It’s one of 2023’s biggest viral hits – and it originated in a chat on New Zealand breakfast radio. We speak to the originators of ‘Girl Math’ and discuss the impact the term has had on the worldwide sisterhood.
Katy Perry’s left shark; pizza rat; that GOD FORSAKEN gold or blue dress – there’s never much rhyme or reason for what makes something go viral.
Chat between three girlies on a Kiwi breakfast radio show where they’re trying to convince each other that their spending is totally A-OK and justified? Sure, it doesn’t scream viral but 38 million views later, Girl Math, as coined by the female producers and host of ZM’s Fletch, Vaughan and Hayley have transcended viral. It’s a *thing*.
And trust them, producers Carwen Jones and Shannon Trim, and presenter Hayley Sproull are JUST as surprised as you.
“I can’t even fathom it,” says Hayley. “Shannon showed me the numbers this morning and I’m like, ‘what do you even MEAN’ – it’s been wild.”
Adds producer Shannon, “Before Girl Math we had 40,000 on TikTok. Now we’re at 240,000. It’s insane.”
Girl Math, as coined by Hayley, Carwen and Shannon, isn’t a new thing. In fact, its innate appeal is that it’s a label on a process women have been doing for ages – working out just how expensive an item truly is and justifying it step by step until, as the gals say, it’s basically free.
We’re talking cost per wear (our personal fav), opportunity costs, appreciation, resale value – everything and anything we can chuck at a price tag to make it less scary. The ZM girls’ approach is the same, if not more tongue-in-cheek, and began as a simple on-air chat aimed at helping Carwen justify an expenny hair appointment.
“Suddenly the boys [Fletch and Vaughan) were like, ‘what the f*** is this, what just happened,” laughs Hayley. “And it was girl math!”
As the segment naturally evolved – there’s a theme song and dance (literally) now – the concept took off on social media when videos of the gals attempting to ‘Girl Math’ a problem blew up, with the turning point proving to be their STUNNING justification of the purchase of a new Dyson AirWrap – you save money on blow waves, you can charge your friends to use it, it’ll last longer, etc.
“That was the one that really seemed to resonate because so many of us have thought about buying one – but it was that video that really solidified the whole thing,” says Shannon.
Adds Carwen, “We also did one on Bed Threads bedding – you know the really bougie linen? That one was really good too!”
Google ‘Girl Math’ right now and 1,320,000,000 results appear, including The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, CNN, The Washington Post and more. Anyone who’s anyone who reports on the zeitgeist (oh hi, hello there, welcome to Capsule) has weighed in on Girl Math and most of it is here for the lolz.
However, some have taken the term seriously:
‘The TikTok Trend Defining Bad Budgeting’, ‘Woman Explains Why Viral ‘Girl Math’ Trend is Actually Harmful’ and ‘Girl Math Is No Laughing Matter’.
“It’s always been something really silly – none of us think anything different!” says Hayley. “It keeps popping up in the most unexpected places, like, why are we being featured in a finance article!? Our jobs mean that we’re on air for three hours every morning to make people laugh.
“It’s like how a baby zebra falls out of its mum, it just knows how to walk. Girls are born with this innate ability to Girl Math. So many people have asked us how we came up with it. We didn’t – we’re just lived this way as a woman!”
But Girl Math in its original fun, light-hearted spirit has resonated with millions of gals across the world – even spawning take-offs such as ‘gay math’ and more recently ‘boy math’.
“One of my favourite things has been seeing other people’s variations of it,” nods Hayley. “There’s ‘boy math’ which I don’t love, but there’s ‘gay math’, and then there’s ‘girl measuring’ which is that classic thing where we try and measure stuff with our hands and get it wildly wrong. People are putting their own spin on it.”
Our ‘Girl’ Era
But while it all seems silly and fun and a glorious antidote to the absolutely stuffed state of the world – and it is – Carwen also reckons it speaks to something a little deeper within the sisterhood.
“I think 2023 really feels like the year that girlies are just reclaiming what it means to be a girl,” she says. “We’re all coming together to own the fact that yeah, we do this silly thing to try and justify something to feel better about it, even though we don’t need to and it’s our own money and we can do what we like. It’s that thing of, ‘yeah, we’re a little bit delusional!’ We know, and we’re reclaiming that.”
This year certainly feels like we as a society are entering our ‘girl era’ – the cultural and social impact of the Barbie movie (yes, we’re talking about THAT monologue) coupled with the celebration of ‘Girl Math’ and ‘Girl Dinner’ and anything else we can attach ‘girl’ too speaks to the fact that women and gals are indeed acknowledging and embracing the weird, wonderful and silly parts of ourselves that we’ve previously tried to keep in the shadows.
Just like a giant group chat the vibe is support, encouragement – not with irresponsible spending, but rather the sentiment that yes, girl, you deserve it.
“That’s a pretty nice way to sum it up, really,” says Hayley. “It’s definitely the feeling of it. SO much is online these days and especially for women, we can often feel attacked or belittled. In general, this has been a really positive vibe, rather than that online negativity that can come just from, you know, being a woman.”
Adds Shannon, “There’s also that feeling that we’re actually empowering the girlies who call up – like they’re feeling in control of their money, and that’s so fun.”
And for the girls personally it’s been a wild ride, especially for Shannon who only started on the show earlier this year.
“I feel like it’s been a real bonding moment between the three of us,” she laughs. “My job has changed a lot with it too being the digital producer. Before this our TikTok followers were 80% New Zealand based, now it’s 20%. Now we have to put captions on the videos because no one can understand the accent. In the first few videos lots of people thought we were saying ‘girl meth’!”