead of “woman”? This was intentionally designed to include girlhood. To be a girl is to be authentic, kind, silly, and able to make mistakes. Many women have experienced emotionally and physically tolling experiences created by misogyny, and “girl” provides an escape. To be a girl is to go back to a time before these harsh understandings, and to keep exploring the world through innocent eyes. 


We are all girls making dinners that aren’t quite perfect, who leave wine glasses on our nightstands, and who take shortcuts in math so we can make each other happy. To be a girl is to be young, curious and united. But most importantly, to be a girl is to define your identity on your own terms.


By: Rosario Buitrago and Carolina Mangru

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