Trigger Warning: Eating disorders
‘That girl.’ The girl who gets up just before sunrise to fix her lavish duvet, down 3 glasses of lemon-infused water, jot down her dreams, aspirations, and thoughts into her perfectly pink planner, exercise her flawlessly toned body in an intense pilates-yoga exercise, living in her poreless, hydrated skin, all while the rest of the world is yet to set their alarms to snooze. Oh, isn’t she perfect?
Many may be wondering, who is ‘that girl,’ and where exactly did she come from? Well, “that girl” is no singular person, but instead is an inspiration to a certain lifestyle that many young people aspire to achieve. TikTok trends have proven to be capable of shaping trivial aspects of our lives, such as the way we dress or our sense of humor, but who would have thought that these trends would be capable of influencing the way we live? Fundamentally, a ‘that girl’ TikTok is a 15 second montage, consisting of several short clips that are meant to be a window into her picture perfect life. Open books, green juices, high-priced skin care products, workout clothing, and an elaborate but meager bird’s breakfast of berries, oats, or avocados are often the subject of these clips, and key aspects of this lifestyle.
Unlike many past trends that have been fatuous and life-threatening (like the Tide pod and Bird Box challenges), the life of ‘that girl’ glamorizes self-care and wellness. For many, it acts as motivation to start the day early, drink lots of water, exercise regularly, keep a journal, and organize our lives; all of which are proven to have major benefits to our health and wellbeing. This lifestyle has also garnered much praise from our society, for it is said to boost productivity since ‘that girl’ is always on the go. If she’s not improving her calligraphy, she’s taking notes in her baby blue Moleskine notebook, or artistically embellishing a slideshow presentation. She must always be doing something. Though productivity can often be inspiring, constantly forcing ourselves to create and complete tasks is not. This trend has begun to perpetuate toxic productivity: work compulsion and addiction repackaged. Apart from granting teenagers and other young people the stress of having to live a picture-perfect life, this lifestyle also has people fooled, believing that living this life is what one should do in order to reach their full potential.
In addition to inspiring toxic productivity, another problem with ‘that girl’ is that society has put a face on her: that of a slim, conventionally attractive, white woman. As this trend aids and enforces Western standards of beauty, and as some may say, is no short of racist, it leaves many girls and people of color wondering where they fit in society? The glorification of the white race over nothing more than the color of their skin has been pervasive and unfortunately entrenched in our society for quite some time. In fact, much racial controversy has also surrounded the social media platform in which ‘that girl’ finds its roots, TikTok. It has become apparent that the app’s algorithm favors white creators over those of color, granting them much easier access to awareness and greater opportunities to gain attention.
This trend has not only become mentally damaging, but can also have detrimental effects on one’s physical health. Apart from extreme racial misrepresentation, the assumption that only a slender, and in some cases underweight, individual can embody ‘that girl’ is simply unacceptable. Burning the minds of young girls with the notion that this figure is what a healthy body is meant to look like only exacerbates the already prevalent issue of body dysmorphia. In 2019, the National Eating Disorders Association reported that, “Approximately 7 in 10 women and girls report a decline in body confidence and increase in beauty and appearance anxiety, which they say is driven by the pressure for perfection from media and advertising’s unrealistic standard of beauty.”
On the topic of ‘that girl,’ an anonymous ISM student stated that, “She is glamorous, her life is fabulous, but because she perpetuates the fact that attractiveness is a thin, white, female, her effects on society are disastrous.” At the end of the day, no matter how healthy the life of ‘that girl’ markets itself to be, it can be regarded as nothing more than ‘thinspiration;’ a fractured and misguided lifestyle accompanied by a distorted image of beauty.
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Weekman, Kelsey. “Who Is ‘That Girl?’ The Tiktok Aesthetic Is Everything You Ever Wanted To
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