Refinery 29, the lifestyle site for young women, recently ran a story with the headline, “Girl Trends Are Everywhere. What the Hell is Going On?”
As a regular reader (I like to keep up with trends – you should see my new, chocolate brown “half-moon” manicure!), the site helps keep me current, and I especially laud its efforts at diversity and inclusivity. So, as someone who was once a girl and still occasionally thinks of herself as one, I found it intriguing.
The idea is that women – or anyone who identifies with “girl” and all that word entails – no longer need to mute their femininity and sense of fun. It’s okay to talk about and openly engage in “girl stuff” like style and beauty, to celebrate Barbie, go on “hot girl walks” and trade “girl dinner” tips.
The trend is occurring in music, Hollywood, the literary world and especially online, where even The New York Times explained to us recently “Why ‘Girls’ Rule the Internet.”
As a woman over 70 who attended the 1977 National Women’s Conference, challenged her first employer for equal pay, dutifully wore sneakers with her suits while storming the halls of capitalism in the 1980s and later published as a feminist scholar, I don’t scoff at girl culture.
As the same woman who owns 35 pairs of boots and a raft of false eyelashes, how could I?
Hearing and reading about girl culture at my age brings back memories of my girlfriends and I copying the mod makeup of Twiggy, launching jeans as a fashion staple of choice and jump-starting a second-wave feminist revolution whose principles remain front and center 50 years after the launching of NOW and Ms. Magazine.
This new iteration takes all that is feminine, powerful, snarky, raunchy, ironic, sexy, sweet, funny and pink (think “Hot Girl Summer” by Megan Thee Stallion), and wraps it up into one giant, Ulta-exclusive bento beauty box, daring anyone to complain.
Of course, the debate always goes deeper – from arguments about what “girl power” hides and protects in a patriarchal structure to the reinforcement of stereotypes (or is it turning them on their heads?) and the potential dangers of unfettered nostalgia and infantilizing women.
Not to dismiss any of that – I was a feminist scholar after all – but I, myself, am drawn to girl culture for its promise of bonding and camaraderie, especially as toxic masculinity has become even more sharply defined in global power structures.
And that may be where us older “girls” come in.
Imagine a time when girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school, a time before the birth control pill, when women couldn’t get a credit card in their name and career choices were often limited to nursing, flight attendant or teacher.
That’s my generation. I’m that woman, but I’m also the woman who threw off those bowlines, pioneering the mini skirt, choosing whether to get married and/or have children (often separate decisions), routinely living with romantic partners before or instead of marriage and embracing successful careers, including in law, media, medicine and tech.
One way we made it through the transition from our mothers’ world to the very different one for women today is through girl culture. As “girls” who shared the cultural touchstones of Twiggy, short skirts, long hair and the first taste of sexual lives and health we could actually control, we helped each other get here.
Now that we’re no longer seen as girls, and often not seen at all, according to so many older women, the new “girl” culture may be a path to again sharing our love of things female and feeling good in the process.
Oppressed and marginalized groups often engage in subversive activities, so if you see older women out walking together, don’t assume that exercising is all they’re doing. They could be engaging in “hot girl walks,” which, as defined on TikTok, are generally four-mile treks in which participants only think or discuss three things – what they’re grateful for, their goals and how to achieve them, and how hot they are. My perfect manicure and I can embrace this concept.
Older women are indeed hot. Just ask the contestants on The Golden Bachelor, which is a ratings goldmine and has women showing support for each other’s humor and grace in the never-ending debate over cosmetic enhancements vs. “natural” aging. (I think the show also involved a man, Gerry Turner somebody, but I’m not sure.)
Many older women care about style, staying fit and healthy, and being seen, even if it’s only by each other.
The truth is, after all we’ve accomplished, our embattled minority status has given way to something more mainstream. It’s nothing short of joyful to see girls rule the internet and take over everything that trends. We did it in our own way in our girl days, so there’s no need to stop now, right?
Data analytics show that females of a certain age respond to the words “older women” in web copy, so perhaps you’ve been seeing that term more these days. I know I chafe at being called “lady,” though “elder” might be okay.
But since “girls” are in, I vote for “older girls” as the preferred term when talking about what’s en vogue for those of us who find meaning in things like the 50th anniversary of Fear of Flying as well as Barbie’s entrée into senior status – because we were there when they launched the first time around.
If you would like to read the mentioned article on Refinery 29, please click here: Girl Trends Are Everywhere. What The Hell Is Going On?
Have you noticed the “girl” trend these days? Does it relate to anything in your past? Can older women still be “girls” in a fun and empowering way? How do you celebrate girls and women in different stages of life?