The Problem With the 'Cool Girl'

We all know the “Cool Girl,” hell, many of us have been the “Cool Girl” at some point in our lives. The Cool Girl is one of the guys. She goes out of her way to get along with men, claims she has so many guy friends because she just, “gets along with guys better” and “hates girl drama.”

The Cool Girl is quick to criticize women as a group and lets sexist and misogynistic jokes slide. She is the first to point out some women lie when it comes to rape allegations. The Cool Girl just “gets it.” She loves football and beer and casual sex. She likes dirty jokes, giving blowjobs, video games, red meat, and would never call herself a feminist.

Now, many women do genuinely like some or all of these things. I personally enjoy sports (I’m a Packers fan) and would never turn down a good steak or burger. However, the pressure to subscribe to this Cool Girl mentality can be strong, especially on college campuses where casual hookups and binge drinking is perceiving as the norm. However, does being the Cool Girl really come with any advantages?

There are many pop culture references to this phenomena, such as bestseller Gone Girl. In the novel the main character gives a famous monologue on the subject, boldly declaring:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.”

Or take the song “Cool Girl” by Tove Lo. You know the one:

(Read lyrics here.) 

According to an interview with Rolling Stone, Tove Lo used the monologue from Gone Girl as inspiration for her hit song.

“Why do we try to be someone we're not to make someone love us?” the Swedish pop star said in her interview. “Would you want to fake yourself for the rest of your life? That's fucked up.”

So why do girls buy into this Cool Girl persona?

According to women’s rights advocate Julie S. Lalonde:

“Women are socialized to be competitive to other women and we can’t deny how many of us carry that with us our entire lives. There’s this idea that if you distance yourself from other women and align yourself with men, not only will they ‘choose you’ over other women, but they will treat you with the same respect they show their friends. It’s a phenomenon known as ‘proximity to power’: the idea that aligning yourself with the person/group in power will give you access to said power.”

This “proximity to power” phenomenon is a logical fallacy. The Cool Girl thinks that by buddying up with men she will somehow avoid the sexist and poor treatment she witnesses other women suffering from around her. This is simply not true and is a possible contributing explanation to why 54% of white female voters decided to vote for Trump. These women were willing to excuse Trump’s pussy grabbing comments and allegations of sexual assault in return for a link to his power and privilege as a white male, a link that leads to a false sense of protection, and to more closely align themselves with the white men in their lives. Unfortunately, this is an empty trade.

In addition to a fabricated feeling of protection, which can be incredibly dangerous in itself, the Cool Girl will also cease to be spared the nasty jokes and objectification of other women by her male friends. Her guy buddies will no longer expect her to object to their rating of other women’s appearances or express disgust towards their discussion of a certain woman’s body parts or flaws. The Cool Girl is effectively silenced in these instances, as her objection to such remarks would strip her of her disguise and paint her as an uptight feminazi.

In then end the Cool Girl always loses. The Cool Girl will not be taken more seriously by men, she will not gain any advantages in the work place or classroom, and she certainly will not gain any more street cred or respect from men. In the end she loses her voice.

It’s time women stop falling into this societal trap and stop seeing each other as competition. When women help each other succeed, all women succeed. Strong female friendship is one of the most powerful forces in the world and is our number one tool in the fight for gender equality for ALL women.  

As Adrienne Rich said, “The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transformative force on the planet.”