Culture

What’s With The Obsession With Turning Cute, Feminine Viral Trends Ugly And Vile?

By Andrea Mew··  11 min read
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@mauwrob

Stained tracksuits, Netflix binge-seshes paired with oily snacks, and becoming the bad guy. If your TikTok trend isn’t debasing, is it even cool anymore?

Last year, TikTok user Mia (@exactlyliketheothergirls) started a global phenomenon after she began documenting her daily walk to maintain her mental health during pandemic lockdowns. 

She called it the “Hot Girl Walk,” showing off how she slimmed down her physique by walking four miles outdoors daily. What made her walk different? Her mantras during the walk were thinking of things she was grateful for, giving herself affirmations of how hot she was, and thinking about her goals. All of this was to build back up her confidence and look better too.

But of course, there’s a subsection of the internet that sees healthy trends and positive things that improve a person’s life and thinks, “Well, I don’t think I can achieve that level of perfection, and I don’t want to put in the effort, so I’m going to reject it entirely.”

Say Hello to Your New Goal: Being a Self-Proclaimed Fugly Hag

So in comes the “Fugly Hag Stroll,” the gritty antidote to the Hot Girl Walk with over 85.6M views on TikTok, spearheaded by user Kate Glavan. She was skeptical of the hordes of women getting dolled up in athleisure and documenting their 4-mile walks, even going so far as to claim that it seemed “like it’s only for white girls wearing All Yoga sets.” Maybe I read TikTok user Mia’s caption wrong, but her three rules didn’t include anything about the skin color of the hot girl nor her attire.

Kate, who fell into TikTok stardom half a year after getting her start on the app, makes content that is “anti-aesthetic” and aimed at “demystifying wellness.” She doesn’t outright claim that you shouldn’t go on a walk, but criticizes what she sees as a trend turning into a showcase of personal wealth, consumer habits, and ego. So maybe this trend doesn’t do anything for a famously no-frills woman like Kate, but it serves a purpose for women who might struggle with their self-confidence and actually aspire to feel and look like their most beautiful selves

To those ladies, I earnestly urge you to take your Hot Girl Walk. Exercise isn’t a cure-all for your problems, but it can reduce anxiety and depression, boost your fertility, help you manage PMS symptoms and menstrual disorders, increase your sex drive, improve your sleep, relieve certain chronic pain you might suffer from, and even clear up your complexion, among other amazing benefits.

So please, relish in the fresh air, wear your favorite matching set if you’re into that kind of thing (no shame, I am too!), and run a brush through your hair. Perhaps you don’t need to document it on social media – I’ll admit that Kate is right about there being too much of a priority on vanity – but Mia had her heart in the right place with sharing what worked so well for her in her glow-up.

I won’t mince words – women who react to feminine trends and claim they’re all for the “male gaze” are killjoys and needlessly negative. They think that they’re being edgy by going against the grain, but all they’re doing is banking on crude, “relatable” humor and airing out their dirty laundry online. No, really, they’re posting videos proudly strolling in stained, ratty old clothing. 

Check Out of Womanhood and De-Feminize Entirely

Culture editor from The Federalist Emily Jashinsky explained this phenomenon really well in her piece about Billie Eilish’s effect on women’s fashion, writing that “androgyny is a rational defense mechanism for a risk-averse generation. Instead of subjecting yourself to the digitally heightened pain of teenage womanhood, check out of it. Take away the other girls’ power to judge your body by covering it. De-feminize your look.”

Particularly after women’s empowerment, girls feel less and less like they need to impress men…and apparently even one another anymore! Now, it’s trendy to want to look ugly, repel men, and of course boast on social media that you don’t care about your appearance, health, or other people's perceptions.

It’s trendy to want to look ugly, repel men, and boast on social media that you don’t care about other people's perceptions.

It’s entirely fair to not want to let a good application of makeup products go to waste (because, let’s be real, cosmetics aren’t getting any cheaper in this economy) or to wear clothes that will need dry-cleaning on the days when you might not be going anywhere. No one should feel the need to dress to the nines every single day, but we’d all be lying to ourselves if we pretended like our physical appearance wasn’t at least a bit of a reflection of how we’re feeling inside. 

Striving for daily perfection is an unattainable, impossible standard to hold yourself up to which would naturally lead you to feel less confident about your body. Where these women are going wrong, however, is letting their defeat swing the pendulum all the way to the opposite end, embracing depravity out of not wanting to feel boxed in by any standards whatsoever.

Stop Catering to an Extreme

The ugly mentality that guides these trends is the idea that if a woman embraces any aspect of beauty, then she’s catering to the male gaze. Therefore, she should weaponize the fact that she’s a woman and try her hardest to be unattractive to men. If that includes breaking social norms, then even better. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of feminist women who are objectively beautiful. Plenty of Hollywood celebrities and online influencers consider themselves feminists and are the spitting image of societal beauty. However, the average feminist warrior who boasts about just how well they can repel men probably excels at this job for a reason. Why? Well, it’s a vicious cycle. They purposefully seek out being the antithesis of beauty, demand that the world should love them despite claiming that they don’t get any self-worth from other people’s opinions of them, and then cry victimhood when people agree with them that they’re acting ugly.

Haven’t We Already Been Through This with Goblin Mode?

This isn’t the only recent example of angry internet dwellers turning cute viral trends vile. Earlier this year, I detailed the rise of “goblin mode,” where people purposefully reject basic hygiene, proper nutrition, and quality social interaction in some alternate reality where that’s considered self-care.

Goblin mode fired shots at the cuter trend of “That Girl,” a.k.a. the young woman on TikTok, Instagram, or wherever she showcases her beautiful life, who appears to have everything put together. Perfectly buttoned up and totally tidy, “That Girl” was just too much of an unattainable standard and therefore was deemed problematic by social justice warrior types. 

Mainstream publications went so far as to say that the widespread acceptance of goblin mode is actually a good thing so that more women could “feel happy and free from judgment to enjoy our creatures-comforts without feeling pathetic or lazy.” 

Binging junk food to eat your feelings out is not a flex and seems more like a cry for help. 

There’s some truth to that, of course! We shouldn’t feel like failures about having a lazier day, but there’s always a segment of the population that will take trends like this to an extreme and use something like going goblin mode to excuse genuinely grotesque, slothful, and decidedly anti-feminine behaviors.

When you’ve got your health and the whole world in front of you, spending an entire day in bed binge-watching shows on mute while brainlessly scrolling on social media, or binging junk food to eat your feelings out is not a flex and seems more like a cry for help. 

No, you don’t need to be perfectly presentable all of the time and you shouldn’t force yourself to eat “health food trends” that you don’t actually enjoy, but even the girls with the most Instagrammable lives embrace sweatpants, makeup-free days, messy buns, and delicious treats every once in a while. Just because you might feel overwhelmed by the idea of being a living billboard for self-betterment it doesn’t mean that you should embrace slob-like behaviors.

But Wait, There’s More! Your Next Trend Is a Descent into Devilry

So there’s slovenly behavior and then there’s just outright rude behavior. The next viral wave on TikTok is women growing into their “villain era,” a.k.a. rejecting being polite and kind, and shifting their vibe from “lean, green, and motivated, to chaotic, unhinged, and wildly fun.”

Bustle writer Courtney Young praised the idea of the “villain era” for its utter rejection of “‘that girl’ propaganda” and allowing women to reclaim their own time and cease being people-pleasers. I’m sure “villain era” is fine and dandy for single women with their heads in the clouds imagining that they live in a young adult Netflix drama and are uninterested in having real relationships. 

For the rest of us normal folks, setting impractical boundaries and outright rejecting the idea that you should please anyone is unrealistic. Try telling someone who is the primary caretaker for elderly family members that they need to transition into their villain era, or first responders and healthcare workers who dedicate their entire careers to taking care of others before themselves, or the farm laborers and food service workers who make the meal that your UberEats driver delivers to your door. 

Villain era feels like teenage angst that laid dormant for a few years and is now finally creeping back up thanks to widespread social media use. What’s particularly frustrating about this vile trend is that it misinterprets the totally normal standard of having healthy boundaries and goes way too far, not only telling young women that looking out for themselves is villainous, but that being villainous is actually cool.

Why Are We Romanticizing Wickedness? 

You know a trend is misleading when writers have to do full-fledged CYA articles, like Hypebae writer Gigi Fong in her piece “How to Date During Your Villain Era,” to make sure readers don’t enter “the dark side” of their villain era. Maybe we just shouldn’t be promoting catty, malevolent behavior as a guise for setting boundaries and being yourself. If being vindictive is you showing off your most “authentic” self, then by all means enjoy a life in solitude because bitter behavior is generally a turn-off. 

So what about the population of well-meaning women who just want to hop on to a new trend and aren’t actually being catty? Another TikTok user (@genovianprincess) admitted that when she told her therapist about how 2022 is her villain era, her therapist asked if it was actually a “villain era” or if it was just her “ready to be confident,” advocate for herself, and prioritize her own “self-care and happiness.”

Goblin mode is about taking self-care to a paradoxical extreme; villain era is about taking self-love to a toxic extreme.

Alas, TikTok has this way of turning absolutely everything – mundane or extreme – into a trend for people to craft entire identities around. Forgive me if this is controversial, but news flash, it’s not a new identity to look out for yourself and not let people step all over you. 

Just like how goblin mode is about taking self-care to a paradoxical extreme, villain era is about taking self-love to a toxic extreme. Another TikTok user (@hotpinksagittarius) hashtagged her villain era video with #selflove and #manifest, writing about “realizing all men lie so now I’m having fun being single enjoying dressing up, dinners, gifts and compliments while staying detached and only loving and looking out for myself.”

You’re certainly in the clear to experience “radical self-love” if you’re rejecting real relationships. As we know, being a spouse and parent is a humbling lesson in self-sacrificial love. So as these social media trends encourage younger generations to behave narcissistically, it's no wonder that motherhood and marriage are being pushed aside. As we’ve expressed before, living in an increasingly narcissistic world is deeply unfulfilling and will only provide you with “cheap and short-lived imitations of the happiness and fulfillment that comes from thinking of and loving others.”

Closing Thoughts

The wellness industry might often have its priorities out of whack, try to sell you products, treatments, or methods that don’t really produce results, or even perpetuate standards that are difficult for women with busy lives to live up to. With that in mind though, I liken the obsession with turning cute viral trends vile to the saying “don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.” This means that in your effort to get rid of something bad you end up eliminating something good too.

You might not like that, at this moment, you don’t live up to any number of ridiculously high standards, but to completely reject standards out of your pent-up internal frustration and rail on femininity is destructive. In this sense, cute feminine viral trends are your baby and impossibly high standards are swimming in your bathwater. Don’t discard a good thing and make an otherwise avoidable error. I promise you, you’re so much better than a “fugly hag,” a goblin, or a villain.

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