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Recent media trends affect perception of women

In 2023, the “girl dinner” trend emerged on TikTok. It started as simple jokes about chaotic plates of food girls would eat for dinner if they were not planning on eating a big meal. Odd assortments of food from strawberries, cheese sticks and eggs to hashbrowns, cookies and an elf bar have permeated social media.

Soon enough, countless “girl” trends emerged: the “girl math” trend jokes about poor financial decisions, the phrase “I’m just a girl” to justify a mistake or questionable decision and even “girl explanations” have become popular, using understandable concepts like shopping and friend group drama to explain world politics and economics.

While these started as innocent trends and jokes, these phrases point to a glaring issue surrounding perceptions of women. Social media is dramatically affecting how people perceive women. While it has allowed for some improvements, it is also a double-edged sword.

One positive is that it has brought greater attention to women’s rights and issues worldwide. When information spreads quickly, it causes more people to be aware of and educated on the issue. The information may not have been able to spread otherwise, so it enables more productive conversations and a greater awareness of these topics, like with the #MeToo movement.

Additionally, some trends have allowed women to hold onto the fun youthfulness of girlhood, giving them a break from the trials and tribulations of adulthood, like the rise in popularity of traditionally feminine or childish accessories, like bows or Mary Janes. The girl trends have also allowed women to link femininity to feminism, where they are not mutually exclusive. A girl can be feminine and stand her ground, be educated on topics and stand for equality for all women.

In the past, widespread stereotypes of feminists were that they were masculine women who hated men, shaving and makeup. However, with the advent of social media, the perception of what a feminist is has changed and has allowed many people to shed this stereotype.

However, it may have done a large amount of harm too. Many of the positives of girl trends have disappeared. These trends affect how women portray each other on social media. It has also allowed women to be seen as “dumbed down” versions of themselves.

Some “girl explanations” videos have been called out for simplifying explanations and directing them toward women. Viewers find that these videos imply women are not smart enough to understand complex concepts and need explanations through analogies like friend group drama and shopping. Rather than actively seeking out information and trying to use more technical terminology, it encourages people to learn about issues and topics via simplified short videos on social media.

Another example is the “I’m just a girl” trend on TikTok. While it is often a simple joke that young women will insert at the end of a sentence, some social media users note the trend suggests women and girls can use their femininity to justify their questionable decisions and actions.

Some have also stated the phrase reduces women to being “just a girl,” standing in opposition to women’s multifaceted identities. What makes it even more ironic is that many use No Doubt’s song “Just A Girl,” which is about the frustration at not being taken seriously and pushed into a certain lifestyle.

The constant barrage of microtrends and aesthetics has aided in certain lifestyles becoming more prominent. One of the newest is the “Mob Wife” aesthetic, characterized by bold makeup, loud colors, patterns and textured pieces, such as fur coats and leather. Another that has taken off recently is the coquette aesthetic, which typically involves lacy and frilly pieces in shades of pink with white and off-whites mixed in, all tied together with a nice ribbon.

These hyper-specific aesthetics encourage people to adapt their styles to match whatever niche aesthetic is trending. Rather than being encouraged to adapt personal styles, social media aesthetics have furthered the idea of what a woman should look like.

While what is considered feminine might not fit into one box anymore, it can fit into countless smaller boxes without room for experimentation. Social media has radically changed people’s perceptions of women’s issues — for better or worse depending on how one views it.


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