Getting To Know ‘Just A Girl’

The implications of yet Another TikTok Trend 

Words by Ambar Ramirez

In hindsight, the signs were always there. The quiet rage and rebellion, the natural aversion to pink, the color bestowed on all women before we are even born. And yes, I would say that I’m like a pretty emotional person … and so what?  

It wasn’t until another TikTok trend stumbled on my, and every other girl’s ‘For You Page’, that I realized I’m not the only one who struggles with finding a relatable phrase that resonates with the many awkward experiences. 

I’m just a girl. 

Not to brag but I would be lying if I said that was the first time I heard and related to the saying. The first time I heard the phrase was in No Doubt’s “Just A Girl.”  I know, a classic. But the song sings of a very different (but still relevant) experience of being a girl than what the TikTok trend highlights. 

Let’s just take a quick look at the chorus from the feminist anthem: 

“’Cause I’m just a girl, I’d rather not be,

’Cause they won’t let me drive late at night.

Oh, I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of frea.

’Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes.

Oh, I’m just a girl, take a good look at me,

Just your typical prototype”

Whereas No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani highlighted the not-so-fun aspect of being a girl (i.e., not being able to go on walks at night alone, having to wear modest clothes or risk having old men stare at you like you’re some kind of zoo animal, etc.), the TikTok trend uses the phrase “I’m Just a Girl” to emphasize some of the common experiences all women share. For example, accidentally hit a curb on a tight turn? … I’m just a girl. …. Slept with your ex-boyfriend? … I’m just a girl. Needing the GPS to get to the gas station that is literally around the corner from my house, sorry, I’m just a girl. 

And while the trend is popular for its ability to be an umbrella term for what girls go through … is it all that innocent? Is it another term that diminishes and belittles the struggles women go through? Or is it simply that relatable?

Don’t get me wrong, I say “I’m just a girl” pretty consistently. There’s just something about those four words that flow off the tongue in both depressing and joyful moments. But just because most girls and I have been hyper-fixated on the phrase doesn’t mean there isn’t anything wrong with it. 

Now, hear me out, is “I’m just a girl” similar to “boys will be boys”? Obviously, I wanna say no. Boys will be boys is a popular idiom that has been used for generations that excuses (not all) men’s tendency to be aggressive and improper. A phrase that in recent years has been canceled because toxic masculinity doesn’t deserve a platform. Still, “boys will be boys” excuses bad behavior…doesn’t “I’m just a girl” do the same thing? Just some food for thought. 

And “I’m just a girl” isn’t the first trending TikTok phrase that focuses on girls’ experiences. It is also not the first to be questioned. Just take a look at “girl math” and “girl dinner.” The former makes it seem as though women don’t know how to do basic math rather than its intended purpose of making a joke of women’s shopping tendencies. Same thing with “girl dinner,’ which which we covered in a recent issue. The trend brought to light women’s unhealthy eating tendencies and tried to make it relatable rather than emphasizing that almonds and Cheetos are not a meal. 

It’s harmful to internalize any message that says women are “just” anything. And in the same context, it is just as harmful to put any gender in a box and constrain them to “just” being something. 

This leads me to another popular phrase gaining traction on TikTok. It’s not just girls that get to have all the fun (see what I did there). Let me introduce you to “I’m him.” The phrase is increasingly being used by the male population to highlight their strengths or for a guy to hype himself up (i.e., moving up in liftable weights at the gym). Just made a touchdown and got the winning point? I’m him. Meal prepped for the week? I’m him. 

Now, clearly I don’t know much about men seeing as though the only examples I used are in some way related to sports and gym memberships, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression and say that there is anything inherently wrong with that. As mentioned before, toxic masculinity is very prevalent in our society and has dire effects on young men across the globe. Any chance to highlight your strengths is, dare I say, a strong thing to do.

But (I’m going to say something a bit controversial here) why does “I’m him” highlight positive experiences, while “I’m just a girl” seems to highlight negative experiences? “I’m him” carries a sense of definitiveness and power whereas the “just” in “I’m just a girl’ implies that you’re a fixed idea. Again, just some food for thought. 

The reality is that two things can be true at once. Yes, “I’m just a girl” can be seen as a light-hearted joke, but it can also be registered as a trend that highlights the self-deprecation of female intelligence. You’re not ‘just him’, ‘just a girl’ or even ‘just them’, you’re so much more. 

 

And it seems that I’m not the only one who caught on to the deprecation of the joke. Trends on any app tend to die out quickly (blame it on our short attention spans) or they evolve. Hence, “‘I’m just a girl’ So close! You’re actually…” and “‘I’m him’ So close! You’re actually…”. 

 

Boys and girls took this trend one step further by saying things like “‘I’m just a girl’ so close bestie! You’re actually the reason I believe in genuine close female friendships in my 20s” or (one I was sent) “‘I’m just a girl’ so close! You’re the reason why going to work is tolerable because our shenanigans are the highlight of my day in the midst of late-stage capitalism that is trying to completely crush our spirits”. Naturally, there’s two sides to any story and boys took use of the adaptation of the trend to say things like “‘I’m just a girl’ so close but actually you’re the reason that I don’t just drink for fun anymore” or “‘I’m just a girl’ so close you’re actually the reason I question people’s intentions behind every action”. Definitely questionable but girls retaliated by changing up the “I’m him” trend, saying things like “‘I’m him’ so close! You’re actually the reason I can’t tell if someone actually wants to be with me or is leading me on”. I think you get the point.

 

While there may be some internalized damage from these trends, if you take it too personal, there is also a very real portrayal of boys and girls’ camaraderie and vulnerability. Any microtrend, good or bad, is a learning opportunity. 

 

About Ambar Ramirez

Flipping through magazines for as long as she can remember, Ambar Ramirez has always known she wanted to be a journalist. Fast forward, Ambar is now a multimedia journalist and creative for Folio Weekly. As a recent graduate from the University of North Florida, she has written stories for the university’s newspaper as well as for personal blogs. Though mainly a writer, Ambar also designs and dabbles in photography. If not working on the latest story or design project, she is usually cozied up in bed with a good book or at a thrift store buying more clothes she doesn’t need.