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Why Is Being ‘Not Like Other Girls’ Not Necessarily A Good Thing?

by Adelle Yen. |

The phrase ‘I’m not like other girls’ has been circulating Millennial and Gen-Z girls for years. It has become so prevalent that Urban Dictionary defines the phrase as:

A girl who does one or more of the following and says she’s different because she:

  • doesn’t go to parties

  • plays video games

  • doesn’t like skirts or dresses or crop tops

  • listens to old music

  • listens to Billie Eilish

  • doesn’t wear makeup

  • only wears makeup for themself

  • etc.

While the phrase originated as a social media trend used by teenage girls, it became so saturated that it eventually turned into a meme. Urban Dictionary’s definition may be the somewhat cringe-worthy ways some girls define their ‘not like other girl’-ness, but this phrase doesn’t only live on extremes. Let’s use an example I’m sure all of us can relate to. You’re at brunch with a beautiful meal in front of you, and all your girlfriends immediately whip out their phones and climb on the chairs to take the best picture. You kinda want to do it too, but you resist. You don’t want to seem shallow or self-obsessed. Simply put, you don’t want to be another ‘basic girl’.

This might be a trivial example, but it demonstrates that while we may not all openly brag about “not being like other girls”, many of us have thought it at some point in our lives. Given its pervasiveness, here lies the opportunity to really dig deep and understand why the trend originated, and essentially what it implies about our society. I will outline some main points below; some inspired by my favourite YouTuber, Tiffany Ferguson, who made an Internet analysis called: I’m Not Like Other Girls.

It plays on traditional gender roles and stereotypes.

By stating or thinking that you are not like other girls, you are inherently implying that you are better than them. This only perpetuates traditional gender roles and stereotypes. For instance, by saying you are different because you are messy, loud-spoken, or love sports, you are suggesting that most girls are neat, soft-spoken, and hate sports. Or, by saying you are different because you hate dresses, shopping and cooking, you are suggesting that most girls love dresses, shopping and cooking. See the pattern? Girls should not have to be bundled into groups based on societal expectations of what they should be interested in or what they look like.

Growing up, I couldn’t count the number of times adults told me to “sit like a girl”, or “act more feminine”. Yet, at seven-years-old, I didn’t want to be like the other girls around me. I couldn’t help but notice that the girls that were regarded highly in school by teachers and peers were those who embodied ‘boyish’ traits - those who rarely dressed up, who were good at sports, who were funny, relaxed, cool. I started hating pink for the sole reason of it being a girly colour. I felt inferior when my mum dressed me in a frilly dress on a free dress day at school and I saw other girls in jeans and t-shirts. Indeed I, like many other girls, already had the ongoing stereotypical, heteronormative and hyper-feminine roles pushed on me from a young age. So, it’s no wonder many girls feel the need to reject them. Ironically though, being unlike other girls in and of itself implies that by being different, unique, and essentially embodying more masculine traits makes you better than those who do are deemed more feminine, which is simply untrue.

It diminishes femininity.

Tiffany Ferguson speaks briefly of the ‘cool girl’ prototype in her video. The ‘cool girl’ most commonly implies a girl who changes themselves to be more approved by men. I myself have desired to be one: the girl who ducks out of a social gathering with about ten guys, inviting a scent trail of cigarette smoke when she re-enters, or the girl who cracks open a can of beer at parties instead of, say, sparkling rose. At sixteen-years -old, my best friend dated a guy who called her a cool girl. “I’m not,” she said, “I’m just pretending to be one.” We laughed at the irony that this supposed ‘effortless’ cool girl was really hiding under a mask.

The ‘I’m Not Like Other Girls’ Internet analysis quotes Gone Girl, a book by Gillian Flynn:

Men always use that don’t they? As their defining compliment. She’s a cool girl. Cool girl is hot. Cool girl is game. Cool girl is fun. Cool girl never gets angry at her man. I drank canned beer, watching Adam Sandler movies. I ate cold pizza, and remained a size 2.

Gillian also writes:

The Cool Girls are even more pathetic: they’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be; they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.

Hence, I’ve had this conversation many-a-time:

Me: Who are you hanging out with tonight?

Guy Friend: Oh, just the boys.

Me: What about Georgia?

Guy Friend: Yeah, Georgia. But she’s cool. She’s basically a boy.

So he was saying a girl is only cool if she’s ‘basically a boy’; what happened to being yourself and embracing who you are? Why do girls have to attribute themselves to another gender to be considered ‘cool’?

The overall issue with the phrase

The scenario above leads us to another question: To what extent is it socially acceptable for girls to be masculine? Well, according to societal norms, not a very large extent at all. While society expects women to work and be independent, they cringe at the idea of them being the family breadwinner. A recurring compliment given to women by society is that they are ‘wife material’ or ‘domesticated goddesses’. While I can appreciate that these phrases are all in good fun, they’re tricky. Why does the biggest compliment given to women place them in relation to a man?

The phrase ‘I’m not like other girls’ inadvertently supports the patriarchy, which is a social system whereby men hold ‘primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property’. This whole idea of comparison also plays into feeling superior by being ‘different’ from other girls. Why is it a good thing? All girls are intelligent, unique and brilliant in their own ways, there is no need to create a whole new concept of girls that are ‘unlike other girls’ (read: just like other boys) to describe a girl’s uniqueness.

Girls, it’s time to understand that respecting and loving ourselves does not have to come with demeaning anyone.

You may find out more about Adelle on her Instagram too!

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