The lifestyle may be lavish, but it sets a dangerous precedent.
Videos with the hashtag #stayathomegirlfriend on TikTok have yielded over 108.9 million views. Scroll through them and you'll see vlogs from young women who have decided not to work, and instead spend their days cooking, cleaning and caring for their working partner.
The 'stay-at-home girlfriends' (SAHGs) post vlogs of what a typical day looks like for them. It usually consists of preparing breakfast, running errands, going shopping, doing workouts and making their home as welcoming as possible in advance of their partner returning from work.
These are women who have chosen not to work. They don't have children or dependents, and their income, one assumes, must be a combination of their savings and some sort of undefined stipend from their working partner. The life presented in these videos is lavish, aspirational. Their homes are beautiful and their kitchens are decked out in expensive equipment. They sip green juices and make matcha lattes. They wear designer labels, and they make time for self-care. They keep journals, have extensive skincare routines and spend their afternoons at pilates. Sometimes they have household staff.
@laura.henshaw We have to talk about the stay at home GF trend #stayathomegirlfriend #fyp #foryoupage #financialeducation ♬ original sound - laura.henshaw
It's easy to see the appeal. One account, Stay At Home Fiancée, shared a video of herself, eating snacks and reclining on a pristine white couch in a beautiful apartment. Across the screen, she writes: "When you go from working 70 hours a week, living in a cold, shitty apartment to a STAY AT HOME GIRLFRIEND who wears $1000 slipper (sic), is madly in love, and the only thing on the calendar is to go to Pilates, postmate (sic) dinner, and think about when you're going to get engaged."
Others offer tips on how to become a stay-at-home girlfriend. For Stay at Home Fiancée, she claims that she attended a city college, only dated rich guys and then "locked one down". In another video, she (albeit jokingly) seems to suggest that if she doesn't do her "stupid little workouts" her "stupid rich boyfriend" will leave her.
The SAHGs of TikTok receive a mixed response from viewers. In the comments, some view it as an aspirational lifestyle, and announce their intention to find a rich man to date. Others, ridicule the SAHGs. "Anyone else wondering what she writes in her planner?" one TikTok user ponders. Some come to their defence, praising the SAHGs for opting out of the world of work, as if it's some sort of victory over capitalism and hustle culture.
Abuse can happen to any woman, of any age and in any area. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call the Women's Aid 24-hour National Freephone Helpline 1800341900 or https://t.co/9sbAgoYuSE for support. Visit https://t.co/KZEZnDrKJX for local services. pic.twitter.com/MjDdONZ9KA
— Women's Aid Ireland (@Womens_Aid) September 5, 2022
"There are 10,000 things to do besides work, people," one person writes.
Creators on SAHG TikTok need to make their lives look as appealing as possible in order to attract views and gain followers, and here is where the problem lies. They make concentrated efforts to present the SAHG lifestyle as something to aspire to, when in reality, they are setting a dangerous precedent, and opening up the doors for vulnerable women to be subject to financial abuse.
Financial abuse, according to Women's Aid Ireland, is a "form of domestic violence in which the abuser uses money as a means of controlling his partner".
"It is a tactic that abusers use to gain power and dominance over their partners and is designed to isolate a woman into a state of complete financial dependence," explains Caoimhe O'Connor from Women's Aid. "By controlling the woman's access to financial resources the abuser ensures that she will be forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and extreme poverty."
Last year, the organisation heard over 2,383 disclosures of financial abuse within intimate relationships. This marked a 24% increase from the year before. Additionally, research from the National Crime Council found that when abusive partners control decisions about money, Irish women are seven times more likely to experience "severe domestic abuse".
While the SAHGS of TikTok appear safe and happy in their relationships, this won't be the case for every woman who relies on their partner for money. By upholding and idealising the SAHG lifestyle, they normalise financial dependency, which can leave some women in a vulnerable position.
For those experiencing financial abuse, the Banking & Payments Federation of Ireland have put together a guide to safe-guarding your finances, and guidance on how to contact your bank if you find yourself in a dangerous situation. You can also contact Women's Aid's national helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 341 900.