“I’m not like other girls.”
A phrase that many of those who experience womanhood have either said, heard or have been told. Talking to friends recently, we all recounted the times in middle school (and some into high school) we would say and do cringe-worthy things in order to stand out from the crowd of Hollister jeans and white converse sneakers. I remember thinking I was quirky and unique for collecting records and listening to the Arctic Monkeys, “a band you’ve probably never heard of—they’re pretty underground.” Meanwhile, ironically, several handfuls of girls were saying the same thing. A friend of mine recounted the time she would purposefully use her old walkman CD player to seem “mysterious” and wear beanies in the humid 90-degree weather of our southwestern Floridian town. In reality, it became a competition to put other women down to build ourselves up.
Where does this phenomenon stem from? In a patriarchal environment, femininity is closely associated with negative connotations with anyone feminine presenting being pitched as weak, unintelligent and lacking the skills to be independent. In a world where femininity is a bad thing, it’s only natural for it to be rejected and anything that is associated with it as well; whether it be an interest in fashion, makeup, flouncy sundresses or the color pink. “I’m not like other girls” is a short-sighted attempt to reclaim female power, dismissing these preconceptions while diminishing a whole gender and its value to our society. Really, the only thing this phrase is accomplishing is pitting women against each other, feeling the need to compete with one another in order to stand out and be “different.” It’s simply reinforcing the notion that femininity equals weakness, and that a person who finds joy in wearing florals and glittery eyeshadow couldn’t possibly be dedicated to their studies or have strong, valuable opinions. It’s a wedge that comes between us women as sisters, tearing our sisterhood apart. Unfortunately, this perception continues to be extremely prevalent, especially in male-dominated fields where women find that they must present more masculine in order to feel heard or respected by their colleagues.
Shaming other women is seen all over the media, some of which we’ve become so accustomed to we may not even realize. It’s seen when comparing celebrities’ ex-partners to their current ones and present in hit songs such as Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” and Paramore’s “Misery Business” in which lead woman Hayley Williams went on to apologize for years later.
But at the end of the day, when everyone is trying to be different by trading in their favorite espresso martinis for IPAs and their favorite rom-com for a crappy indie film to be like “one of the boys,” aren’t we just coming full-circle? Aren’t we creating the exact same person, eliminating individuality for a chance at superficial acceptance? Maturing as a feminist has made me realize this. It didn’t matter where you bought your jeans or if you rocked the same pair of sneakers with every ‘fit (I mean, I still wear proudly my Adidas Superstars). Our worth is so much more than the clothes on our backs, our interests, the amount of makeup we choose to wear or the songs we listen to in our free time. Substance cannot and should not be measured by appearances—on any account. I’ve come to terms with my inherently feminine interests, embracing my true self and that life shouldn’t have to be a constant “pick me” competition. Once we start to realize this, we can begin to repair our sisterhood and stunt the cycle of shaming femininity. I am like other girls—and that’s okay because other girls are awesome, too.