A new TikTok trend known as “girl dinner” has people divided over whether it perpetuates diet culture or is simply a creative idea for a busy weeknight. We’ll be unpacking what it entails and why we’re not too keen to jump aboard the bandwagon just yet – but it's not the array of cheese platters that have us concerned.
In the vast realm of social media, trends come and go like fleeting seasons – but every now and then, one catches our attention that's not just about aesthetics, but about health too. Enter the "girl dinner" trend – a spread of charcuterie boards and snack plates that's taken TikTok by storm.
“I call this girl dinner or medieval peasant,” TikToker Livie Maher said.
A scroll through your feed might unveil an array of colourful fruits, artisanal cheeses, crusty bread, and a medley of nibbles, all artfully arranged. But behind this seemingly harmless trend lies a divisive debate – is it a celebration of light, balanced meals, or does it inadvertently perpetuate diet culture and unrealistic standards? Well, it’s complicated. Let’s dive in.
In the era of constant connectivity, where culinary experiences are often curated for social media, it's no surprise that the "girl dinner" trend has found its foothold on TikTok. This trend, popularised by user Olivia Maher's video in May, showcases her concept of a snack plate for dinner. The idea is putting together nibbles like cheese, grapes, olives, pickles, nuts and bread – and anything in between – to create a meal light and aesthetically pleasing. The hashtag #girldinner now boasts a staggering 550 million views on TikTok, sparking conversations from those who love the trend and those who don’t. Now as much as we love a good charcuterie board here at IQS, there’s a little more than meets the eye when it comes to this trend – or rather, what meets the plate. The "girl dinner" trend has ignited discussions about its potential implications. Is it promoting a balanced approach to eating, or does it inadvertently perpetuate the notion that women should opt for smaller, daintier meals? The term itself, "girl dinner," raises eyebrows, hinting at age-old stereotypes that link femininity with eating lightly – but more on the meaning behind the words later. Does this trend encourage mindful, light eating, or is it another manifestation of diet culture, promoting unrealistic beauty standards and encouraging restriction?
The heart of the debate lies in how we perceive and approach food. Is "girl dinner" necessarily a perpetuation of diet culture? After all, a carefully curated assortment of cheese, bread, fruit and vegetables does hold the promise of a balanced and somewhat novel meal, though not something we typically associate with dinner. Food, after all, is more than just sustenance – it's culture, pleasure, and an avenue for self-care. If the "girl dinner" trend encourages mindful enjoyment, celebrates diversity on the plate, and allows individuals to savour flavours without being confined to stereotypes, it could indeed be a positive addition to social media. But can we divorce this trend from the cultural baggage that suggests women should eat less or equates daintiness with femininity? To find that out, we’ll need to unpack the context around the language and gendered expectations.
What’s in a Name?
We’re going to have to disagree with Juliet here! The language we use is fully loaded and teeming with implications – think about other words with girl placed in front of them, like "girl throw", "girl run", "girl push-ups” – these are all implied to be "less than" in some way. Less impressive, less substantial, less worthy. But anyone who saw the women's World Cup last week knows this is far from reality – yet the word girl is still associated with weakness. Enter the term "girl dinner", a phrase that appears harmless but is laden with implications. By using the word "girl," the trend inadvertently – well, we hope it’s inadvertent! – underscores the connection between women and eating less - now this might not be the intention at all, after all, some of these boards do look like rounded meals with your cheese, bread, veggies, fruit and healthy-fat rich dips. But, nonetheless, it draws a linguistic link to the concept of a dainty, small, and light meal – and it certainly explains much of the contention that's been set ablaze on social media. The term alone opens the door to questions: would we refer to a similarly composed meal for men as a "boy dinner"? The choice of words is powerful, signalling not just a culinary trend but also a commentary on societal norms and expectations around gender and consumption.
Critiquing the "girl dinner" trend isn't about dismissing its appeal or the culinary creativity it encourages, it's about unpacking the nuances that this trend inadvertently brings to light. It's about questioning the messages we're sending – intentionally or not – about societal expectations around women's relationship with food. But it's not all bad! By engaging in open conversations around these trends, we can challenge these stereotypes and broaden our understanding of nutrition, mental health and body image. In the era of conscious conversations and the dismantling of long-held stereotypes, the "girl dinner" trend offers us a glimpse into the complex interplay between food, gender, and identity, offering a reminder that our language choices hold meaning, reflecting societal narratives that deserve reflection and revision. That doesn't mean we can't change the narrative! Instead of a dainty and elegant assortment of snacks, a "girl dinner" could instead refer to a hearty, satisfying meal. As we celebrate culinary creativity, let's also celebrate the empowerment that comes from questioning and redefining norms, paving the way for a world where nutrition is a space for health rather than diet culture.
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