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Why We Should Stop Saying: “You’re Not Like Other Girls”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

“You’re not like other girls”. Whether this was directed to you or you have thought it about yourself, we’re all familiar with this phrase one way or another. You’d probably associate it with an awkward middle school phase along with a sense of regret. Yet, this seemingly unharmful phrase roots itself in misogynistic and derogatory beliefs. Outgrowing this phrase might be harder than expected when we look at how it ingrains itself into our everyday life. Sure, it might be taken as a compliment at first, but it’s quite the problematic “praise”  when dissected. We have come to realize that it perpetuates a cycle of toxic behavior towards and between women, and imposes itself on a girl’s view of herself and her self expression. 

What does the phrase actually mean? 

So, what does “you’re not like other girls” mean, exactly? Well, it refers to girls who do not align with female stereotypes, these can include: wearing makeup, going shopping, being overly emotional, partaking in gossip, among others. It’s also relevant to mention that usually boys are the ones using this phrase as some sort of compliment or girls, per se, are saying it to themselves; it’s rare to have a girl say it to her peer.

Why is it controversial? 

The controversy surrounding this “compliment” is the male validation and the patriarchal society’s view of women. If not being like “other” girls is meant to be a good thing, it suggests that, inherently, typically feminine things are bad, and it implies that the vast majority of girls, or the “other” girls, are superficial and ignorant. It paints these feminine traits as undesirable, which contradicts society’s imposition around women’s physical appearance, particularly, the unrealistic beauty standards and appeal to the male gaze.

Girls that don’t feel like they fit in or the ones that want to join typically male dominated spaces, such as certain work fields, social groups, among others, and have internalized the not-like-other-girls mentality tend to steer away from “girly” things, even from hanging out with women in general, regardless of what their true interests may be, and are left with a sense of pride from this barrier they created for other women. This, however, can backfire and have those girls perceived and ridiculed as “pick-me girls” or just plain odd for exaggerating their “quirkiness” in order to call the wrong kind of attention. In other words, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The internalized misogyny that can result as a consequence of this phrase can become so toxic that it leads to a disdain of people from their own gender and a glorification of men’s attention as a means to self worth. But even those that perpetuate rivalry instead of female solidarity are victims as well.

It is important to emphasize that not everyone that presents non-feminine traits automatically fall victim to the not-like-other-girls mentality, though that does not save any of us from the patriarchal society we live in. This is a matter of calling out the attitudes and expressions towards women that, regardless if it’s well intentioned or otherwise, it harms how we perceive others and ourselves.

It’s all up to you

We all have the right to develop and experiment with our gender expression, but it is a personal journey that should not confine itself to a certain box. What you like or don’t like should be your decision, whether that’s the clothes you wear, hobbies you partake in, they should all be things that make you happy. We do, however, need to grow aware of certain negative influences so that we can shake them off and grow into our own authentic selves.

Cristina Trejo is a Political Science major at the University of Puerto Rico and aspires to work in International Law. She believes in doing things that fuel your growth and that any experience is good experience. Everyone has their own journey and everyone is figuring things out. It's just a matter of learning and deciding what is best for our true selves.