Saying ‘you’re not like other girls’ is not a compliment
What’s wrong with ‘other girls’?
by Emma Healey
This article isn’t to say that all girls (and all people) aren’t unique – we are. But, when we claim we are “not like other girls” we position ourselves in opposition to and against other girls. It’s a compliment we accept, usually from guys, and an idea we perpetuate, and we need to stop it.
I am definitely guilty of saying it when I was younger: “I just get on better with guys”, “I’m not really like other girls” were pretty much my mantras. I felt like I had to position myself against the girly stereotype to be seen as valuable and desirable, but in reality as I’ve got older I have realised that saying someone “isn’t like other girls” doesn’t elevate you, it just puts other girls down. Whether intended that way or not, when we differentiate ourselves from other girls, as though girls are a monolithic category, we make a value judgment.
When we describe ourselves as being “not like other girls”, we make existing a form of competition. But as Sarah from Brighton says, “It’s a competition I didn’t sign up for.”
In our society, women’s success is dependent on distancing ourselves from the rest of our gender. Arguing we are not like something, rather than being able to take pride in all the ways we are feminine or girly. I don’t blame girls who describe themselves like this at all though – really it’s something that has been created to divide us and comes from living in a sexist society.
Hayley from Connecticut says, “Society wants women to pin themselves against each other and tear each other down. So they try to say that all women are the same, and that women who “are not like society’s view of women” are cool and need to be put on a pedestal, which is not the case at all.” Being not like other girls is seen as a defining compliment – and part of the reason for this is that the stereotype of women is so derogatory. Everyone knows the girls in school who were beautiful and talented and really athletic, and we were told we had to aspire to be like them, but at the same time we have to hate them.
There’s this idea if we can’t reach this bullshit socially constructed idea of beauty, the only way we can be seen as desirable or valid is through arguing that we’re not like them, we’re not like other girls. We’re cool girls, we’re better than them – the girls who like to read, wear minimal make-up, are funny, who like sports and video games, and drinks beer, and doesn’t diet, and is “one of the guys”.
There is nothing wrong with being like this at all – there is something wrong with the fact we are made to believe that it is only by saying we’re not like “other girls” that we are valid. Our self-worth shouldn’t have to depend on hating the rest of our gender, and I’m fed up of society telling us it has to. We shouldn’t have to embody more masculine traits to be wanted – there is power in femininity and this power is being denied to all of us.
This girl who all of us have said we’re “not like” takes all the bad, devalued ideas of girlhood or femininity and packages it up as the uniform image of “a girl”. Girls and women, according to society, are bitchy, cliquey, catty, and high drama – but all this is, is a stereotype.
From where I stand, girls are strong – you have to be when you grow up in a society that’s out to get you. You have to be strong when you start being followed home or catcalled at age 12. Alexa, a student from Madison, Alabama defends being like other girls. She told me: “I am like other girls because I am strong, I am independent, I am successful, I have emotions, I like to dress up and wear makeup, I like ‘girly shows’ like Gossip Girl, and fit into a lot of the other ‘girl’ stereotypes. I am proud of these things.”
Not only is this stereotype that we are all judged against bullshit – but it’s just incorrect. Women are accused of being catty and high-drama – and maybe our arguments are more visible. But I study Politics, my entire degree is basically men causing drama, the same with History. Our society is founded on men causing drama, our roads are named after men causing drama – so it’s utterly ridiculous that it’s women who are lumped with this image.
It’s time we took girliness back and we recognised it for how powerful it can be. Imagine what we could achieve if we stuck together rather than letting girl-hate and sexism divide us.