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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at C of C chapter.

We’ve all thought it. We’ve all had our moments in middle school where we sat in those uncomfortable, squeaky desks and looked around at our female peers in disdain, proclaiming internally that we were different. We were better. We were more valuable. We were not like other girls.

This phenomenon can happen at any point in time, but it mostly occurs in young, impressionable girls. And we need to understand why. Growing up as young girls, we are constantly bombarded by media that suggests that femininity means weakness. We see the comparison everywhere, from literature to Disney movies, from Tumblr to TikTok. Our protagonist in such media is a complete revolutionary. She is bad at makeup. She doesn’t wear dresses or high heels, instead preferring her Converse. She reads. She’s a tomboy. She can’t be bothered by the things other girls worry about, like boys or clothes. And coincidentally, by disowning her femininity, she becomes the standard for women, the one that little girls look up to because that girl has worth. However, in doing this, young girls don’t see that the reason society has now deemed this protagonist valuable is because she is no longer seen as “other women,” thereby creating a paradox in which the only worthwhile women are those who don’t like other women. 

This complex reality is difficult to understand, as it creates a deep and thriving subculture that affects our whole society. It is misogyny that presents itself as empowering feminism, a Trojan horse to every young woman who is just beginning her journey to understanding the role sexism plays in her life. That is possibly the worst thing about the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” phase. We consume this media and wholeheartedly believe that it is preaching equality and feminism when it is staunchly doing no such thing. But it is easy to get confused. After all, our protagonist can do everything the boys can do, and sometimes she can do it better. Empowering, right? Wrong. This representation of women is harmful because it suggests the idea that while yes, women can become equal to men, the only way they can accomplish this is by giving up their femininity. There is no way for a woman to both like traditionally feminine things and be successful. 

So, as young girls, we separate ourselves from our womanhood. We want to prove that we can be worthy. We think I am not like other girls because I have a brain. I’m not one dimensional. I have interests and hobbies. We don’t understand that women don’t have to choose between being a girl and being able to contribute to society. When we say “I’m not like other girls,” we are screaming to the world, “I am a person with ideas and thoughts and morals and I just want to be heard.” We don’t realize that being a girl does not equate to being dismissible or insignificant. We don’t realize we can have value and be female. 

This trope is still alive and well today, in fact, it is thriving. A recent example can be found in the “bruh girl” trend on TikTok. Being a “bruh girl” started as a simple joke, then morphed into a trend putting down other women for being too girly, spreading internalized misogyny throughout the app. And this is only one example. There are thousands of others. Simply take a moment throughout the next week to analyze the media you consume for this actuality, and you will certainly find many instances of it occurring. 

We must dismantle this philosophy that it is impossible to be both a girl and important. By continuing to publish media that follows this trend, we force our youth to swallow sexism that has been deemed empowerment. If we truly want to empower our young women, we need to show them that they can wear high heels and have a brain, that they can love makeup, and be an amazing writer, that they can adore fashion and play sports. True empowerment comes from accepting all forms of femininity, not just femininity that has conformed to a patriarchal system. 

Madeline Landa is in the class of 2024 at the College of Charleston and is loving being a part of the Honors College, Honors Leadership Fellows Society, and the International Scholars program. To say the least, she's trying to emulate beloved Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope as hard as she can (minus the waffles obsession). Some of her favorite activities include fighting the urge to scroll through TikTok, wandering around near the ocean, and painting terribly.