Edited by Vanishree
13 year old me would have physically cringed at the title of this article, but can I blame her? She was only a little girl who loved watching movies like ‘Mean Girls’, ‘The DUFF’, ‘10 Things I Hate About You’, ‘Miss Congeniality’, and the likes. They taught her that the girl who likes conventionally feminine things such as wearing makeup or high heels is shallow, stupid, and not cool. So, she discarded her favourite pink clothes, pretended that she didn’t like fairy tales, and tried to seem interested in sports even though she thoroughly hated it. She severed ties with her girly friends, and when asked why, she said that they’re too much drama and that she was not like them.
It is funny how all the girls in my school went through this phase where they thought I was the other girl. If they thought I was the other girl, and I thought the same for them, well — there were no other girls. Then why did I feel the need to separate myself from this imaginary group of girls? I didn’t know then, but I know now that it was due to my internalised misogyny. Our society is inherently sexist, where femininity is associated with triviality, and I did not want to be perceived as vain. I was just trying to make sense of myself and the world around me, and I most definitely didn’t want to fit in a box that someone else had decided for me.
It took time, but I finally realised that if I did not want to fit in a box, then how could I assume that others wanted to? In fact, there were no rigid boxes, just gender roles imposed by our society that we could breakthrough. This realisation gave me wings, and I stopped forcing myself to watch football, play video games, and act interested in crime documentaries. I also know for a fact that a lot of girls like me stopped pretending too. However, this didn’t mean that society stopped putting us into boxes; it only meant that they no longer confined us.
Another gigantic realisation was that these media tropes of unconventional females had made me look at myself through the male gaze, and everything I did was performative. It was as if I had to flip my hair a certain way, eat my sandwich a certain way, and groove to songs a certain way. I was constantly putting up an act for an imaginary audience to distinguish myself from an imaginary group of people. However, with time, the nature of my performance changed. I started performing for myself. My gestures and actions were influenced by nobody else but me. I had tasted liberation, and it felt wonderful. Now, my sense of self embodies it.
I am writing this article with hot pink nails and a One Direction song playing in the background. I am not scared of someone calling me ‘cringey’. It has been ages since I warred with my internalised misogyny and emerged victoriously. However, I worry about the girls who have not yet experienced what it is like to be content with who they are and perform for themselves and themselves alone.
Despite the many female empowerment campaigns, movies like ‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’ and ‘The Perfect Date’ continue to plague the minds of impressionable teenagers. A recent Tik-Tok trend asks girls to introduce themselves as the reasons girls hate them, which is based on the implicit premise that girls hate each other, which is sickening. The foundations of the patriarchal hegemony in our society are threatened by the ability of women to love and support one another, and rightly so. Therefore, they try to pit us against each other because nothing is more powerful than women who refuse to hate each other.
I don’t want little girls to go through the same phase as I did. I will start with my sister and make sure that she doesn’t miss out on strong female friendships that make you feel like you’re on top of the world. I want her to enjoy her childhood and teenage years with other girls wearing whatever she likes and doing whatever she wants because that’s how it is supposed to be. I will ensure that she doesn’t pity her younger self the way I do. I will see to it that she doesn’t learn what I had to unlearn before I could finally say the following line with no reservations whatsoever.
I am exactly like other girls, and I’m proud of it.