What Girl Dinner Reveals About Hustle Culture
Are we romanticizing being burnt out?
If you’ve scrolled through TikTok in the past few weeks, chances are you’ve come across the “girl dinner” audio.
The ridiculously catchy sound captures the latest food trend, referencing the all too familiar hodge podge meals we put together at the end of a long day. Whether it be a glass (or bottle) of wine and an elevated form of lunchables or an entire rotisserie chicken, women are celebrating their universally shared, weird eating habits. While wholesome on the surface, social media’s newest fascination reveals something more insidious.
Within the collective cry for low maintenance meals is the overarching revelation that women are being asked to do too much. According to TikTok, girl dinners tend to only appear on the menu in the absence of a male partner. Commentators proudly share that they happily eat grapes, cheese and crackers while their boyfriends or husbands are away. Other TikTokers reveal their plans to gradually introduce incohesive meals to their male partners rather than just asking them to cook, illustrating the deeply ingrained pressure women still face to be homemakers, even in 2023. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying making meals for your partner. Food is a valid love language. However, the mere fact that the majority of girl dinner advocates are only able to relieve themselves of the burden of cooking in the absence of their boyfriends demonstrates the overwhelming expectation that women work a double shift, reinforcing how domestic labor is taken for granted, as well as the antiquated notion that our natural place is in the kitchen.
The name “girl dinner” in it of itself reveals this internalized misogyny and infantilization. We’re grown adults. You can see the fun side of it, but it normalizes over-extension and a widespread lack of time and energy to put together a proper meal.”
In this economy, it’s often necessary for both members of a two-family household to work outside of the home in order to provide a liveable income. Cooking elaborate meals after an eight-hour day, five-days a week is not sustainable for anyone. Yet, our widespread obsession with girl dinner and how seen we feel by other women’s admission of their odd food choices clearly exposes the obligation we still feel to “do it all,” thanks to years of patriarchal conditioning.
Your Dietician BFF Clara Nosek argues that girl dinners point to our collective disordered eating habits, as well as the overlap between race and wellness as the new viral sensation initially struck her as “some white girl s–t.” “The plates I saw were super aesthetic and it’s essentially the white girl-ification of a mezze plate because they have been doing this in the Mediterranean for centuries. I’m just waiting for it to devolve into a glamorization of not eating enough.” The art of putting together a meal of leftovers also nods to the rampant effects of late-stage capitalism.
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She continues, “It is a playful spin on recession-core and certainly provides levity. At worst, it’s undercover almond mom. That being said, there are a lot of things that go into a person’s food choices and as a dietician on the internet, I try to move away from making commentary on the specifics of what someone’s doing because there is a hierarchy of ‘health-ism’ and at a base level, just eating something is enough.” At its core, girl dinner takes the pressure off of having to cook and eat three perfectly balanced meals — a near impossible feat for those of us with a busy schedule. Eating something is obviously better than eating nothing. Unfortunately, the girl dinner TikTok filter will quickly show you that most of these “meals” don’t provide proper nutrition, emphasizing the ways in which the current cost of living and 40-hour workweek is robbing us of our quality of life.
@thatdarnchat Why do YOU think there’s such a gap in labor after nuptuals? #girldinner ♬ original sound – Laura Danger
“There’s this idea that you’re only as good as your productivity level,” Nosek adds. “I identify as a Filipina women who’s a mom and is in a heternormative relationship. All of these identities inform what my standard expectations are and what it means to be a person who is productive. There are very deep-set gender roles within Filipino culture on top of patriarchal expectations that are undoubtedly at play. The name “girl dinner” in it of itself reveals this internalized misogyny and infantilization. We’re grown adults. You can see the fun side of it, but it normalizes over-extension and a widespread lack of time and energy to put together a proper meal.”
While there’s a sense of relief in our now not-so secret love of low-effort grazing, girl dinner ultimately romanticizes patriarchy and capitalism.