We’re All Girlies Online… It’s Not That Deep

Illustrated by Isabela Humphrey.
Every week a new word or term crops up online, a thousand thinkpieces are written and then it disappears, replaced by a new one just as quickly. But 'girlies' doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. 
In fact, the girlies are everywhere. Like when I send my friends pictures of my kittens sitting directly in front of the TV, captioned: "All my girlies love RHOBH." The people you trust with the nonsense you post on your Close Friends Instagram Story are the girlies, too. Your best friends are your girlies, as are Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama, shivering while wearing next to nothing to give us the "Beg For You" video. Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian posting that thumb-sucking video and generally being horny on main: girlies. There are the IBS girlies; the girlies who don’t know how to do their taxes; the girlies who loved that fencing scene in Bridgerton season two. 
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Essentially, if you can group people together, they can be girlies. 
It’s impossible to tell exactly where 'girlies' got its modern meaning. Only a few years ago it would have conjured up an image of a 50+ woman telling you that she’s going on her first night out with her friends in years.
At first glance it would be easy to assume that girlies and huns are one and the same. But they're more like distant relatives. As Hannah Ewens wrote for Vice: "The Hun is the most relatable woman in Britain." That’s not to say that huns can’t be girlies; rather that the hun is more fully formed: the auntie that the girlies aspire to be. Girlies are her more youthful counterparts. 'Girlie' is infantilising in a way that feels completely disconnected from misogyny. It is not linked directly to age but encapsulates a more gleeful, playful energy. 
Today, you'll find the term all over stan social media and spanning gender, existing for women and all queer people. At a push, your parents uploading minute-by-minute Facebook updates of them on some Spanish island, sunburned and necking piña coladas, are a couple of girlies; your boyfriend commenting a fire emoji under a selfie he watched you take is instantly one of the girlies.
The fact that literally anyone from your dad to your best friend can be girlies is the main part of its allure. 'Girlies' helps us to create little main character moments for ourselves every day. Everyone gets to be in exclusive little clubs and is celebrated for doing literally anything, no matter how minor. It means that celebrities doing a pretty regular part of their job, like filming a music video for a beloved single, becomes a celebration, especially on Twitter.
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Here you'll find users writing things like: "boyfriend girlies are mirrorball girlies. no explanation required." (It’s got something to do with Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, I think?) Or users posting pictures of people in crocheted hats, tote bags or talking about their love of potatoes and declaring them crochet/tote bag/potato girlies. Most K-Pop fandoms will refer to their favourite bands (Aespa, BLACKPINK, Loona) as 'the girlies'. The UK-based girl group FLO are girlies for reigniting everyone’s '90s girl band nostalgia with their debut song, "Cardboard Box". 

Doing things for the girlies is simply doing something for the greater good.

It’s hard to explain exactly what we’re trying to say when we call each other 'girlie'. It’s both a simple iteration of a meme and an earnest term of endearment online. And it has quite a unique relationship with gender, like 'sis', a term revolutionised by Black queer people before being picked up and used to death online by white women. Unlike 'bitch' or 'slut', which have historically been used disparagingly in connection with women or femininity, 'girlie' has very few negative connotations (unless you say it in the voice of a disgruntled Victorian workhouse owner).
So it currently feels like there’s no way to turn 'girlie' into an insult like a passive-aggressive 'hun' with a huge pause before it. Nor does 'girlie' have the same loaded history of being chucked at you by men you’ve never met. There’s no way you’ll ever get a "Give us a smile, girlie" thrown at you when you’re walking down the street. Men won't slide into your DMs brandishing an overfamiliar 'girlie' in the way they might with 'babe' or 'hun'. 
Doing things for the girlies is simply doing something for the greater good. Whether it's an artist finally releasing the full version of a song after a snippet of it drove fans crazy on Twitter, or a TikTok user disclosing that they take 100mg of sertraline for the depressed girlies, being a girlie is all about building community. Instances like the latter give us a chance to lose ourselves in parasocial relationships, whereby we develop a one-sided sense of intimacy with someone based on our similarities, despite the other person not knowing we exist. But as fellow girlies it’s not weird – we’re all okay with it. 'Girlie' even acts as a nice buffer for online interactions with celebrities within stan culture. It papers over the overfamiliarity of the term 'bestie' and provides a bit more distance.
So indulge in being one of the girlies. Caption every one of your pub-cheers Boomerangs "drinks with the girlies" and comment "come on girlies x" when your football team announces their starting eleven. It might be that 'girlie' has nothing to do with reclaiming anything. Maybe being a girlie means nothing at all. Perhaps it will age as badly as other weird internet terms of endearment like 'smol bean', which once plagued Tumblr and still echoes around odd corners of Twitter. Whatever happens, deep down, we’re all girlies at heart.

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