The “Girls’ Girl”: She believes in uplifting other women, has a strong group of girlfriends, and always abides by the girl code. She’s also aware of oppressive systems like the patriarchy and often references feminist thinkers like Gloria Steinem, Bell Hooks, and more modern role models like AOC and Drew Afualo. The mainstream media’s definition of a “girls’ girl” has changed over time, but this modern understanding is a clear reaction to our current feminism in crisis. The modern girls’ girl can help, over time, to flatten hierarchical systems that prioritize order and control over happiness and connectedness.
The “Girls’ Girl”: She believes in uplifting other women, has a strong group of girlfriends and always abides by the girl code. The opposite of catty and quarrelsome with her girlies, she truly puts them first, and sides with women over men by default. She’s also aware of oppressive systems like the patriarchy, and often references feminist thinkers like Gloria Steinem, Bell Hooks, and more modern role models like AOC and Drew Afualo. Her effusive displays of support for women has created a female version of the “bromance”...a “womance”, if you will. The mainstream media’s definition of a “girls’ girl” has changed over time, but this modern understanding is a clear reaction to our current feminism in crisis. The modern girls’ girl can help, over time, to flatten hierarchical systems that prioritize order and control over happiness and connectedness.
Here’s our take on how the girl’s girl has evolved over time, and how she’s helping keep feminism alive at a time when we need it most.
In the past, the term “Girl’s Girl” played pretty strictly into gender binaries. She was often depicted as a “girly girl” – a hyper feminine caricature of a woman – who, even if she was a staunch supporter of her fellow ladies, did so decked in pink or wearing heels.
“Because I promised her I’d keep it a secret…and I can’t break the bonds of sisterhood.” - Legally Blonde
This outdated definition of the girl’s girl often prioritized a “look” and social conformity over individual identity and community solidarity. Her role was vital – as it was rare to see women not in competition with one another – whether professionally or in love – but she still felt reductive.
In the mid-2010s, we saw a positive shift with more well-rounded “girl’s girl” characters like Leslie Knope and the popularization of phrases like “Hoes over bros”. But there was still an influx of “Guy’s Girl” characters: like the “Pick Me” girl, the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” or the “Cool Girl.” For years, it was cool to be “one of the guys,” or “not like other girls” – identities that were crafted to appear more inclusive, but were ultimately crafted for men and created unnecessary competition amongst women. The 2010s also brought us “The Girlboss” – a hollow and self-serving, yet ultra-marketable type of feminist – whose identity became its own concept – to be plastered on t-shirts and tote bags worldwide. She seemed like she was “for the girls” because of her dedication to feminism and “shattering the glass ceiling”, but really, she prioritized personal growth over collective progress.
The modern Girl’s Girl feels like an explicit reaction to all of these previous, lackluster personality types – seeking to leave them behind for good. Now in 2023, you know someone’s a Girl’s Girl not because they wear a ton of pink or shout “slay queen” at every opportunity – but because they’re aware of oppressive systems and understand that, in order to work towards a more liberated world for everybody, we need to prioritize our most marginalized first. The Girl’s Girl knows we need to work together and rely on one another for the greater, collective good.
Mikki Kendall: “If we want all women to do better, if we want a movement for all women, we need to meet the needs of every woman as best as we can.” - The Daily Show
An emphasis on female friendships is central to the modern Girl’s Girl. For so long,we’ve been taught to prioritize hetero normative values and place our romantic relationships above our friendships. We’ve been taught to find a husband first, by any means necessary – so prioritizing our female friendships feels like a revolutionary act. Thankfully, we’re seeing more and more positive depictions of female friendships on screen – that show us how truly important those relationships are. Like in Plan B, when Sunny’s best friend Lupe travels to the ends of the Earth with her to get emergency contraception.
We’re living in a time where situations like these are our reality. Women’s rights are under attack, so our girlfriends – or really any network of supportive women – could be integral to getting us the safe abortion access we need. In fact, women all over the U.S. are opening their homes to strangers – women who are unable to get abortions in their own states. Media depictions of situations in which we needed a Girl’s Girl and didn’t have one – are just as crucial. In Fleabag, for example, we see how vying for a man’s attention has fateful consequences to the main character’s most sacred female friendship. And in The White Lotus, we see how even though Olivia proclaims to be something of a Girl’s Girl, she still leverages her whiteness and privilege to hold power over her friend Paula, a woman of color
“You think you’re like this rebel but in the end this is your tribe, your family, the people here.” – White Lotus
These depictions serve as warnings for how – if unfocused – the Girl’s Girl mindset can slip into old exploitative systems rather than being the liberatory figure we need. And powerful people – women included – are still attempting to take us backwards under the guise of caring for other women. Take YouTuber Abigail Shapiro, conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro’s sister, who’s behind the channel Classically Abby.
Abigail Shapiro: “Conservative women are the backbone of American society we prioritize marriage and children support our husbands” - Classically Abby
In her videos, she claims to teach how to be a quote unquote “good” woman – often through warnings about where not to wear leggings, instructions on how to behave on a date, and narrow views of how to be the perfect wife. Thankfully, many videos that subscribe to the more modern definition of a Girl’s Girl have pushed back.
Within the Girl’s Girl lore, a question consistently comes up: To be a “girl’s girl,” do you have to be inherently “anti-guy”? The claim that feminists hate men is nothing new. But it is still a fundamental misunderstanding of feminism, which is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” The modern Girl’s Girl knows that you don’t need to hate men to support women. However, a critical look at any of our modern systems show us that men, hetero normativity, and white hegemonic masculinity is still always the default, which is exactly what the Girl’s Girl is pushing up against.
Drew Afualo – TikTok’s ultimate Girl’s Girl and self-proclaimed ‘crusader of women’ – does engage in quote unquote “trashing men”– but she only ever does so when a man trashes another woman, and publishes it online. What Drew recognizes is that there’s a need for more Girl’s Girls fighting against misogyny online – because this kind of messaging has real world consequences. Furthermore, the focus that the modern Girl’s Girl has on female friendships doesn’t mean that she’s not allowed to have any male friends. But at the same time, the Girl’s Girl is here to help us re-evaluate how societal forces like the patriarchy may be unconsciously acting within us to prioritize men.
Anna Akana: “I admit it; I used to be a total guy’s girl. I thought, ‘I just get along better with boys. But in reality, I was just terribly intimidated by, and afraid of, women” - Anna Akana
What we hopefully know now is that our friendships with all sexes are important, but female to female friendships offer a specific, unique type of support because they have similar lived experiences. In 2023, you’re not a “Girl’s Girl” because – like this 2014 Huff Post listicle says – you almost always “dress for women and not for men” or because “brunch is your preferred method of catching up.” These checklist items espouse ideals which still carry so much oppression, specifically through slut-shaming and classism. Rather, today, you’re a “Girl’s Girl” because you support people, especially those most marginalized right now, in their individual expression and right to life, freedom, and joy.
And being a girl’s girl or guy’s girl don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Megan Gray makes fun of this in her article for Reductress: “I’ve always thought of myself as a Girly Girl with Tomboy Qualities,” explains Dr. Amy Pritchard. “As I near 40, I’m suddenly realizing that maybe I’m just a nice lady. This whole process has been incredibly eye-opening.”
Still, due to long-standing oppressive systems, the term can be useful at helping us address issues right now, such as gender-based violence, lack of abortion access, and sexual assault Under our current systems, all people have been trained to place each other in a hierarchy. While the Girl’s Girl lifts her sisters up, we’d like to imagine a future where you don’t have to be a type of person or gender to support liberation and happiness for all.