What “Girl Dinner” Actually Says About Our Financial Struggles
Many of us who hang out on the internet have heard the siren song of “Girl Dinner” over and over again.
If you’re new to this trend, “Girl Dinner,” the viral TikTok phenomenon (1.9 billion views and counting) is where women and other female-identifying folks share spreads of randomly assorted food items that constitute their dinner. These “Girl Dinners” vary wildly. Popular options include choose-your-own-adventure snack-y platters, artfully plated comfort food, pickles, and even sleep and hot celebrities for the tongue-in-cheek girlies out there.
The takes have ranged from hot to tepid back to boiling: There’s the clear concern of “Girl Dinner” being a way one displays disordered eating habits, which always perks my ears up as someone who has her own history of disordered eating. Then there’s the issue of gendering any kind of meal (where are all the “boy dinner” think pieces, anyways? I’m waiting!). It’s tempting (and even very appetizing) to pathologize literally everything about the tricky experience of being a woman who is eating and drinking or just simply breathing (see: tomato girl summer, WaterTok, and hot girl walks).
Now more than ever, women live alone more often than not, run their own errands, and spend three times as many hours washing floors, folding laundry, and, yes, prepping meals than men. Despite the historic (and very much recent!) leaps women have made, we’re exhausted, overworked, underpaid, and struggling to “just get it together” to call our mothers, let alone create a “proper” meal — and that’s before you even add in any form of child-rearing.
“Girl Dinner” is certainly symptomatic of how we grapple with our brave, weird, yet expansive new world, one in which we often foot all the bills. As reported in Fortune, inflation, once it hits the grocery store, disproportionately affects women. Emily Janoch, the senior director of the CARE program, which fights poverty and food insecurity among women, says that, while men are more likely to report eating less preferred meals, women report that they are opting to skip meals as a result of inflation. Even Credit Karma is emailing me tips on how to avoid falling face first into another “Girl Dinner” for the sake of my wallet. (The advice included mind-bogglingly overplayed tips like “buying in bulk” and “meal-planning.”)
Considering more Americans than ever are putting their groceries on buy-now-pay-later plans, the “solution” of consuming more to make traditional meals — aka “boy dinners” — completely misses out on how women make the most out of lack of time, energy, and/or money.
“Girl Dinner” is so many things other than just a meal: a break from the work of the kitchen, a way to use up what we have or eat what we really want (rather than what we feel we should). It allows us to move on with our evenings, reprioritizing our time as we see fit; on to that movie date, to that pottery class we’ve really been looking forward to, or just time to catch your breath after a long day.
It’s also a delightful rejection of our aspirational food culture — where elaborate multi-course dinners, full fridges of farmers market bounties, and culinary vacations scatter our social media feeds. Sure, we don’t see the credit card bills racked up from these trips or meals (only the Instagrammed cocktails), but “Girl Dinner” is the ultimate reprieve, a reality check, and a way we conjure up slumber-party vibes on the internet, where we’re less scared to share what we really are dealing with and how we might be going without.
“Deep down, girls just want to get together … eat their favorite snacks, and not think about their days,” says Emma Leventer, a food photographer and producer for Buzzfeed Tasty.
I couldn’t agree more. “Girl Dinner,” is a refreshing break from “wellness culture” dictating all the pre/probiotics, collagen, and so-called superfoods one “should” be eating for our skin/brain/gut health. What “Girl Dinner” means is that wants coming first and minding our budget can be mutually inclusive.
Redefining and celebrating what we have can be its own kind of plenty. And like many TikTok commenters have wisely said of the trend, “Girl Dinner” is a feast, not a crumb.