The trend might unveil more about women inequalities than we think
Forget the independent girlboss. Now, working outside the home is out of style. Make room for the “stay-at-home girlfriend”: she cleans, she bakes, she takes care of herself, but most importantly, she’s young, skinny and white.
It started out innocently when influencer Kendel Kay posted a “day in my life” video on TikTok, highlighting what she does as a “stay-at-home girlfriend.” The trend quickly grew and, just like any other viral TikTok trend, within 24 hours it had flooded everyone’s For You page.
It is frustrating to see comments claiming that this is “going back in time,” because ultimately, telling a woman what to do is going back in time. However, I also can’t help but see a problem with the trend.
First, let’s be real: the concept of a woman staying at home is nothing new. However, the stay-at-home girlfriend is exactly that: a girlfriend, not a mom.
Now, let’s remember what a time it was in the 2010s for stay-at-home moms. In a time where the working mom and small business owner was thriving, saying you were just staying home to look after your kids was not the most “girlboss feminist” thing to do. (However, we should be clear here that taking care of a house and kids is a full-time job in itself, but was just never recognized as so).
Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder if the stay-at-home girlfriend is making a mockery of stay-at-home moms. Regardless, it’s safe to say that stay-at-home moms did not get the same amount of compassion from the internet back when staying at home was not it.
Although the stay-at-home girlfriend does get backlash — like some saying she is “lazy,” or “taking advantage of her boyfriend’s income” — she is not exactly being criticized for the bigger societal phenomenon that she represents.
As mentioned above, the stay-at-home girlfriend is young, childless, attractive, skinny, white, and practices self-care. Her level of education remains a secret and she is ultimately valued for the amount of household or self-care tasks she can accomplish in a day.
With the recent spike in misogynistic, alpha-male content à la Andrew Tate on social media lately, I can’t help but think that the characteristics associated with the stay-at-home girlfriend are similar to what these incels describe as the “high value” woman.
There is nothing wrong with being childless, attractive, having a boyfriend and wanting to stay at home, but the trend is just making racist and classist inequalities between women resurface. There is a long history of white, upper-to-middle-class women romanticizing the ability to opt out of labour.
Indeed, after slavery was abolished in the US, many upper-class families would employ Black workers to take care of their homes and families, on top of having to take care of their own. Racist policies in the US like the Mothers’ Pensions and Social Security Act of 1935 helped further depict the image of the Black woman as worker instead of mother. This allowed white low-income single mothers to stay home and care for their children, while Black women were excluded from welfare assistance programs up until the 1960s.
While the trend might seem innocent at first, it actually perfectly demonstrates how the systems of power we are still fighting operate in our society. Romanticizing a stay-at-home life negates the reality of women at intersections of race, gender and class, for which it becomes impossible to be the stay-at-home girlfriend on TikTok, at least without getting more criticism than their white, middle-class counterparts.