“I’m not like other girls,” you say with a smirk on your face.
No that’s absolutely right, you aren’t like other girls—other girls don’t need to dismiss the entirety of girls to receive validation that ultimately stems from misogyny.
Let’s break this down.
We have heard this phrase time and time again—in movies, in books, on television, in classrooms, and quite possibly out of your own mouth. But what are we all really saying? Who are these “other girls”, and why don’t we want to be like them? For one thing, it most definitely could be the constant flood of two-dimensional portrayals of women in mainstream Western media. There really is not much room for individuality with these superficial and shallow depictions. “I’m not like these girls”, you say to yourself, as you watch them fret about boys, their hair, and school dances.
Interests that are not within the norms of feminine gender expression are coded as masculine, creating a binary of feminine and masculine. An example of this would be how fashion and makeup are coded as feminine and often frivolous, yet chess and soccer are coded as masculine and communicated to be somehow more important. With more examples, one can notice how traditional feminine traits are almost always inferior to traditional masculine traits. Additionally, any type of crossover of the feminine and masculine is almost always regarded as an outlier instead of the norm.
What a lot of media fails to communicate to its young and impressionable viewers is that they are individuals in a world that constantly embraces gender binaries. Liking math or playing chess doesn’t make you any less of a girl, neither does not liking Starbucks or makeup—they all are just things people decided to code as feminine or masculine. It gives us an identity crisis. When we are constantly told that “this is what a girl likes” and we don’t fit into that box, of course the phrase “I’m not like other girls” would be a way to make a sense of all this. However, instead of reverting to this phrase, let’s become free from these social constructs as a whole. Let’s remove these associations of gender from hobbies and characteristics and just enjoy things. You like makeup and race cars? Enjoy both of them! Sewing and science? Love it!
What we mean to say is “I’m not like what the media tells us girls are supposed to be”... well, most girls rarely are. But when we say “I’m not like other girls” we reaffirm a sexist stereotype that all girls and women are so horrible and worthless that we must distance ourselves from them. That we are superior to them for not being that way. That is almost a perfect definition of misogyny.
Girls are cool as hell. For too long we have let other people decide what we like, how we should dress, talk, eat, play, think, and more. We don’t have to compete with other girls or even distance ourselves from them because in the end, if only some of us are valued, none of us are. So next time you’re about to proudly say you’re “not like other girls”, ask yourself why.
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