What’s Wrong with ‘other girls’?

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Have you ever said “እኔ እንደሌሎች ሴቶች አይደለሁም“ or been told ‘አንቺ እንደሌሎች ሴቶች አይደለሽም’? I am guilty of saying it when I was younger: “I just get on better alone”, “I’m not really like other girls” were pretty much my chants. 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 and wiser I have realized 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 It’s a competition I personally didn’t sign up for. 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 have been told many times that I am “not like other girls.” They meant it as a compliment, but I don’t take it as one.  It is impossible for me to get my thanks out. And the more I think about it, the more I realize this so-called compliment is belligerent.

I knew what those people meant: you’re not a “girly-girl.” You don’t obsess over nail polish (Because I don’t have nails long enough to be polished) and ‘‘twirl your hair while smacking pink bubblegum and talking about the latest celebrity gossip’’, ‘‘you read books instead of going out’’, ‘‘you listen to MGK, You’re not an airhead.’’ Not like those other girls.

The truth is the ‘you’re not like other girls’ quote is invalid. No girl is like any other. Not my friends, or my cousins, or my colleagues or the girl who sat next to me in a taxi this morning. We’re all different from each other because—get this—we’re actual people with actual personalities. A subtlety the person who insists I’m “not like other girls” just can’t grasp.

 

When I tell people this, they roll their eyes and tell me I am overanalyzing or the usual ‘you’re being a feminazi’. But language is where our thoughts start. It’s what we use to express ourselves. And what we’re expressing here is a deep-seated disgust for femininity that’s engrained in the words we use every day. It’s about time we change that.

It’s possible to compliment a girl without tearing other women down. You can just say ‘Pomy I like this or that about you.’ Then I can tell you thank you. But if you tell me I’m not like other girls, we will probably get into an argument where you start to regret saying it in the first place.

Not being like other girls is seen as a defining compliment – and part of the reason for this is that the stereotype of women is so offensive.  Here’s this idea if we can’t reach this 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 or none, are funny, who like sports and video games, and drink beer is “one of the guys”.

The tired narrative that women with any shred of emotional or intellectual depth are essentially aliens who deviate wildly from the typical behavior of Other Girls is everywhere, in books and movies and all our media. It is, of course, irrational, but that doesn’t stop this self-hating pattern of thinking from permeating the way we see ourselves and the way we see the women around us.

But I’d just like to know, who are these “other girls” you are talking about? Like, really — are they people you know personally? Are they me? Are they literally every other woman on the planet besides the girl in question? Well, the usual supposed to be “other girls“ are those girls who, according to society, are weak, mean, materialistic, book haters, do not care about politics or their country, not intellectual and are men-oriented– but all this, 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.  Women are accused of being high-drama – and maybe that’s because our arguments are more visible.  And the rest of the stereo-types are personal choices, choices both men and women make.

The compliment “not like other girls” forces women into a competition none of us agreed to, where the goal is to lessen our femininity. But girlhood isn’t something I want to break out of, it’s something I want to celebrate. I personally like to dress up and wear makeup, I like ‘girly shows’ like Jane the Virgin and I hate Game of thrones, I think that only is enough for people to put me in the category of ‘other girls’. I fit into a lot of the ‘other girl’ stereotypes. And I am not ashamed of these things. Things we consider girly like ditzy–lipstick, high heels, pretty dresses, too many pillows on the bed–are fun things I should be able to enjoy without any negative connotations.

I don’t really care about sports one way or another, I actually hate sports. But I know lots of women who are really into sports, and who played sports in high school and campus. Who cheer at the television screen at the bar while I check my Facebook.

I love reading, I also have tons of female friends who like to read. I like politics and history, the fragment I understand about them anyway, and I have female friends I argue about it with. I hate beer, I have female friends who love beer. It’s fine to like beer, or hate it, but that is a beverage choice, not a substitute for a personality.

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 as being different from ‘other girls’ at all though – really, it’s something that has been created to divide us and comes from living in a sexist society.

But that doesn’t make it right. This “I’m not like other girls, I wear T-shirts and jeans and drink beer when they waltz around wearing makeup and short dresses while causing drama” ideology is just not right. It’s also just not factually true. It’s possible to assert what is good about yourself without tearing other women down.

If you’ve ever embraced the idea that you are a credit to your gender, consider that believing that you’re worth more than Other Girls means you believe that women are inherently worthless. If you think being thoughtful, intelligent, and “complicated” makes you different from Other Girls, consider that you’re saying that women are inherently vapid. If you think being passionate about sports or music or literature or Star Wars or whatever else on earth you love makes you different from Other Girls, consider that you’re really saying that women are inherently dull and uninspiring.

So, if you ask me I am one of the ‘other girls’. I happen to like “other girls.” I am a big fan of all my friendships with other women. Most of the women I know are hilarious and kind and super bad ass. I know some not so nice women as well, because women are human beings, which means that some of them are crappy and some of them are not. Like men. Like human beings.

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. Imagine what we could achieve if we stuck together rather than letting girl-hate and sexism divide us. It’s time we took girliness back and we recognize it for how powerful it can be.

1 COMMENT


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    I don’t know where to start but all I have to say Is thank you. In a world where being a female on its own is hard let alone a new trait every day that we have to live up to, seeing women like you out there making a noise is inspirational.I personally believe that the lines that are built in a society that have been guiding women growing up have led to this revolution where we actually have to be something completely different from what we are expected to to prove that we have a voice. But the truth is at the end of the day we find out self still trying to impress a society that have twisted our arms for centuries. At some point I think we have to find a balance that can allow us be who ever we want to be with out as u said , demoralizing and pushing each other down in the process. I am not a quarter of the writer you are but you have taken every thought in my mind and put it in to words , so thank you again and keep up the good job!

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