From Tomato Girl to Corporate Girlie, It’s Time for the Internet to Let Us Grow Up

Ladies, let’s step up to the plate.

girl trends

As a Gen Z-er on the cusp of millennial-hood, my memories of the ‘90s are fuzzy. Dial-up internet isn’t there, but our family collection of video tapes is. So is that gargantuan Compaq computer that took five minutes to load the Lisa Frank website. We had a forest green landline in the kitchen with a cord curlier than a pig’s tail.

I remember life before Instagram and Snapchat, when my biggest influence wasn’t an influencer, but my mom.  I’ll never forget my mother hunched over the desk in the TV room, writing checks and balancing the books, muttering to herself. I’ll always remember her taking me and my four siblings grocery shopping, pulling out the Costco American Express in her name, with her picture stamped on the back, to buy us churros and pizza.

So when “girl math” exploded on TikTok earlier in the fall, something in me went berserk. In case you missed this new term, girl math is basically a (sometimes ludicrous) way of justifying purchases. Under $5? It’s free. Paid in cash? Also free. Venmo balance? You guessed it, free money. This was my breaking point after years of being inundated with other girl trends. Recently: girl dinner, lazy girl, tomato girl. Others: clean girl, vanilla girl, corporate girlie, hot girl, grocery girl fall, finance girlie. As PureWow recently proclaimed, we’re now entering “Shrek girl fall.”  

After reading about girl math, I nearly screamed. What’s with this perpetual girlhood? I ranted to my friends. Trends are supposed to move us forward, not back in time. Have we all forgotten that women have only had the right to a bank account since the ‘60s and to loans (including mortgages and credit cards) since the ‘70s? The precise date of the latter is 1974. My mother was born in 1970.

One of the architects behind this financial revolution was a woman—you may know her as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court Justice who died in 2020. Justice Ginsburg’s early work with the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU helped lay the foundations to fight against sex discrimination. Because this woman (who had degrees from Cornell and Harvard, by the way), was not content to simply just “be a girl,” the life I now have as a young single woman in New York is possible. It’s the reason my mother could have that American Express card. And it's the reason Justice Ginsburg sat on the nation’s highest court.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the lightheartedness of the girl trends. In a world that feels increasingly chaotic, it’s sometimes comforting to regress into the nostalgia and innocence of youth. But here’s my problem with girl math, and, really, all of these trends: If women have struggled so long for things that today seem as normal as a credit card or mortgage in our names, why should we just laugh and let a trend reduce us to a vulnerable stereotype? What’s next, girl driving? Girl spelling?

As Taylor Swift so aptly sang in “Cardigan,” when you are young they assume you know nothing. And in “Teenage Dream” on Olivia Rodrigo’s new album Guts, she sings, when am I gonna stop being good for my age and just start being good?

And they’re right. Often, young women are not taken as seriously as they should be. But on the flip side, the older a woman gets, the more irrelevant to society she seems to become.  One viral tweet on X reads, “eating my girl dinner, taking my hot girl walk, listening to my sad girl music, reading my feral girl books, going out dancing with my girlianas, getting bevvies with my girlipops, every day a slow march towards death (Womanhood)…” Basically, being female is the ultimate catch 22.

I want to be a woman, but at the same time, many of the current girl trends are actually things I want to be. I want to be the corporate girlie crushing my job. I want to be a lazy girl, making life easy and efficient. I want to be a tomato girl, embracing that work-life balance. Because that’s what a woman does! Some aspects of girl math, like price-per-wear or investing in higher quality for longevity are smart moves. So why are these rationally good things that I actually want to embody packaged to make me feel ditzy? And why do we not only put up with it, but celebrate it?

Girls—er—ladies, we need to change this narrative. Think about it. If the real Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort lists his credentials as “number one sales trainer, investment guru and entrepreneurship expert,” without a hint to the fact that he is a financial criminal (all while boasting that he’s worked with companies such as Virgin, Toyota and Proctor & Gamble), we can lean into the power of womanhood without worrying about the need to be palatable.

The other thing girl trends do? Perpetuate the fear of aging. If we’re always girls, we’ll never grow old. So what happens when we do, inevitably, participate in this mandatory life process? We’ll be caught in the absurd limbo akin to Freaky Friday...screaming “I’m old!” What’s wrong with being old? Anti-aging may have morphed into pro-aging, but at the end of the day, the products are the same. Wrinkle cream is still wrinkle cream, and each wrinkle is a hard-won testament to the fact that you’re living a beautiful life.

We’re more than girls. We’re leaders, parents, partners, friends—brilliant and brave human beings who have the power to change our worlds. And yes, we also like to eat pickles for dinner sometimes. Women are amazingly multi-faceted like that. Youth doesn’t always have that same privilege.

MW 10

Associate SEO Editor

I’ve covered the lifestyle space for the last three years after majoring in journalism (and minoring in French) at Boston University. Talk to me about all things sustainable &...