Image Source: Getty Images/Karwai Tang/Gabriel Bouys
From Winter Coating to Workout Wooing, Gen-Z are notorious for creating new dating terms. Now, it’s “babygirl”. If I cast my mind back to the last time I was called babygirl, it was probably by an ex-boyfriend as a term of endearment. Yes, it made me feel warm inside and almost protected – but is this what babygirl means on social media now? Erm, not quite.
On 20 Jan., “Saltburn”‘s Jacob Elordi hosted “Saturday Night Live!” alongside “Mean Girls” star Reneé Rapp who appeared as a musical guest. During a skit, comedian Bowen Yang joked about Elordi: “Reneé, you were right. He is so babygirl.” Rapp nodded in agreement: “He is so babygirl”. Much to Elordi’s comic confusion.
But hold on, when did the meaning of babygirl change? If you’re confused about what this shift means and why so many men in Hollywood are being labelled babygirl on TikTok, keep reading.
What Does Babygirl Mean?
Babygirl is now mostly used to refer to Hollywood male celebrities or middle-aged male fictional characters. In its new form, babygirl describes a man with energy that’s vulnerable and somewhat ‘softer’. As this is being used to describe the likes of Elordi, to many it will also mean attractive. But the word alludes to someone being slightly naive. Rolling Stone writes: “Babygirl is a man who is very cutesy in a slightly submissive way.” Overall, the word is a way of celebrating the softer side of these men.
To others, the babygirl movement is also another way of reinforcing a wider societal shift and pushback against toxic masculinity. Could this be because women are seeking the polar opposite of an “alpha male”? Dating app Bumble’s Sex and Relationship Expert, Dr Caroline West, shares her thoughts on men being more open-hearted and embracing their inner babygirl in 2024. “Our feeds have been flooded with moments from celebs channelling open-hearted masculinity, which is why it’s no surprise that Hollywood’s new it-guy is so babygirl,” she tells POPSUGAR.
“We have so many role models now – like Harry Styles, who talk about kindness – and are comfortable in their masculinity, whatever that looks like. Or Pedro Pascal, who shares his feelings of anxiety on the red carpet and the social causes he’s passionate about,” Dr West shares. “Having more positive role models encourages us to be more open about issues like toxic masculinity and how patriarchy can actually be very harmful to men, making dating more transparent and progressive for everyone.”
Which Celebrities Are Babygirls?
Elordi, his fellow “Saltburn” star Barry Keoghan, “All of Us Strangers” actor Paul Mescal, and “Wonka”‘s Timothée Chalamet are the latest leading men to join the babygirl crew, which already includes Styles, Lewis Hamilton, and a number of K-pop stars including BTS’s RM and Jinin.
TikTok has also named a number of fictionalised characters babygirl. For example, Elordi’s character Felix in “Saltburn” is “so babygirl” because of his emotional traits. However, the actor’s character Nate in “Euphoria” is “so not babygirl” due to his toxic decision making. Get it? Tiktok users are also pulling the hot emotional “antihero in his 40s” characters into the trend. Think Kendall Roy, played by Jeremy Strong, in “Succession” or Pascal’s Joel Miller in “The Last of Us”.
One popular TikToker explained the grouping perfectly. A fictionalised babygirl should have three things: eyes, cries, and crimes. The user explains, “They have beautiful eyes, they’ve cried onscreen, they’ve committed atrocities but for some reason you still feel like you must protect them”. If we think about Roy, he is the perfect example of a multi-dimensional man. He has access to power and engages in this toxic world but he is also in touch with his emotions. Through his layered character, there is an opportunity for a healthier version of masculinity to emerge. Whether he leans into it is another matter, bu the potential is there.
When Did the New Era of Babygirl Originate?
Babygirl officially solidified its place amongst the internet’s lexicon in 2023, dominating social media platforms. However, the label actually started floating around in 2021 with Styles and A$AP Rocky leading the way due to their gender-neutral fashion choices. According to British Vogue, “Babygirl men are also typically comfortable enough with their masculinity to bend the rules around gender when dressing.”
The leading men mentioned such as Pascal, Chalamet, and Keoghan have all been at recent awards shows in women’s runway looks. Have you seen Elordi’s incredible designer bag collection recently? So babygirl. The term has evolved over time and now represents someone with conventional babygirl vibes.
Is Babygirl Demeaning?
For this one, we had to go directly to the people on the receiving end of this new term: men. Liam from Essex explained that whilst he feels like he definitely has some of these babygirl traits, including leading with his emotions, he wouldn’t want his partner calling him babygirl. He tells POPSUGAR, “I’m just not on board with this yet – theres a new term every week and it’s hard to keep up. I wouldn’t be comfortable with my partner calling me babygirl I would be embarrassed. I’d rather she just called me emotionally available without putting a label on it.”
Whilst Jerome from London thinks the term will take longer to catch on. “It is demeaning,” he tells POPSUGAR. “It’s a way of invalidating someone’s masculinity based on someone’s idea of the traditional man. I won’t say this new term is malicious since we’re in a crossover generation that had terms like ‘man up’ conditioned in us from when we were young, but now we’re being told to embrace a feminine side. I think it will take a long time to undo such conditioning.”
It seems some men are not on board with it just yet, but the babygirl trend shows no sign of stopping and is evolving by the day. While the label might seem a step too far, it ultimately opens the discussion for more emotional intelligence.
What Does Babygirl Mean in a Relationship?
According to Bumble, being “so babygirl” could actually help your dating life and chances of getting into a relationship. Dr. West tells POPSUGAR, “From a relationship perspective, it’s positive that we now are in a society where men are welcome to be vulnerable and open. It’s cool to be cute, and that can mean being much more upfront about your emotions, which can be attractive for people looking for meaningful connections.”
In new research, Bumble revealed that open-hearted masculinity is on the rise, a welcome attribute for many. When it comes to relationships, one in four men state that they have actively changed their behaviour, becoming more vulnerable and open with people they are dating than ever before. For a quarter of men, this new-found openness has had a positive impact on their mental health and, for one in three men, a lack of vulnerability is now a dating dealbreaker.
In fact, the majority (87percent) of people on Bumble globally agree that kindness is now the most important quality in a potential partner over other attributes, with kindness being defined by the Bumble community as honesty, empathy, generosity, compromising, and emotional availability. If that’s what babygirl means, then we’re embracing it with open arms.