The ever-present and beloved formula of rationalising your new, shiny and arguably regrettable purchases by breaking it down to its components is trending all over social media- and it has found a new name- Girl Math.
It all began as Samantha Jane, a content creator, blew up on TikTok by enlightening us with the everyday logic she uses to justify purchases and successfully shun the accompanying feelings of guilt. She elucidates her point through relatable everyday instances in her widely shared video: Things under $5 seem almost free, returning an article and then buying something in its place is free and tickets to a concert bought in advance also feel free on the day of the concert.
Most, having recognised the logic from their own lives, have embraced the trend. But the more contested issue seems to be the name itself. And it isn’t restricted to this particular trend either. The problem, in fact, is far larger. The girlification of every aspect of our lives: Girl Dinners, Lucky Girl Syndrome, Girl Rotting, Lazy Girl Jobs among many others- is not without detriment. It has become a way to promote disordered eating, ignorance, sedentary lifestyles and dismissing women’s ambition.
Particularly for Girl Math, at the surface, it stems from and re-emphasises the age-old stereotype that women are not good with financial matters and knowingly or unknowingly, enforces and compounds regressive beliefs from popular culture. As per Forbes, such trends augment the gender roles and stereotypes from shows and movies such as Sex And The City and Confessions Of A Shopaholic. The article further goes on, ‘They unfairly suggested that when we are left to our own devices, we will frivolously spend all of our money without regard for our financial well-being‘.
They unfairly suggested that when we are left to our own devices, we will frivolously spend all of our money without regard for our financial well-beingForbes
However, given the current debate, it also becomes imperative to recognise the trend for what it is- a simple psychological phenomenon- one that the Washington Post deems as an instance of ‘compartmentalisation’. In the same interview, Egan, the vice president of Betterment- a digital investment advisory firm, describes it as a form of ‘mental accounting’- a phenomenon that most individuals and companies indulge in either way. He elaborates ‘It is not necessarily good or bad. It’s that we keep money in separate little mental accounts that exist only inside of our head. And those mental accounts lead us to act very differently when thinking about spending or saving.‘
To mock fellow women also seems far from the original intention of the trend, which was aimed at being an innocent means for women to joke about their not-so-rational spending decisions and laugh about it together. The trend’s creator, Samantha has also defended it as simply being ‘a fun logic‘, as per an interview with Buzzfeed. Further, she explains, ‘Girl math also isn’t gender specific — if it resonates, it’s for you!‘
The validity of Samantha’s words however has certainly been challenged with the surfacing of the adjunct ‘Boy Math’ trend. With women creators again at the helm of the trend that began on X, Boy Math, unlike Girl Math, is a lot more targeted. Almost like a tit-for-tat to the male creators, who in fact, never initiated the original trend. But they did do something else – mocking women for something they were meant to enjoy together.
The series of tweets that followed from both sides have been a lot more gender specific. And they follow the simple kindergarten logic- at least I’m better than you!
And so, what started as lighthearted fun has now become a battleground for netizens, with more misogynistic tweets such as: ‘Girl math is denying your boyfriend/husband sex because you are angry and still expecting him to remain faithful or monogamous’ or ‘Girl math is rejecting a man who still lives with his mum but dating a man who lives with his wife’ popping up.
Following suit, the Boy Math trend has also transitioned. From more humorous quips such as: ‘Boy math is knowing all the lore to football but not knowing ur kids birthday’ or ‘Boy math is how 5’10 measures 6’0’, it has now become more centred around misogyny, consent and double standards in the society: ‘Boy math is calling women gold diggers and then asking them for dowry‘ and ‘Boy math is having 12 bodies and only having consent from 5’
Of course, women have a right to voice their concerns, just as men have a right to join in on the lighthearted fun, but must everything on social media take such a bitter turn?
Coming back to the issue of girlification for a moment, the names have stuck around, even as these trends covering everything, and nearly nothing all at the same time, grow more generic with their vague analogies. They are only being kept alive by social media doing what it does best, encouraging people to pawn personal struggles for relatability points.
As for Girl Math, whatever it may be viewed as- a way of life, a dangerous illusion, or just another passing trend- its long-standing logic is here to stay. And yes, it might promote stereotypes among those willing to believe them or it might be a good way to bring consciousness to the more trivial financial decisions we regularly make on autopilot. But perhaps, Girl Math isn’t something we should dissect, because it also does something it hasn’t been credited for- it opens up a conversation most shy away from, especially women- Money.
In fact, even the popularisation of Boy Math by women is being seen as a positive development, countering the ‘women aren’t funny’ stereotype with one X user exclaiming: ‘Boy Math is claiming women aren’t funny or creative but hopping on every (…) trend we do for ourselves and then whining when you don’t get it’.
So then, maybe what we should have done all along was just to have let the original trend run its course without interruption in the form of mockery. To conclude, as a Mashable article put it best: ‘Let the girl math-ers math.’