California — Paying in cash isn’t really spending money, and free shipping makes anything worth the price. Most people understand these spending excuses, but “girl math” takes it to another level.
Girl math is an overarching name for rules, shortcuts and justifications for financial decisions many people make — especially young women and girls. It’s a silly internet trend, but it also sheds light on how consumerism targets femininity.
Many of the examples I’ve seen of girl math on TikTok involve clothes and beauty items, because the content creators’ justification is that items meant to improve our appearance are always a valuable investment.
@caitlinwiig the girl math was working overtime on @Studio Blue Illustration ♬ original sound - Caitlin Wiig
The fashion and beauty industries perpetuate vicious trend cycles and encourage overconsumption in all aspects: We need new clothes, makeup and accessories each month to stay in season. Splurging on designer items is justified by the fact that we’ll use them many times over the years. But in reality, trend cycles move fast, and those purchases will probably gather dust after a couple of uses. Girl math justifies this overconsumption and relies on the assumption that we’re constantly spending money.
With the logic of girl math, consuming is made out to be innate to human behavior. We lose money if we don’t buy something on sale. Returning an item makes a profit. Leaving one store empty-handed warrants binge-shopping at the next. And in our current capitalistic culture, these concepts ring true. It feels better to ignore and justify our spending and financial mistakes than to stop engaging with our culture of overconsumption.
Girl math is more than just a fleeting buzzword. It points out how the way we present ourselves is intrinsically tied to money, and is a symptom of a larger issue within our culture.
Audrey La Jeunesse (she/her) is a high school senior from the Bay Area.
Edited by shaylyn martos.