Why Saying ‘I’m Not Like Other Girls’ Is More Toxic Than You Think
TBH, I'd be lucky if I were like other girls
We get it. You’d rather scarf down an entire pizza on a date, as opposed to other girls who’d order a salad. You’re all about playing video games, as opposed to other girls who have one hobby – shopping. You prefer being bare-faced and dressed-down, as opposed to other girls who you consider cake-faced and overdressed. You’d rather be considered as one of the boys than be friends with other girls – they’re a little too catty for your liking. The list goes on and on, and the more you think about it, the more you come to the conclusion – ‘I’m not like other girls.’
It’s not like this is a new phenomenon either. For decades, women have tried to dissociate themselves from ‘the other girls’ – whether it was the ‘Greaser Girl’, who emerged in the ’50s in response to the staunch conservatism of its time, or the ‘Grunge Model’, who rose in the ’80s and ’90s for her unapologetic attitude towards self-expression and societal constructs. Blame it on the increased availability of information around, and the representation of women on-screen and in narratives, but the phenomenon has only grown from there.
Closer to where we are now, we’ve got multiple iterations of women who aren’t like other girls. We have the cool girl, the quirky-relatable girl, the manic-pixie dream girl. Each of whom is an idealistic, male fantasy of what women should be like. Each of whom is clearly different from the other girls. Each of whom inhabits traits of internalised misogyny.
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You might think I’m being a little harsh in my observation, right about now. After all, we as a society need to celebrate individual differences and idiosyncrasies, right? While that may be true, let me break down the harsh truth for you. Let’s take a simple example, a significant other calls you ‘special’ because you’re different from the other girls. If ‘you’re not like other girls’ is a compliment, what does it say about ‘other girls?’ When a compliment explicitly states that someone is desirable because they aren’t like everyone else, isn’t that just saying everyone else is inferior to that person? And overarchingly, this statement also sets a precedent for pitting women against one another, while also reinforcing sexist, dated gender stereotypes.
Let’s break it down even further. Let’s look at why someone isn’t like the other girls. Take the example of, say, the character Katrina Kaif plays in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Kaif is cool, she’s breezy, she’s fun, and she’s one of the guys. The reason audiences are rooting for her is because she’s essentially the antithesis of Kalki Koechlin’s ‘bossy’, ‘overbearing’ character. Sound familiar?
This plot often projected to the audience, affects the way society identifies an archetype of a woman – and leads many women to believe that by denouncing typically female traits, or even her gender as a whole, she’s better off. And this leads to the enforcement of certain gender stereotypes – the ones that believe ‘femininity’ in it’s most traditional sense is trivial. That women who are traditionally feminine are vapid, air-headed beings, who are, to use a 2016 term, basic.
And where does this leave feminism? Not to be dramatic, but probably sitting in the corner, crying. But on a more real note, the phrase ‘I’m not like other girls’ is an enforcer of regressive gender stereotypes, and to spell it out for you – it’s not a compliment. And honestly, what’s so bad about being like other girls anyway? They’re talented, they’re beautiful, they’re opinionated, and there’s so much to learn from them.
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But this is something that can only be accomplished once you step out of the bubble of internal misogyny, and let go of the stereotypes you may hold against other women. (Even if it is subconscious.) And the next time you hear Taylor Swift crooning, “She wears short skirts, I wear T-Shirts…” stop and think about what it really means. (Also, Taylor, if you’re reading this: I love you and this is not personal.) Question statements that put other women down. We’re all in this together.