I'm Not Like Other Girls...
By Kyla Canares
“I hate the colour pink. I’m not like those other girls”
“Drama is the worst. I don’t get into petty fights. I’m not like those other girls”
“Pop music makes me want to throw up. I’m not like other girls”
At one point in our lives, we’ve all heard the phrase.
“I’m not like other girls”
Maybe we’ve heard it in a book delivered by a girl who hates makeup, she wears sneakers instead of heels and she’s “strong” and “emotionless”. Maybe in a movie or TV show delivered by an “action girl” who is not just a damsel in distress like “most girls”.
Or maybe we personally know someone who has said “I’m not like other girls”.
“I’m not like other girls” is a phrase is echoed by women in an attempt to disassociate themselves from the so called “other girls”. You know, the “other girls” that listen to boybands that aren’t the Beatles. The ones that like the colour pink and wear dresses. “I’m not like other girls” is said as a way for girls to individualise themselves but they do so at the at the cost of putting every other girl down.
It puts us down by lumping every single one of us into an indistinguishable, inferior mass called the “other girls”.
But how can we lump all girls together into this label if each one of us has an individual personality? And more importantly, what leads girls to believe that the average girl is so gross that they have to disclaim that they are not like “other girls”?
Maybe it’s because of the media we consume. One dimensional girls that display femininity are often painted as vain and mean. They are the stock caricature villains of countless teen dramas. They are the make-up wearing, narcissistic, cheerleaders. They’re the ones that wear short skirts instead of t-shirts in Taylor Swift’s hit songs.
Meanwhile, the female characters that aren’t feminine are praised because they’re not like the “other girls.” They can sass boys and they know so much better than all the other naïve girls. They’re the one “Belle” character in a town that has only 3 other female characters her age; 3 other characters named “the Bimbettes”. They’re praised because they’re not like your typical damsels in distress. Because that’s what all girls are, right?
The problem isn’t about non-feminine characters. It’s about suggesting that every girl other than that one non-feminine character is feminine and thus, they are incapable or superficial.
And we can’t blame girls for feeling like they need to distinguish themselves from “other girls” because it hurts to be labelled mean or shallow or incapable.
From a young age we’ve been encouraged to internalise spite towards other girls by assuming that the average woman is incapable or superficial. We’ve been encouraged to associate femininity with vanity and cruelty. We’re pushed to believe that choosing to be feminine doesn’t make you a strong woman. And this pop-culture push has subdued the ability for women to choose who they want to be.
But it doesn’t stop with the media. This idea of subduing choice is prevalent in our own behaviours.
When a woman posts a photo of herself in a power suit, she is praised with “slayyyy” and heart eye emojis. But when a man is in a skirt it’s perceived as “funny” or “weird”. We’ve created the term “manbun” because we feel the need to validate that wearing a bun can be masculine. Because god forbid that a man who’s fashioned his long hair into a bun is called a girl. I hear girls brag about why they hate the colour pink or wearing dresses because it’s too “girly” and “they’re not like that”.
Why is wearing a skirt funny? Why is being called a girl insulting?
Our behaviours insinuate that masculinity is empowering and femininity is degrading.
The phrase “I’m not like other girls” is problematic because it’s the product of a world that says being a girl is degrading. The phrase “I’m not like other girls” dismisses an entire gender. The phrase “I’m not like other girls” encourages us to subdue each other in an oppressive system by saying there is a correct way to be a woman and what the other girls are doing isn’t correct.
An article titled ‘It should be illegal to be a stay-at-home mum’ was published this March on The Daily Telegraph and shuns women who decide to work as stay at home mums. This unhealthy behaviour of dismissing women for making decisions that fit their individual personalities has mutated into suggesting that we criminalise women for choosing one lifestyle over another.
When we let people define which personality traits a woman should abandon to be the “correct woman” we constrain choice. We need to start supporting each other by accepting that we’re all different and that’s okay. Disliking pink does not make you better than other girls; but it doesn’t make you worse either.
We should stop ourselves before we scoff at something for being “too girly” and put an end to the underlying behaviours that continue to perpetuate the idea that there’s a correct way to be a woman.
Because there isn’t.
The words we say can dismiss someone’s identity or they can celebrate it. I know what message I want my words to say.