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Why do we use “girl” as a prefix?

Recent+TikTok+phrases+such+as+girl+math+and+girl+boss+in+online+discourse+are+under+scrutiny+for+their+potential+to+perpetuate+stereotypes+and+gendered+expectations%2C+despite+their+initial+intentions+to+empower+women.
Lia Dimapasok via Canva.com
Recent TikTok phrases such as “girl math” and “girl boss” in online discourse are under scrutiny for their potential to perpetuate stereotypes and gendered expectations, despite their initial intentions to empower women.

“Girl math. Girl dinner. Girl science. Girl boss.” You’ve probably stumbled upon these terms while scrolling through your TikTok feed, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. While they may appear as surface level hashtags or a viral phrase you’ve just happened to stumble upon, there’s a deeper phenomenon behind the usage of these terms and many have come to question the underlying messages that they aim to convey.

Imagine scrolling through your social media feed and finding a video tagged #girlmath. You watch as someone humorously justifies their impulse purchases with quirky calculations: “Any purchase under $5 is practically free!” It’s entertaining, sure, but beneath the surface lies a subtle reinforcement of stereotypes about women and money. By attaching “girl” to “math,” we unintentionally imply that women approach finances differently than men, perpetuating the myth of frivolous spending and financial ineptitude.

“Personally, I hate girl math,” said Hannah Uesugi (9). “It makes girls seem incapable of using real-life logic, implying that all they’re good for is shopping and appearing ditsy and confused.

Similarly, the term “girl dinner” evokes images of quick, no-fuss meals often depicted on social media. Think avocado toast or a bowl of cereal. While these posts may seem harmless, they subtly reinforce traditional gender roles by perpetuating the idea that women are primarily responsible for meal preparation and domestic chores. It’s a subtle reminder of the societal, and rather archaic, expectations that women should excel in the kitchen.

Women all over TikTok are actively using phrases like “girl boss,” “girl dinner,” and “girl math,” raising the question: Are these terms inadvertently perpetuating harmful stereotypes? Pictured (from left to right, top to bottom): @karmapilled, @kennedy.sandifer, @tinaturttle, @madddspaddd, @krysten_wags, @thesorrygirls

And then there’s “girl science”—a term that implies a feminized version of scientific inquiry or a distinct approach to exploration based on gender. While science is inherently gender-neutral, adding “girl” to the equation suggests that certain scientific disciplines are more suited or accessible to women. This language perpetuates stereotypes and limits opportunities for women in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] fields, reinforcing gendered divisions and hindering progress towards gender equality in the sciences.

“While on one hand, these phrases can be seen as reclaiming our autonomy, on the other hand, they risk reinforcing stereotypes and limiting the range of women’s abilities,” said Chloe Dy (9). “I do appreciate the sense of solidarity these may phrases bring, but we must also consider their potential to perpetuate harmful stereotypes and hinder progress towards gender equality.”

At the heart of these phrases lies the magnum opus itself: girl boss, a phrase originally created as a symbol of female empowerment. Coined by entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso, the term was intended to celebrate women’s achievements in male-dominated industries and challenge traditional gender norms. However, its evolution has been rather complex, with some arguing that it risks trivializing and infantilizing female leadership while others see it as a rallying cry for women in the workplace.

Still, amidst the controversy surrounding these phrases, there are those who believe them to be empowering, viewing them as a means of reclaiming their rights as a woman.

“I feel like it’s almost empowering to make specific topics entirely girl-related,” said Violet Ballou (9). “Using ‘girl’ as a prefix and attaching it to specific words that used to only be associated with men feels like we’re reclaiming the words as our own.”

Recent studies, such as those conducted by the Advertising Standards Authority, have shed light on the impact of gendered language and imagery in perpetuating harmful stereotypes and biases. Advertisements featuring phrases like “girl boss” have faced scrutiny for reinforcing outdated gender norms and aging us back five decades.

So, what can we learn from these trends? Obviously, the language we use on a day to day basis holds significance. Whether it’s a hashtag on social media or a slogan in an advertisement, words have the power to shape and influence personal perceptions. While terms like “girl boss” may have originated from a place of empowerment, they can also inadvertently reinforce stereotypes and limit opportunities for women in leadership roles. Why bother with labels like girl boss, girl science, or girl math anyway? We’re all just living life, eating, learning, and calling the shots our own way, right? At the end of the day, it’s more inclusive to use these terms without gender-specific qualifiers, recognizing that we’re all really just living in the same way, regardless of gender.

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Lia Dimapasok
Lia Dimapasok, Staff Member
Lia Dimapasok (9) joins The Bulldog Times as an aspiring writer, eager to explore the world of journalism. In her first year on the team, Lia looks forward to honing her reporting skills and sharing intriguing stories with her fellow students. Beyond her journalistic pursuits, she enjoys reading, scrapbooking, and baking. When not immersed in academics or writing, Lia can often be found with her nose buried in a book, lost in the captivating worlds created by her favorite authors. She also nurtures her love for creative expression through short story writing, cultivating a deep appreciation for the written word. With a genuine curiosity for the world and a penchant for storytelling, Lia is poised to make her mark on The Bulldog Times.
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    Emily FuchsMay 15, 2024 at 6:57 am

    I think it’s important to recognize this for yourself and to also be happy for others who find empowerment 🙂 not everyone lives the same life as you and feels the same way as you do in regards to their gender.

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