‘Gross’ is an insult flung around schoolyards. Getting called gross means that you’re unclean and unkempt. But on TikTok, being a gross girl is something that you can take a bit of pride in.
There’s a community of ‘gross girlies’ congregating online who are trying to dispel the shame that comes with being a bit dishevelled. Here, ‘gross’ is reclaimed as an affectionate term that is equal parts self-aware and tongue in cheek.
“I’m sick of all the overly aesthetically pleasing shit on TikTok, so welcome to gross girl tok,” Michelle Battersby, founder of Sunroom, says in her TikTok video. “Here’s my bed I’m not going to make, those blinds won’t be opened,” she says as she pans across her bedroom. The tour continues and she shows viewers the crumpled sheets on her couch, her unstraightened outdoor chairs and her messy bathroom.
“My account is for the kinda gross girlies. The ones that rely on dry shampoo. The ones that wear the same shorts to bed for maybe a couple days too long. The ones that let their underwear take care of the last day of their period. The ones that sometimes fall asleep without brushing their teeth. The ones that sometimes start their day at 4pm,” reads TikTok user’@j.oot’s video with over four million views.
Gross girl TikTok is a safe space for our unseemly guilty pleasures and private habits. It’s a fuck you to the constant pressures of self-optimisation spun by the wellness and beauty industries. It’s admitting that perfection is a myth and that we are all flailing around like fish out of water (probably because our tanks need a good clean).
This internet discourse borrows heavily from the ‘goblin mode’ trend, which sees people dismissing ideas of self-improvement and instead, relishing in nihilistic ideals and an IDGAF attitude.
Now I’m not going to go as far as to say that seeing unwashed drink bottles makes me feel #empowered, but there’s something nice about seeing a community of women unashamedly share the parts of themselves that aren’t overly sharable.
It’s helped me start to come to terms with some of my anxious thoughts about cleanliness. My greasy hair isn’t something I have to overly fixate on, my floordrobe isn’t something that I have to stress over, nor are the stacked cups in my room.
We're all a bit gross, why not talk about it?