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  • Writer's pictureKaisah Abdul

I'm Just A Girl

“I’m just a girl. I’m just a girl in the world. That’s all that you’ll let me be.” Released in 1995, I'm Just A Girl by the band No Doubt has recently been rediscovered and blasted into popularity. If the song started playing in your head as soon as you read that first sentence, you’ve probably heard it on TikTok, where the song started trending. As the name suggests, the trend centres around the experience of being a girl, with users saying or showing something silly or particularly feminine in nature and following it up with the text that says “i’m just a girl”.

What It Means To Be A Girl

Before going into how this trend has been perceived by both critics and supporters, let’s dive into what girlhood actually means, especially to women. Though the dictionary definition claims that girlhood is simply a time in life or the state of being a girl, I would like to argue that it goes so much deeper than that. Rather than being a synonym for childhood, girlhood is more of a shared experience, one that all women can relate to. From playing with Barbies to avoiding the colour pink, from loving cooking to being told that our place at home is in the kitchen, from experimenting with styles to being told that we’re tempting men with our clothes, these are all experiences that every woman can relate to one way or another. Relating to girlhood means being a part of a sacred sisterhood, an undefined liminal space where women understand each other and the struggles that come with just existing as a woman in this world. Because when have girls ever been allowed to just be girls? When have women been allowed to just own their own identities as women and not have them tied to being someone’s daughter, wife or mother? In the words of Taylor Swift, “give me back my girlhood, it was mine first.” Hence, when exploring the “i’m just a girl” trend, it is worthy to explore the reasons why women would want to identify as girls when they are clearly past the age to arguably qualify as one.

Sit Still Look Pretty

Looking at this trend through a critical lens, most arguments against it say that this and other “girl” trends “perpetuate the idea that women are weaker, smaller, and stupider.” The “just a girl” trend serves to normalise small, common mistakes, but instead of taking accountability for these mistakes, it encourages women to blame it on their being a “girl” instead, serving to give into the infantilisation of women that has run rampant with other girl trends that have gained significant popularity across the Internet, like “hot girl walks”, “girl math” and “girl dinner”. It seems like just by attaching the word “girl” to anything, it becomes a trend in which women around the world will happily participate. This could be considered particularly ironic considering the fact that most of the users posting under this trend are well-over the age one would be considered a girl — most are from women who are well into their twenties and even thirties, with these “small” mistakes being quite serious ones like crashing a car onto a curb. These are certainly not mistakes that can be swept under the guise of being a “25 year old girl”. The trend also exacerbates stereotypes; that women are bad at driving, bad at handling their finances, and bad at standing up for themselves. The normalisation of these being things that are simply what girls do, could potentially harm the efforts of other women to prove these stereotypes wrong.

Who Run the World?

But is it really possible for women to escape their responsibilities and identify as girls once again? What does it actually mean to be a girl again? As explored earlier, being a girl comes with being part of the sisterhood of shared experiences. However, with the “im just a girl” trend, it also comes with being able to re-explore girlhood as a woman. This means escaping the negative connotations attached to growing up as a girl, and being able to finally explore the different parts of identity and self — something that not all girls were given the opportunity to do in their growing years. With the trend, this takes the form of embracing femininity, as seen from the posts about purchasing makeup and skincare, experimenting with different fashion styles, and even accepting that they just want to be loved and taken care of. As Robin Wasserman claims in her essay, “To be called “just a girl” may be diminishment, but to call yourself “still a girl,” can be empowerment, laying claim to the unencumbered liberties of youth.Seeing as the trend became as popular as it did, being a girl or rediscovering girlhood as an adult woman can be a liberating experience for women as they no longer have to force themselves to fit into the mould that society has forced them into, especially considering that this mould was probably formed from the patriarchal, capitalistic society that we live in.

Boys Will Be Boys

There cannot be a conversation about how women are participating in “self-infantilisation” without considering this particularly well-known phrase. According to the official Cambridge definition, the saying is “said to emphasise that people should not be surprised when boys or men act in a rough or noisy way because this is part of the male character.” Where are the critics shouting that men cannot be a part of the “old boys club” because they are no longer considered boys? Why are excuses being made on behalf of grown men on the grounds that they are just boys? Unfortunately, it seems like boys will be boys, but girls will be women. To assume that women would immediately gain an immense sense of self-entitlement and confidence to shirk away from all their responsibilities just because of a mere TikTok trend is quite a stretch. That assumption takes away the centuries of harsh responsibilities that society has placed on women’s shoulders, where women are treated as second to men and yet are twice as scrutinised. An article published in 2019 by the World Economic Forum proved that “women and minorities are often punished more harshly for the same mistakes compared to others.” Sad to say, this is not at all surprising, as one only needs to look at the various instances of discrimination still happening around the world to know that women are forced to take responsibility for things that are not their fault at all, simply because of their gender.

I am Woman Hear Me Roar

All things considered, I am for this trend of girls , or rather, women, making a space for themselves online. In a world where not too long ago women were forced to stay at home and make themselves scarce (something that is still happening in certain communities around the world), it is heartening to see that women are embracing their individualities. Sceptics may see this trend as silly and frivolous, but is it so wrong to be silly? In a world where women are continuously put down and have to work twice as hard to attempt to be seen as equals, is it so wrong to want to have a little down time and enjoy their femininity? I say that there is nothing wrong with that at all, but what do I know? I’m just a girl, after all.

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