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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Why the ‘girl math’ trend can be a harmful mindset for young women to follow

UC Davis students share their views on the recent TikTok trend 


By ZOEY MORTAZAVI — features@theaggie.org


If you’re familiar with the constantly changing realm of TikTok trends, you’ve probably heard of one referred to as “girl math.” Essentially, girls have been posting videos justifying excessive spending, with captions saying that it’s “girl math,” or that it “doesn’t count.” 

Predominantly, the trend displays women buying items that are worth, for example, 100 dollars, and using the logic that it technically costs 10 dollars a wear for 10 wears — therefore the purchase wasn’t actually 100 dollars. Other videos introduce ideas like “cash doesn’t count,” even saying that some of their purchases “pay themselves off” after a few uses. 

UC Davis students discuss that funny trends can simply be just that, but sometimes, we need to ask ourselves the question: how far is too far? Jokes like these, even if they’re funny on a surface level, have the potential to harm those watching them, even if they don’t realize it. 

​​“We’re sort of on the back-end of the whole ‘girlboss’ era where every female character in media was like a perfect badass who could do no wrong,” Natalie Canchola, third-year computer science major, said. “We’ve sort of left that behind and are now pushing that women don’t have to be perfect to be respected.” 

Canchola continued on to describe the circular trajectory of women’s identity and self-worth.

“The ‘girl math’ trend, and other trends like that, arose from this kind of mindset, but are starting to go too far in the opposite direction and are reverting back to ‘all women are dumb’ kind of thinking, rather than ‘women are imperfect and that’s okay,’” Canchola said. “It’s fun to poke fun at ourselves but […] it can be subtly harmful, so it’s important to be mindful about what we say.”

There is definitely something satisfying about going to brunch with your friends and paying with cash; not seeing the dollar amount go down in your bank account is something that many appreciate. However, rather than considering cash as something that “isn’t real” or “doesn’t count,” consider reframing the narrative. Instead, think, “I made a responsible decision by using cash instead of my card today.” 

The issue with this trend does not seem to lie within the jokes themselves but in the tendency to associate irresponsible financial decisions with girls. Why is it that, under the frame of this trend, a girl handling her finances suggests carelessness? Perhaps this trend shouldn’t have been named “girl math,” but instead reflected the sentiment that all people are capable of making irresponsible decisions with their money. 

“‘Girl math’ is something that is fun to joke about to a certain extent, but I feel like there is a point where it goes past just a gag about some girl’s spending habits,” Olivia Patsch, first-year animal science major, said. 

Patsch also said “girl math” perpetuates negative stereotypes about women.

“The patriarchal roots underlying the trend can be seen in the fact that bad spending is immediately associated with being a girl, […] perpetuating the myth that women are bad with money, alongside deeper themes about the incompetence women have within many fields,” Patsch said. “The idea that women aren’t able to handle money and are insufficient spenders isn’t something that women should have to prove wrong.”

TikTok trends centered around “girl habits” have dwindled in popularity over the last several months. It began with a trend called “girl dinner,” where people would post videos of various assortments of snacks, drinks and even objects — rather than a full meal — joking that the items in front of them were a substitute for their dinner. 

This trend was followed by many variations of the same sentiment, displaying girls making less-than-ideal choices and justifying them by saying that they’re “just girls.” Soon, “girl math,” was born from the mentality that initially sparked these trends. 

Despite the issues that seem to stem from these kinds of videos, particularly the association of irresponsibility with girls, the videos were not created to belittle girls or women and their decision-making skills. 

There is definitely a way that these videos can be appreciated as well as critiqued, according to many young women at UC Davis. 

“These ‘girl’ phrases demonstrate a freedom from what is proper and what is expected while also encouraging a sense of girlhood as sisterhood, which is rare to come by,” Thalia Miracle, a third-year biological systems engineering major, said. “Of course, these ideas can be misconstrued. What started as a lighthearted explanation as to how many rationalize minor choices or spending can be tied back to [the] generations-old discrediting of women from serious academic, financial and critical comprehension.”

These trends, which seemed to begin as a harmless stream of jokes about the tendencies of young women everywhere, may have taken a step too far. It seems important to remember the difference between common human error and blaming the occasional lapse in judgment on the fact that you’re a girl. It should go without saying that women are fully capable of being financially literate and responsible. 

These trends, while funny in moderation, should not become normalized at the expense of women’s intelligence. 


Written by: Zoey Mortazavi — features@theaggie.org


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