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The Rise Of #girldinner

A hand holding a phone, taking a picture of food

Staff Writer Tamara Kormornick explores the concept of #girldinner – is TikTok’s latest trend just disordered eating rebranded for Gen Z?

Move over #girlboss and #lazygirljob and enter #girldinner, the latest TikTok trend that has turned fridge-raiding into an art form. 

Earlier this year, TikToker Olivia Maher posted a video of a dinner plate featuring bread, cheese, butter, cornichons and grapes with the description, “I call this girl dinner, or medieval peasant”. Since the post on 11 March, unlikely snack combinations have become venerated online via the #girldinner hashtag which has had 1.3 billion views on TikTok so far.

The term ‘girl dinner’ has since crept into the common lexicon and has come to glamourise low-effort, snack-y meals with ironic decorum. Before the viral hashtag, a close friend, who is partial to a Marks and Spencer’s deli raid, referred to this type of meal as ‘picky bits’. 

As a young millennial, I initially struggled to understand the unique selling point of ‘girl dinner’. My Gen Z flatmate and fellow classics student, Martine, 22, is a passionate advocate. They assure me that ‘girl dinner’ is an aesthetic revolution. 

“You’re not just eating leftovers or random bits you found in your fridge, you’re eating “girl dinner”, which is picturesque”. 

On the surface, #girldinner seems like a light-hearted trend. Pile your plate up with whatever takes your fancy, curate an appetising arrangement, snap and upload. As with any social media trend, sharing pictures and videos inevitably leads to comparison. Add to this the troubling legacy of body issues and disordered eating discourse online. Martine, to some extent, shares my concern that #girldinner can be misused as a way for young women to not eat enough. 

“There is a part of that trend which is worrying — people eating tiny meals and calling it a ‘girl dinner’. ‘Girl dinner’ is not just eating a bag of crisps and drinking a diet coke or having some fruit.”

There is no #girldinner without snack foods, and snack culture comes with its own baggage. In her best-selling book, “The Joy of Snacks”, Laura Goodman writes: “for a long time, we were encouraged to balance our meals carefully in order to keep hunger at bay until the next mealtime; the goal was to eliminate our unseemly inclination to snack”. For young adults like Martine who grew up in the shadow of noughties diet culture, #girldinner takes the pressure off dinner plate panic when eating solo.

“There is pressure as a student or young professional to make dinner every night. Especially if you’re single, it can be hard to cook for yourself. We’ve all been there where we’ve eaten bits in the fridge and felt sad about it. Now I can go on TikTok and it’s not a sad little meal I’m having in my student accommodation — it’s actually a thing that other people also do”.

The trend undoubtedly raises questions. Does #girldinner give women the freedom to eat, for lack of a more appropriate term, whatever the hell they like? Or is #girldinner the latest vehicle for food deprivation for Gen Z? Millennials had Special K, SlimFast and Diet Chef as means of convenient meal options. How healthy is it to normalise picky bits? For Martine, calling an evening meal a ‘girl dinner’ acknowledges and pushes back against diet culture.

“I think the term ‘girl dinner’ is being reclaimed. We have been told that women aren’t really supposed to eat, and there’s a stigma against women eating and being nourished. Girls eat too and they eat what they want to eat”.

With the rise of body positivity and intuitive eating movements, the #girldinner trend encourages young women to make their own food rules and removes the shame of snacking. As Laura Goodman writes in “The Joy of Snacks”, ‘if you want to snack well, the first step is admitting it” – ‘girl dinner’ is a form of self-care. 

“I think it relates to being kind to your body and nourishing yourself and not feeling shame for eating food and eating whatever you want.”

Strip the trend back and we are still obsessing over what women are eating for dinner. Considering the prevalence of ‘what I eat in a day’ content on social media, the legacy of diet culture cannot be brushed under a cute, hand-tufted Etsy rug, even if it looks like the charcuterie board of manic dreams. 

Aesthetic snack photography aside, #girldinner gives us hope for a time when a girl dinner is just a girl, eating dinner.

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