“Other Girls”

not like other girls

I guarantee that if you’ve watched a TV show or movie, read a book, listened to a pop song or basically left your room in the past twenty years, you’ve probably encountered some sort of romance narrative. It’s even more likely that at some point in said romance, once Boy has met Girl, Girl has met Boy – whatever, you know the deal – Boy will lean in, perhaps tucking a lock of hair behind Girl’s ear, and whisper: “You’re not like other girls”.

Why is it that the highest praise you can give a women is that she doesn’t behave like her fellow females? What the fuck is wrong with other girls?

Spoiler Alert: It’s sexism, internalized misogyny, and a general hatred for teenage girls that pervades our culture, courtesy of the bombardment of media images that portray teenage girls as vapid, useless, and shallow, or, perhaps even worse, as bookish, awkward, and unpopular girls who are considered “better” than those who fall under the prior category of femininity. Basically, nobody’s winning here.

The point of this line in our stereotypically romantic narrative is to valorize Girl over her fellow females for exhibiting traits that aren’t stereotypically attributed to teenage girls. She’ll have displayed her worth – usually by performing behaviors culturally classified as “masculine,” like a lack of emotion (Ginny Weasley), an ability to hunt/survive (Katniss Everdeen), or perhaps just a distaste for the company of her fellow females (any female character on a teen soap ever, basically).

It’s certainly meant to be a compliment, but all that’s happening here is a cissexist perpetuation of the gender binary contingent on outdated concepts of masculine and feminine emotions. Pro-tip: There’s nothing wrong with girls. There’s nothing wrong with being like other girls. In a culture of girl-on-girl hate, where women are encouraged from a painfully early age to cut other women down, it reinforces the idea that there is something inherently incorrect in being a girl. And the pressure is self-regulated, because it’s girls themselves who bully and police each other’s performances of gender. Hence the fact that not being like other girls is such a compliment; it means you’ve succeeded, you’re officially the best at girlhood and have won what is apparently the prize – male affection.

But there’s no man alive worth that shit. And the idea that women can and will continue to destroy each other in order to earn the approval of some random dude-bro is heterosexist and, frankly, depressing. Everyone suffers from that toxic trope, but fortunately the future of feminism is looking a little brighter, as a rash of TV shows have sprung up that portray diverse, complicated women who are more interested in their own, and that of their fellow ladies, friendships, careers, happiness. Lydia Martin and Allison Argent of Teen Wolf, the ladies of Pretty Little Liars, Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins of Parks and Recreation, Cece Parekh and Jess Day of New Girl, and Meredith and Cristina Grey of Grey’s Anatomy, all prioritize their friendship over and above the approval of an external male voice. These friendships portray a spectrum of different performances of femininity, debunking the myth of an essentialized version of womanhood while promoting female friendships rooted in support and shared strength, not competition. Which is how it should be. You can’t fight the patriarchy if you’re too busy hating other girls.

By Catherine Schetina, www.feministtv.tumblr.com

Collage by Kellie

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About inconnu guest

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19 comments

  1. Feminism is eating itself – having run out of serious problems to address, it is creating new ones out of thin air.

  2. Why do men compliment a woman by saying “you’re not like the other girls”?

    Because the “other” girls refused to see the man as human.

    You’re the first girl who the man thought could actually view him as a human being.

    I guess he was wrong.

    • I too can argue with someone by pretending they said something completely different to what was posted and really how dare you suggest that dogs can exist on an entirely apricot diet, think of the digestion issues!

  3. Well this is depressing

    Maybe so, but the fact that there is so much male hate exuded from this piece really turns me off of it. “He’s not like most/other guys” is almost, if not just as, common. Maybe we should so top turning everything into a gender issue. This, to me, seems like a human issue.

    • Part of me doesn’t want to validate your comment by replying but I feel that the comments shouldn’t consist of entirely male voices telling women how to perceive femininity. So without further ado:

      1. “the fact that there is so much male hate exuded from this piece”

      Except there isn’t any male hate, or really much reference to males at all. This is about how women perceive femininity and how culture conditions many young women to think themselves worthier if they are able to deny other females or their own feminine identity.

      2. “He’s not like most/other guys” is almost, if not just as, common.

      This may well be true. Many men do suffer from the gender binary that dictates a set definition of masculinity, whilst also conditioning men to reject any inherently “feminine” qualities; note feminine qualities in this case would be defined as inherently weak qualities. Many young men struggle through their teens because their identity doesn’t fit within society’s definition of masculinity.

      3. “Maybe we should so top turning everything into a gender issue. This, to me, seems like a human issue”.

      Saying that, just because society conditions people to accept gender as a binary, with roles, personalities and worth determined by sex, does not mean we should shut up and accept it. I certainly think there is a place to discuss the male identity and for the record feminism also supports this. Feminism supports the notion that gender should not at all dictate a person’s role, personality, worth, etc. It supports that perceived feminine qualities in someone of the male sex should not be considered less worthy, just as someone of the female sex should also not be considered less worthy for their perceived femininity/masculinity. That is feminism.

      Now to my point. THIS ARTICLE is not a commentary of all feminist values. It is a discussion of femininity from the perspectives of women and explores how young women are often conditioned to consider their own and other’s femininity as a weakness. Young women are often conditioned to perceive other women who have recognisably inherent feminine qualities as lesser and are then valued for this rejection. No person should be deemed better than another person because of their perceived femininity/masculinity. The boy in this article is a trope that commonly occurs in works targeted towards young women and carries discourses that are directly oppositional to the feminist values I explained. THIS ARTICLE is a place to discuss femininity from a female perspective and whilst someone who identifies as male is welcome to add their voice to this discussion, it is not valid to criticise the article just because it doesn’t privilege their sex, that my friend is sexist and completely missed the point of the article. The point in case you missed it, is that this conditioning does exist in society and it is up to women to take ownership and spread positivity about all women, not just the ones rejecting feminine qualities for masculine ones.

  4. Bob Jones

    Feminism is the problem.
    It has created a victim mentality in those that follow it, so when women are treated equally, they see it as derogatory, when they are simply getting exactly what is being asked for.
    What feminists seem to want is to continue to get special treatment, while being treated equally.

    Sorry feminists, that’s not the way life works. You can have equal treatment, or you can have your special entitlements and continue to be seen as inferior, but you CANNOT have both.

    Choose one and stick with it.

  5. I actually see where you guys are coming from. I have even had similar thoughts before. I’m a romantic and I’ve thought to myself, well, of course, it’s nice to think that maybe there is a boy who will like me for exactly who I am, for my individual qualities, the things that make me different from other girls (or other people in general, really). If he said “you’re not like other girls” to me, would I really care? Would I really get upset, and insist that there’s nothing wrong with being like the others?
    Here’s the thing, though. It’s one thing to talk about this on an individual level, and it’s another to blow it up into a larger scale, into a phrase that is prevalent in our society and in our popular culture. We can try to think of as many exceptions and individual cases as we want, but the truth is, when it’s used on this broader scale, when I have seen girls describe themselves as “not like other girls” because they like things that aren’t traditionally feminine, when there are Rom-Coms centered around a woman who is not as girly as everyone else in the movie and she is described as “not like other girls” then, yes, there is a problem with that. It is teaching girls that in order to be loved or special or treated like an equal to the boys (who are still assumed to have the power), she has to give up her femininity, she has to shut down other women.

    As for the male hate that the third commenter detected, I re-read this piece and couldn’t find anywhere that I thought sounded like she was hating on men at all. She talks about men not being worth criticizing other women over, but that sounds like a human issue to me, to use your own words.

  6. Awesome. So well put.

    And to anyone questioning the necessity of feminism, why don’t you open up a magazine and take a look at some advertising, or talk to a woman about how many times she’s been cat-called recently, or look at rape statistics, or consider the pay wage gap.

  7. Oh, all of you be quiet. Did you actually read the article, or did you just see the word “feminism” and start panicking? Evil, nice platitude, go read a book. Garvan, I’m really sorry you can’t get a date but you aren’t entitled to one and you’re not going to get any with that attitude–being seen as a human requires acting like one. Well this, you are right in your statement; there’s nothing wrong with being “like other guys,” but the article is looking at it from a gendered perspective, so deal with it. Bob, no one’s asking for entitlements, and your comment seems to have nothing to do with the actual article.

    The point of the article is that girls and women should work to support each other, and that stereotypically feminine traits should not be seen as inherently bad things, that being “one of the girls” or “like the other girls” is not in itself a sign of stupidity, vapidness or worthlessness.

    I also tend to think that our culture has a (sexist) fear of women in groups and of solidarity among women (or other people not in a position of privilege. How many white people do you know who get nervous around groups of black people for no reason other than racist ideas? Come on. You know a bunch.) The idea that a girl is “not like the others” makes her, in a way, less threatening to our Male Protagonist and, by extension, the reader/viewer, because she becomes less likely to go discuss him with her girlfriends, ostensibly because she’s “above” that.

    I think that the example given at the beginning of the article is one that can be looked at in many ways. The idea behind the “you’re not like other girls/guys” is really “You’re someone that I see separate from the masses, someone who sticks out to me in a good way.” And that’s cool. But when we start, even in fictitious settings, pitting girls against on another or expecting girls to value male acceptance above all else (and also assuming she’s into guys at all), that’s a problem. We should celebrate female friendships, we should celebrate being female and being a girl, and stop using “like other girls” as some kind of insult.

  8. TMG

    Very well. No woman is special. From this day forward men will treat all of them like a herd collective. Duly noted.

    • Liger

      “Very well. No woman is special. From this day forward men will treat all of them like a herd collective. Duly noted.”

      Most men already do, actually.

      Seriously, what’s with all the unnecessary male butthurt in this comment section? Unless you’re a Hollywood screenwriter, this critique doesn’t even apply to you, so ease up on the vitriol already.

  9. And this is gendered how? Please, at least your intergender competition doesn’t require you to impress the other gender with violence. Do you think being “not like the other girls” is easier than being a knight in shining armour?

    You yourself make an ironic slip up, you call masculine men as “dude-bro”s exactly like women chastise other women for being too feminine. Hypocritical, but I have no doubt you’ll find an excuse for your masculinity shaming.

  10. And this is gendered how? Please, at least your inter-gender competition doesn’t require you to impress the other gender with paternalistic violence. Do you think being “not like the other girls” is easier than being a knight in shining armour?

    You yourself make a slip up which reveals your hypocrisy, you call masculine men as “dude-bro”s exactly like women chastise other women for being too feminine. Thanks for that cissexist perpetuation of the gender binary.

  11. Oh my deearest

    Oh, my dearest,

    You are so lovely. I love your average looks, your dull stare and regular hair. Your eyes are so commonly standard that I can’t take them out of my mind. Your mute, silent averageness take my breath away. I count the minutes of my sleepless nights, hoping I’ll see your regular complexion in your plain gray clothes again.

    Your dull, regular non-distinct admirer

    Mister X

    We live in a world obsessed with specialness, in which everybody hates has impossible standards and expectations and lives choking in stench of their own entitlement. Everybody goes to great lengths to feel special and different which, in a world of 9 billion, is a stupid and expensive waste of time.
    This has nothing to with gender or sexual orientation. It’s all around us.

  12. “Why is it that the highest praise you can give a women is that she doesn’t behave like her fellow females? What the fuck is wrong with other girls?”

    You really want to know? Why don’t you ask Diana Davison? http://www.avoiceformen.com/sexual-politics/its-a-woman-problem/

    She will square you right away.

    “Why is it that the highest praise you can give a women is that she doesn’t behave like her fellow females? ”

    Catherine, have you ever priased a man for not being like all those other guys?

  13. Pingback: Lizzy Bennet as unlike “Other Girls” | GENDER & SEXUALITY IN WORLD CIVILIZATIONS

  14. Molly

    I agree with everything written and am all for feminism. At the same time, I think we’re all just animals acting on primal urges at the end of the day. I think it’s shitty this kind of rhetoric is being put out there and encouraged, but a certain level of competition in women is natural. We, like other animals, try to attract a mate and that creates competition.

    • Hi Molly.
      I tend to think the biological argument (we’re only human!) ignores all the crazy societal pressures we as humans face. While it’s natural for humans to compete with one another, the human potential to collaborate is possibly our most valuable trait.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      Kellie

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