Girls Drinking Wine

I Am Like Other Girls

Growing up, I was what my mother (and many other adults in my life) referred to as a Tom Boy™. I wore exclusively "boy clothes" almost all the way to high school, and was very adamant about my disklike for anything intended for girls, taking great pride in my rejection of femininity. In my mind, it was what set me apart. That, and the fact that I was a "double-green reader" in third grade (sorry to flex). If there was something "girly" I felt drawn to, I also felt a compulsion to be ashamed of it. So, clad in rain-boots and a black blazer- a timeless combo I sported most days in middle school, even when it wasn't raining- I stumbled upon a label I would quickly come to feel embodied me: "I'm not like other girls." I will be the first to admit that I absolutely was one of those kids in 2012. I scrolled through Tumblr on my iPod Touch thinking about what an outsider I was. Fortunately for my sanity, this is not a unique experience. In fact, many girls in 2012 took to the internet to prove how UnLiKe OtHeR gIrLs they were. Which leads me to ask the question, where does this desperation to reject ourselves as women come from?

It wasn't until high school that I really started to question my deep-rooted fear of sharing traits with other girls. It happened at a production the upperclassmen performed of Eve Ensler's "Emotional Creature" in the auditorium of my school. The production was phenomenal, and the writing had really spoken to me. I left school feeling disoriented that day because after seeing that play and watching all those girls on that stage feel so connected to it, I realized the joy that comes with camaraderie. During that performance, I felt like I was part of a group. We all had these shared experiences that helped make us who we are. I had been separating myself from this possibility. I was so sure there was nothing for me in that world, so I isolated myself and used it as a barrier because they can't make me feel left out if I don't want to be let in. But the world I was imagining didn't really exist. I was just scared. 

On the way home, I reflected on all the things I had thought and said about femininity in the past, like the part in movies where someone realizes some big plot twist and the montage reel of all the clues plays and they're like oh my god how was I so ignorant. I was perpetuating the idea that had deterred me from accepting myself in the first place, I was partaking in the idea that in order to be who I wanted, I couldn't be a girly girl; that if I wanted to have depth, have my own style, be strong, I couldn't also be feminine. I was perpetuating the idea that in owning my body I was nothing more than my flesh alone. It threw me into a minor identity crisis, complete with a vacant stare at myself in my bathroom mirror. Who was I before I told myself who I didn't want to be? And where did that negative image come from in the first place? Why are young girls often lauded for acting more masculine, whereas boys can't so much as insinuate femininity? 

I know I'm asking a lot of questions and not really answering them, but I guess that's just where thinking starts. The truth is, I alone don't know the answers I seek. What I do know is this: it is ingrained in the minds of our youth that exhibiting feminine behavior makes you less than. You shouldn't run like a girl, or scream like a girl, or act like a girl- you shouldn't be a girl. Girls are over-emotional, irrational, hysterical, and weak. Women aren't funny, or smart, or independent thinkers. Women are objects, concerned with superficial things, incapable of deeper understanding, too wrapped up in feelings to comprehend logic, and not strong enough to hold their own. This was the narrative I hated, the one I tried everything to disprove, and in doing so, I just fortified the belief in my mind that if I "acted like a girl" I would be conforming to all of these characteristics. 

There is so much shame around being a woman. The shame comes from men, but also other women. As a mass, the public actively shames young girls. Take for example past trends such as the "basic bitch" or the "VSCO girl." Two labels that have such a negative connotation used to describe a group of young girls who are simply trying to find what they like in the world. People are so quick to mock young girls for adhering to a stereotype, yet we punish them for trying to pave their own path. We force girls into a binary, but neither option saves them from criticism. It is all about compartmentalizing: girls are prudes or sluts, kiss-ups or bitches, try-hards or airheads. Neither camp lands you in a place safe from harsh criticism from all corners of life, at home, at school, or online. Whether or not we want to, we internalize this. 

So, to add my opinion on the remedy to this cycle of toxicity; we have to build each other up. Like anything, personalities are never going to be black and white. Most girls, and people in general, are a mix of a bunch of things, often some contradicting characteristics as well. And there will be people all across the spectrum of gender that you find kinship with and that you don't. You're going to be like other girls, and sometimes you'll differ. What's not okay is to partake in the shaming of girls, or anyone, for behaving in a way that doesn't hurt anyone. Pursuing one's interests, expressing themselves, or being true to their good-natured desires are behaviors that should be rewarded. If you're reading this, the cycle of shame ends with you. Stop allowing this negative narrative to impact how you view yourself and other women. You are only in control of your own actions, so start there. Be the girl you wanted to see as a kid, represent the image of the girl you wanted to be, because who knows what little girl will meet you and think, maybe I can be who I want to be.