The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

TikTok trends are bad for feminism: ‘Gorgeous Gorgeous Girls’ contribute to ‘Girl Bossing’ over-consumption

Yú Yú Blue

Editor’s Note: This story contains content warning of disordered eating.

Are you a clean girl? Is your hair slicked back with hoop earrings, skin like porcelain and platform Ugg boots? Maybe you lean more towards a coquette look, with ribbons in your hair and lace around your neck, while humming to Lana Del Rey. Are you a girl boss who takes hot girl walks and smashes the patriarchy with your girl math while you eat your girl dinner? Or are you an eclectic bimbo grandpa mob wife tomato strawberry vanilla latte blueberry milk nail angel girl?

If you aren’t on TikTok (probably for the best), the last few sentences might have seemed more like word vomit. These are all different types of trends and aesthetics heavily posted on the popular social media platform. Some of these trends are labeled aesthetics, providing different styles and products that fit each vibe. Others are turning normal behaviors, like dinner or math, into relatable content for the girlies!

Trends are a larger sociological reflection of normative values, and nowhere is that sneakier than in the addictive TikTok slideshows and For You pages. Individual style is not necessarily an evil misogynistic ploy set upon unsuspecting teenage girls–the creation of personal style is essential to your own self-image. However, manufactured and repackaged stereotypes do nothing to empower the self but instead, reinforce harmful values that turn into profit.

These trends often start innocently. When TikTok user Olivia Maher coined the phrase “girl dinner,” I doubt she expected what would come next. Instead of piles of assorted foods from the fridge, users have taken to showing off their disordered eating habits. Another seemingly wholesome trend, Girl Math, started off as a way for women to talk about their lived financial experiences in ways that related to them, not to dumb down simple ideas or issues. In a since deleted video, TikTok user Nikita Redkar “girlsplained” Israel and Palestine. The creator uses a bimbo aesthetic, best represented by the character Karen in the movie “Mean Girls,” to simplify concepts that are just “too hard for the girlies.” 

Women do not need concepts dumbed down for them. They need to be further encouraged to understand these world problems and use their capable minds to interpret their own conclusions.

These phrases have snowballed into reducing women down to harmful narratives that have affected our political and financial power, as well as our autonomy in the world.

Olivia Orlando, a DePaul student majoring in psychology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies, is also concerned with “girl trends” and their guileful way of perpetuating sexism.

“I see them as rebranded ways of perpetuating stereotypes and expectations for young girls and women,” Orlando said. 

Liberal Studies professor Erin MacKenna isn’t surprised by the trajectory of these trends.  

“It feels like we’re in a regressive, normative time when you see that re-scripting of the trend to, as you say, dumb it down for women or make them seem incapable of understanding certain complexities,” MacKenna said. 

It turns out that these patriarchal standards act as an effective marketing tactic, too. By creating problems and selling solutions, women are led astray. Marketing tactics have used feminism to their advantage by marketing their products through a feminist lens. However, incorporating feminism into harmful capitalistic tactics doesn’t make it ethical. It makes it girl-boss feminism.

“Recent feminist scholars have been looking into this idea that marketing has employed the liberated woman as a way to sell products to women,” MacKenna said. 

TikTok furthers this consumerism by creating and manufacturing specific styles. Pictures of Sol De Janeiro perfume, matching White Fox sweatsuits and streaks of Rare Beauty blush brushed across perfect cheeks. These aesthetics get more niche by the minute and require you to buy more and more to fit into all these new styles. 

No longer is personal style curated and developed over a lifetime. MacKenna feels that this extreme control over how we participate in the marketplace distracts us from the real power. 

“If one’s engagement with the marketplace kind of stands in for other forms of power, then ultimately it doesn’t have any kind of effect on the individual’s advancement,” MacKenna said. 

Taking it a step further, influencers now create videos with a link to the TikTok shopping tab. where you can buy cheap, unethically manufactured goods right inside the app. Isn’t that so practical, just to buy as you scroll?

“I must admit I’ve considered participating in some trends, especially with the TikTok shop promoting products every few seconds,” Orlando said. “I find it necessary to take breaks when I catch myself convinced to buy things I don’t need, based on videos.”

Orlando said TikTok has made her feel she needs to live up to these beauty standards, even though they are often rooted in Eurocentric ideals. This is ironic, as many of the trends operate off of the backs of culture created by women of color, primarily Black women. The “clean girl” aesthetic of slicked-back hair and hoop earrings with shiny lip gloss has been a staple in the black community since the 1960’s and 1990’s. These influencers are taking culture without giving credit and convincing you to buy $30 Olaplex hair oil for an “effortlessly natural” look. 

“It just goes back to this kind of capitalist infiltration of everything, where you can’t even be natural without a series of products,” Mackenna said. “-In the context of this clean girl aesthetic thing. there’s a reliance on products just to, to fit within the acceptable trappings of femininity, and then like arms of attractiveness.”

Perhaps I am being too hard on these trends. Just because something is traditionally “girl” and women are participating in it does not mean that it is a bad thing. However, when 10-year-olds are flocking in hordes to buy Drunk Elephant retinol cream to prevent wrinkles, we are actively denying that girls who haven’t even hit algebra class are worried about aging.

We don’t have to stop participating in trends altogether. However, we need to think critically about the trends in which we are participating and believe that women can relate to one another’s lived experiences without perpetuating patriarchal standards of beauty and reinforcing sexist stereotypes. 

Wear what you want, buy what you want, but don’t let a person paid by a corporation change your outlook on your capabilities. Happy Scrolling!

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    Rose O'KeeffeJan 28, 2024 at 10:08 pm

    This is facts. Love!!