“That Girl” Trend is Poison: #Girlboss Reinvented, Sweetgreen and the Ideal Woman
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Well moving into another toxic section which of course is really interesting especially for how woke GenZ purports to be is the White-washing of the whole trend. Every Tiktok I saw and countless articles I read all made notable mention that this is a trend almost exclusively for white skinny girls.
Unsurprisingly the wellness community and trend has been accused of whitewashing and a lack of diversity and propelling the idea of whiteness as aspirational.
In 2019 Giselle La Pompe-Moore interviewed a few women breaking down barriers for POC in the heath in wellness space for ID Mag titled: wellness isn't just for white people, these pioneers are making sure of it. Gissell recounts her own experiences of being the only women of color in say a yoga class and says to this: “The lack of representation and diversity within the wellness industry is obvious, and can be seen from magazines and brand campaigns, right down to the racial ratio of many wellness classes and the practitioners leading them. It creates this assumption that to engage in health and wellbeing you need to have the right image, time and money to engage in it. And considering people of colour aren’t equally represented in wellness, it also seems you need to have a certain ethnicity to participate too.”
The women interviewed all speak to the lack of dissemination of information to the people that need it most and the dissociation of the POC communities in the wellness space that isn’t made for them.
That same Refinery 29 article points out an interesting facet about “that girl” - altho the wellness trend is historically very exclusionary to people of color - “TikTok videos are user-generated, suggesting women of colour don’t feel sufficiently aligned to wellness or at least to the ‘that girl’ trend to join in.” Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing - since it is so toxic.
This leads us right into the next talking point about the trend - the correlation of “that girl” to our good old friend #girlboss. Laura Pitcher came out with an article at the end of July for ID magazine titled : Girlboss culture isn't dead, it's rebranded as "that girl" now.
Pitcher perfectly puts it:” Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that “that girl” content has a lot in common with that of the very millennial, faux empowerment “girlboss” canon, which places value on productivity alone and calls it feminism. Bizarrely, the “that girl” trend also comes after a recent cultural rebuttal of the girlboss archetype and the memeification of “girlboss, gaslight, gatekeep.” While Gen Z are said to have rejected overworking as a means of aspiration, the focus has instead become an obsession with schedules, with “that girl” dialogue turning us all into our own constant self-improvement projects.”
Just like the word “girlboss” , “that girl” has that internalized sexism that comes with calling grown women girls and continues the dialog that girlboss was criticized for - 24/7 capitalist aspiration and limited empowerment. Naturally being fueled by the social isolation of the pandemic there has been a shift of this hustle girlboss culture as work and wellness collide together for the ultra-optimized version and shifting from work ethic to workout ethic...and creating the monster that is “that girl” - as people fell into the need to develop a hyper controlled and rigorous schedule and workout routine in response to the insecurity of the time period.
Pitcher notes “This past year may have marked the death of the girlboss as we know it, but the emphasis on productivity and individualism to the point of self-absorption is far from over. Instead of hustling to be CEOs, we’re hustling to be the most optimised version of ourselves under the guise of being “that girl”. But this hasn’t addressed the core issue: the hustle itself.
As long as we’re constantly striving to achieve unrealistic ideals and treating ourselves as projects, the capitalistic mentality remains and mental health suffers. Instead, research shows we should be caring for ourselves without pressure, and directing our energy into also caring for loved ones and the people around us. Luckily, this approach to wellness doesn’t require you to get up at 5am on a strict schedule and take perfect photos of your breakfast. You can wake up later, leave your bed unmade, enjoy drinks with your friends and still be “that girl” (whatever that even means).
Our good friend Jia Tolentino took the conversation a step further back in 2019 in a semi autobiographical and social scientist critique on this current hustle culture the the ideal women in a piece for The Guardian titled : Athleisure, barre and kale: the tyranny of the ideal woman - with the sub headline : How we became suckers for the hard labor of self-optimization.
She argues that all the trends that have popularized themselves in the female post girlboss hustle culture are a frankenstein’s monster to create the ideal women - who is continually optimizing to sit inside the confines of the image while also being as efficient as possible to even be able to afford the lifestyle that as deemed as “superior” - right down to the barre class or even more specifically the fast casual salad restaurant chain - Sweet Green - and in one of the best paragraphs ever written she says: “which feels less like a place to eat and more like a refueling station. I’m a repulsively fast eater in most situations – my boyfriend once told me that I chew like someone’s about to take my food away – and at Sweetgreen, I eat even faster because (as can be true of many things in life) slowing down for even a second can make the machinery give you the creeps. Sweetgreen is a marvel of optimization: a line of 40 people – a texting, shuffling, eyes-down snake – can be processed in 10 minutes, as customer after customer orders a kale caesar with chicken without even looking at the other, darker-skinned, hairnet-wearing line of people who are busy adding chicken to kale caesars as if it were their purpose in life to do so and their customers’ purpose in life to send emails for 16 hours a day with a brief break to snort down a bowl of nutrients that ward off the unhealthfulness of urban professional living.”
Jia says - “Today’s ideal woman is of a type that coexists easily with feminism in its current market-friendly and mainstream form. This sort of feminism has organized itself around being as visible and appealing to as many people as possible; it has greatly over-valorized women’s individual success. Feminism has not eradicated the tyranny of the ideal woman but, rather, has entrenched it and made it trickier. These days, it is perhaps even more psychologically seamless than ever for an ordinary woman to spend her life walking toward the idealized mirage of her own self-image. She can believe – reasonably enough, and with the full encouragement of feminism – that she herself is the architect of the exquisite, constant and often pleasurable type of power that this image holds over her time, her money, her decisions, her selfhood and her soul.”
The Classist Construct
Naturally we can’t dig into a long standing trend without noting the classism inherent and this trend DOES NOT disappoint. Just going to say it - That Girl is a classist construct - and achieving “that girl” status comes with a hefty price tag. Green juice, boutique workout classes, Lululemons and avocado toast comes with a privilege of time and money that is not available to so many people.
The monetization of the ideology and concept - makes it notoriously exclusionary - as if the human right to wellness is inaccessible to anyone who isn’t making 6 figures. And honestly you find that it is - we even saw during our episode on the Green Gap - markups were SUBSTANTIAL even with Green products or organic foods seeing on average 75% - 85% higher prices than conventional options. Food deserts are a notorious US and international issue that make it difficult for people in low income areas to even have access to affordable healthy food.
Of course the wellness industry is consistently spreading the lie that Wellness is expensive - when infact - it can be achieved without the rejuvenating 24K gold spa mask or snail goo facial, Spin Class or $20 smoothie from Kreation and cryotherapy treatment at you luxury gym. We really need a whole podcast series on these hilarious over the top wellness trends.
Additionally rich foods, fast foods and junk food have notoriously aligned with the working class for years. Which is - well faster, cheaper and easier - or even traditional to cultures and regions - yet the wellness industry is assuming that a diet loaded with carbs and fat and sugar is a failure of self control and not the true classism inherent w/in.
In fact the very culture and obsession with the wellness trend was birthed following the industrial revolution as an element of “luxury” popularized by the middle-class and upper-class Europeans. In the late 19th century writer and historian Daniela Blei wrote in JSTOR Daily that Germans termed it “life reform” and the wellness trend was developed to offset the sedentary lifestyle of the rich. - so instead of just getting more active they became more obsessed with weight and body insecurities. Paving the way fro self help books and easy fixes - and then of course encourage the whole market of modern wellness culture.