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OPINION: 'Girl Talk' and its Implications

“Girlboss” is a term that blew up on social media and is used to describe women who hold leadership positions, stand up for themselves, or are assertive about their wants and needs. This term is one of many terms containing the word “girl” to describe the everyday things that women do.

Because of its popular slang usage, I have heard some Meredith students use “girl/girly” to describe the different things they are involved in and their different hobbies. For example, Meredith College has a demographic that is largely women, however, I have heard some refer to it as a “girls' school.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first definition of the word “girl” refers to “a female child.” Based on that definition, I believe that using the word “girl” to refer to one’s institution of higher education downplays the education that they are receiving to that of a child in comparison to the other colleges and universities in the surrounding area. I feel that in doing so, it is difficult to be taken seriously as students, who are not all women, who attend the institution. 

Other usages of the word “girl” have been used to refer to one’s interests. For example, one may say they are a “STEM girly” rather than saying that they are a “Woman in STEM” or someone who is interested in the STEM field. Some may argue that the usage of “girl” is meant to be empowering as it is used in the term “girlboss,” since it highlights the abilities of those identifying as women to take on leadership roles. Despite its intended message, using “girl” to promote such a powerful idea arguably downplays the abilities of strong individuals by infantilizing them and emphasizing their differences from other groups. Another phrase that has grown in popularity on social media, from my observation, is “I’m just a girl.” This usage, unlike the other two, has no intentions of empowering women and, to me, often excuses questionable behavior and flaws in performance to a ditsy character trait that is supposedly and implicitly inherent among women. The phrase “I’m just a girl” may be used by individuals who lack video gaming skills or after jumping a curb while driving. It associates negative traits like a lack of specific skills with women and lowers the expectations of what women are capable of. 

“I’m just a girl” contradicts powerful women’s movements like the #LikeAGirl movement launched by Always in 2014 to reclaim the phrase and turn it into something that is meant to encourage women and young girls to be strong and confident. An additional use of the word “girl” that has been harmful to the fight against gender norms is the “girl dinner” trend. “Girl Dinner” was used by many young women identifying social media users to showcase their plates of snacks, rather than a balanced meal, that they would consume in place of dinner. In some instances, a “Girl Dinner” would consist of just an iced coffee, ice cream, or a few crab rangoons. “Girl Dinner,” despite its intended humor, arguably promotes the societal norm that women should lessen the amount that they eat and maintain a certain appearance which can lead to maladaptive eating habits in many young women. It is significant to note that people should not feel guilty about how they eat, whether they indulge in snacks or full meals, as long as it is a sustainable diet. However, the “Girl Dinner” trend may leave a harmful message to those who are engaging with it.  

The word “girl,” in its current popular usage, promotes the infantilization of women and can be seen as demeaning to women’s interests, achievements and abilities. By using the word “girl” to refer to the things women do, it displays an implied lack of competence in comparison to other groups and is counterproductive to feminism by limiting what women believe they are capable of and demeaning women’s identities as adults. 

By: Elaina Irving, Staff Writer

Graphic by Shae-Lynn Henderson, EIC



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