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Stop Saying “Not Like Other Girls”


Every so often, I get told that I am “not like other girls.” This comment comes almost exclusively from men. When I first had this phrase directed at me, I was surprised. I thought that this topic had been addressed often enough that people knew to avoid saying it. After discussing this with my gal pals, I realized that many of them had a similar experience. Here’s the thing: it isn’t a compliment. In fact, the phrase is insulting.

I know that when men say “not like other girls,” they mean it as a compliment. This valuation inherently implies that there is something wrong with women as a collective. In other words, the phrase uses the term “girls” as a derogatory statement. That idea should not be perpetuated. It not only insults me, but also half the world’s population. To be clear, I am like other girls. I am like other girls because I am a girl.

The phrase is also insulting on behalf of all the women in my life. Right now, most of the people I am close to are women. This “compliment” raises me above them on some undefined level of virtue. I feel insulted on their behalf. They are wonderful people. I want to be like them, because they have values, interests, and achievements that I respect and admire. We raise each other up. We don’t need someone else to rank our characters. I don’t need a man to validate that I’m better or different because I actually want to be more like the women in my life. When men make comments like this, they fail to recognize that women don’t want other women to be put down for themselves to be build up. (#EmpoweredWomenEmpowerWomen).

Double standards are imposed on women, creating dichotomous expectations. A woman is bossy if she takes charge, but she is shy or submissive if she does not. A woman is loose if she has sex, but she is a prude if she does not. Saying that a woman is “not like other girls” is appreciating how she meets one particular standard. Specifically, the phrase reveals a man’s subjective notion of an ideal, perfect girl. This fantasy is inaccurate, divisive, and – therefore – problematic.

To call a woman a girl is demeaning, especially in this context. These women have classes, jobs, bills, goals, hopes, and aspirations. They are entering maturity and adulthood, if they aren’t there already. Calling them girls is belittling and establishes them as inferior. (Just imagine someone saying, “You’re not like other boys.” It’s weird, right?)

The phrase basically says, “You’re the best of a bad lot. Girls are annoying and faulty, but you seem okay.” In other words, it is a compliment for not being terrible. Meeting the basic requirements of being a decent person is not an achievement. When I have heard this phrase, the meaning behind it was often, “You are not superficial.” High praises.

The best kinds of compliments are the ones that are genuine, without comparison or expectation. If a woman is kind, smart, funny, loyal, dedicated, hard-working, easy-going, dependable – or any other admirable trait – compliment her on that. Most times, a simple “thank you” works. For example, “Thank you for being patient. I know that got chaotic.” Compliment her on what she is, not what she isn’t. Appreciate her as a person, not as a girl.

Please and thank you.

I am a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus College, majoring in English. I enjoy reading, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends.
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