Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Girl math: empowering or patronising?

There is nothing like the solidarity of a community of women justifying arguably unnecessary purchases which make them happy. However, there is also nothing like the way society jumps at the chance to mock women for supposedly being clueless. The TikTok phenomenon of ‘girl math’ encompasses both, but which side of the coin does this trend ultimately fall on? By girl math logic, if I spend that coin on something, isn’t that item basically free because a cash purchase means my bank account balance wouldn’t have changed? No money would have left my bank account.

Girl math is the latest idea in a long line of trends that unites a sisterhood of women across the Internet, preceded by the ever-empowering ‘hot girl walk’ and the fun takes on food when you don’t want to cook titled ‘girl dinner’. Taking our predetermined conclusions of what we’re going to spend money on, girl math amusingly adapts the laws of logic to fit the shape of our credit cards. From the argument that you ‘lose’ money anytime you don’t buy something on sale to any event you bought tickets to being considered free now because you parted with that money so long ago, girl math logic is inherently silly and flawed. But that’s the whole point, and that’s why we’re having so much fun with it.

Many men have been too quick to laugh at women girl-mathing than with them

Yet what differentiates girl math from other TikTok trends is the blurred line between some of the incredibly sound financial advice that falls under this umbrella with the goofy and clearly illogical logic. When girl-mathing things like buying expensive sheets or high-quality clothing, breaking the price down into ‘cost-per-use’ until something is ‘basically free’ is a very fiscally responsible way to make purchases in reality because it encourages investing in higher quality pieces that last. Even spending more to get free delivery makes sense because you are getting more value for your money with, let’s say £20 more worth of goods than just paying for delivery. Of course, all women recognise that this decision ultimately depends on the situation. Sometimes, spending that extra £20 makes sense, while other times it’s more reasonable to pay the delivery fee of £5. We can take some of this girl math advice seriously, but that is not to say women actually believe all of girl math logic.

Girl math is just an entertaining avenue to puzzle our way out of silly spending situations

With this blurred line between sensible advice and goofy fun, the misogynistic corner of the Internet swiftly swooped in to corrupt this community that women had formed to share their indulgent impulse purchases. They labelled women as small-minded, irrational and financially insensible, as has been done for centuries. Even calling senseless logic ‘girl math’ has misogynistic undertones because it implies that of course only a woman would think in such a way. It reinforces the idea that women are more conducive to frivolous spending while men are more calculated consumers, especially considering the historical financial role of women. Historically, women were not breadwinners earning income but the spenders (of the husband’s earned money) for household goods and themselves. While women worldwide have banded together to jokingly make themselves feel better about slightly more reckless spending, this says nothing about their actual financial awareness and capabilities. Many men have been too quick to laugh at women girl-mathing than with them.

With countless videos and comments of men deriding women for being vapid for thinking this way, the irony is not lost that this trend was ultimately born from women’s heightened self-awareness about some of their purchases being more careless. It is only because of their recognition that some of their spending is more reckless that they seek to exploit logical loopholes to feel better about these purchases. Although, at the end of the day, no woman is genuinely adopting girl math to excuse being an irrational spendthrift. Girl math is just an entertaining avenue to puzzle our way out of silly spending situations. Women have every right to buy those concert tickets, splurge on nights out, and treat themselves at the supermarket sans girl math too.

While arguably there is an underlying misogynistic aspect to girl math, this has just been another way for the women of the Internet to come together and share in a fun trend. It’s predominantly been run for women by women, apart from the classic dark corner of the Internet spoiling our fun.

Anyone can adopt girl math: it’s just a quirky way to say we’re allowed to buy nice things for ourselves and splurge on experiences. It poses a puzzle of navigating a maze of money and budgets using mental gymnastics to turn one’s £ 5,000 purchase into a profitable investment. Ultimately, we will buy whatever we need and want regardless of inherently nonsensical girl math logic, but girl math just makes that purchase a little more pleasing.


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