How to have a Feral Girl Summer, according to experts
It’s time to reject curation and embrace chaos
words Team Woo
The summer of 2022 looms, and with it, another cultural vibe shift. The past two years have, due to the coronavirus pandemic, been fraught with social and societal angst. Long periods of lockdown and near total isolation demanded new forms of interaction – cursed zoom dates, socially-distanced walks, looking at the same four walls of your bedroom for the rest of your entire life… the thought of it alone is enough to make you shudder.
In the absence of any meaningful real-world experiences, life online accelerated, as did the multiple ways in which people began to envisage themselves, the ideal they would embody once the Covid nightmare had abated. There was immense pressure, in the summer of 2021 in particular when restrictions were almost entirely lifted for many people, to make the most of it, to be your best self, and for women especially to finally live out their hot girl summer dream that had been cruelly quashed since 2020.
According to a study conducted by the dating app Badoo, 71 per cent of women feel pressured to live their lives a certain way due to the recent trend of having a hot girl summer. But this is 2022, and it’s time for Feral Girl Summer, according to the latest TikTok movement. It advocates letting go of unrealistic ideas of perfection, rejecting rigidity, and welcoming chaos.
But what does this mean in practice? We spoke to three experts in their field, Vogue sex and dating columnist Annie Lord, arts and culture writer Eloise Hendy, and dating and relationship coach Rachel New, to unpack the psychology of Feral Girl Summer.
Annie Lord, Vogue’s sex and dating columnist
“Over the pandemic, there was such an emphasis on fitness and everyone became really obsessed with their routine, and doing all those online workouts and self improvements – it was like ‘are you writing a novel in your spare time’, ‘what are your hobbies?’.
It ended up going on for so much longer than we thought, and now stuff is open and it’s ‘back to normal’. I just went to the gym for about an hour making my body look nicer when really I should've been working. Sometimes I feel I put all this work into making my body look nice and no one even notices, I haven’t been on holiday in ages you know what i mean?
I definitely feel and notice now in my friends wanting to stop having this protestant work ethic thing of like saving up for something to happen, it’s like gym less, party more!
It feels like dating has been a lot shitter recently in that everyone’s so flakey and uninterested in pursuing a connection, you go on one date and they’ve already lost interest. Apps make you feel like there’s always something new out there, so you go on one date and they’re distracted by the prospect of someone else. I feel like now, I go on dates and if I fancy a guy I’m just gonna have sex with him. I’m bored of trying to play a game to make someone fancy me or to trap them, I’m just gonna pursue pleasure more.
It reminds me of ‘that girl’, someone who wakes up at half five and makes a really nice breakfast, goes to the gym, does a spinning class, does work but it’s all a bullet-pointed list of everything, I feel like it’s a push against that vibe of life being a checklist routine thing. It’s just like a return to chaos!”
Eloise Hendy, arts and culture writer
“The pandemic forced us to be sensible – to think of others, to stay indoors, to go on just one stupid little walk a day. And rightly so! But, now, as things tentatively return to normal, it shouldn’t surprise us that there’s a hefty dose of pent up emotion ready to spill all over the place like a Wetherspoons’ Woo Woo pitcher.
Really, has there ever been a better time to forget restraint and self-control? To let your hair down, go a bit wild, and not worry about the consequences?
we're all looking at the world and seeing a never-ending parade of disasters. The world is literally burning. And it feels like no one ‘in charge’ is doing anything. It’s enough to make anyone crazy. Maybe the feral girl trend is about saying, fuck it, the world is ending, we might as well have fun while it lasts. Maybe that’s apolitical and nihilistic, like “partying while Rome burns”. But, it’s also a rejection of the ‘just keep working’ capitalist mantra that works in tandem with the patriarchal dogma telling women to ‘stay pretty, stay neat, don’t be too loud, people-please’ – both are effective systems of control. And ‘going feral’ is about sticking two fingers up to all of that.
And, in a culture that often chastises women for being ‘too much’ and for taking ‘excessive’ enjoyment in things, insisting on the value of parties and pleasure at all costs is nothing short of subversive. The girls just want to have FUN. So, down with detachment, and cleanliness, and the minimal, perfectionism of ‘that girl.’ I want less punishment and more parties. In a brutal and chaotic world, really, going a bit feral seems like a sensible option.”
Suzannah Weiss, certified sex educator, sex/love coach
“I think trends like ‘hot girl summer’ and ‘feral girl summer’ are a result of us being traumatised from our lives being taken from us for two years and wanting to really get back to living as fully as we can.
‘Feral girl summer’ also results in particular from more women challenging stereotypes of what it means to be ‘ladylike’ – e.g. that it means you have to be quiet and reserved and proper and can't be wild.
The idea of enjoying a ‘hot girl summer’ or ‘feral girl summer’ also reflects sexual liberation and a growing desire for women to be openly and unapologetically sexual.
I would say that being feral, in its best sense, simply means expressing all of who you are, so don't let someone else tell you what that means to you. Simply have the summer that you would dream of having if there were nothing holding you back.
For instance, a feral girl summer doesn't have to involve alcohol or going to clubs. It could mean blocking out an afternoon to spend on your bed with your vibrator if that's what you are called to do.”
Rachel New, dating and relationship coach
“What’s great about the feral girl trend is that they have a really healthy relationship with themselves: feral girls can celebrate who they really are rather than creating an artificial, manicured self. They don’t waste time trying to get approval or fit in – they are too busy enjoying an authentic life in all its multi-sensory glory.
Feral girls know that they sometimes need to be able to let go of all the “shoulds” and “oughts” and be self-indulgent. We often have a critical inner voice and we need to match that with a compassionate, loving voice that believes in us, accepts us for who we really are and sets us free.
Most of us should be proud of the way we’ve been exercising so much self-restraint for the last two years of lockdown, being socially responsible and cautious about social interaction and physical contact. We’ve also re-evaluated superficial social norms like wearing make-up and uncomfortable high heels and spending hours on our appearance, when people have been dying and young people in particular have been struggling with isolation and mental health challenges. So it makes sense that they should want to stop holding back, act a bit more spontaneously and enjoy life again.”