Who is “That Girl?”

by Adeline Ferolo 

Exploring the Relationship Between Consumer Culture and Social Media…

What is the physical embodiment of consumer culture, with sprinkles of Eurocentric beauty standards, colonialism, and outdated patriarchal expectations… all wrapped into Lulu Lemon leggings and sporting an iced matcha latte? It, or more specifically “she,” is #ThatGirl. At first glance, this aesthetically pleasing viral (and ambiguous) young woman promotes a seemingly attainable, well-rounded lifestyle. Practices of self-care including workout, meditation, and journaling comprise the trend, promoting a self-reliant, health-focused way of life. Yet, this is the trend’s main deception—the #ThatGirl aesthetic defines and therefore expects this lifestyle from the “ordinary” woman.

This implied expectation of standards is mentioned in a TikTok video by feminist @rogueweasel, explaining how, “Womanhood is treated as a project, like something to be good at.” While the #ThatGirl persona encourages self-care, it simultaneously expects said self-care routine to produce a woman who fits into the marketplace’s idealized standard. Brands and their pseudo-famous #ThatGirl influencers ensure this standard is only attainable through the purchase of over-priced wellness supplements, on-trend clothes (often from fast-fashion retailers), and fancy gym memberships, creating a self-feeding cycle. Viral videos embodying this trend ultimately define the physical expectation of #ThatGirl as having Eurocentric features, lighter skin, and smaller frames. While mainstream media has hesitantly welcomed body positivity, the small, white, and “effortless” female figure is still regarded as the ultimate ideal body type. The #ThatGirl aesthetic glorifies beauty and fitness lifestyles by promising that this “perfect,” marketable, physical image is attainable and desirable for every woman.

But this physical representation is not the image of an average woman, let alone the “ideal” woman. Jia Tolentino explains this phenomenon in her book Trick Mirror, summarizing, “These days it is more psychologically seamless than ever for an ordinary woman to spend her life walking towards the idealized mirage of her own self-image. The ideal woman has always been conceptually overworked, an inorganic thing engineered to look natural.” This trend is the product of an over-stimulated capitalist and patriarchal society, in which to be viewed as a woman you must meet the demands of popular opinion. 

With social media setting these standards and consumer culture driving them, it is impossible to achieve this lifestyle in real life. Ultimately, the perception of an ideal woman is an image that can be advertised, sold, and rebranded in an endless cycle to a world of insatiable consumers. Expediting this cycle are the billions of social media users who are constantly inundated with the newest viral trends, and consequently marketplace standards. Pre-social media, circa early 2000s, print magazines and television commercials were stuffed with A-list celebrities promoting everything from high-end retail to Pepsi. With an A-list celebrity endorsement, any consumer was promised a famous lifestyle drenched with wealth and success (with purchase of product). Now, with easy access to short-term fame, or becoming viral, the average social media user can become the next popular content creator. This creates a constant pressure to present a perfect, glamorous lifestyle on social media in an attempt to generate likes, shares, and comments. The #ThatGirl trend capitalizes on this seemingly accessible “famous” lifestyle to advertise the mental, physical, and social wellbeing of women, commoditizing their livelihood into an object to be purchased.   

About Adeline Ferolo

Stories, arguably, are the most underrated form of currency that floods the digital world, through highlighted Instagram posts and viral YouTube videos. As a rising senior at Richwoods High School, Adeline Ferolo aims to express herself and the issues closest to her authentically through engaging, storytelling, and other mediums. She is a competitively academic student. Her interests range across many creative outlets—as an active writer for the Richwoods Shield, the monthly school newspaper, and as a contributor to the youth-led blog EnviroWrite, which explores rising environmental concerns. Recently she has discovered her passion for the medium of film after attending the National High School Institute summer program at Northwestern University, where she had previously studied creative-intensive subjects ranging from sustainable architecture to graphic design. Within the past year, she has focused her efforts on exploring the visual medium in both her academic and personal life, opting to create experimental videos for class projects and continuing to explore different aspects of the visual language.