Empowerment

I’m Not Like Other Girls

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A guy friend once told me that I’m “not like other girls.” He meant it as a compliment, but it left a lump in my throat that made it impossible for me to get my thanks out. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to thank him for this so-called compliment at all.

I knew what he meant: you’re not a “girly-girl.” You don’t obsess over nail polish and twirl your hair while smacking pink bubblegum and talking about the latest celebrity gossip. You’re not an airhead. Not like those other girls.

I’m Not Like Other Girls

But when did all other girls become airheads? This compliment equates girlhood with vapidity, a mentality I wish we’d left behind in middle school. But it keeps following us, a grown-up (but not any more mature) version of “girls have cooties.”

I spent most of my middle school years buying into the “not like other girls” myth. I rejected pink and didn’t wear makeup and read a lot of books to prove I wasn’t a feminine ninny. I wanted to have mostly guy friends because being friends with girls was “too much drama.” I look back on this time and groan because it’s internalized misogyny at its finest. No girl should feel like she’s in the wrong for being feminine, but it’s a phenomenon that’s much too common.

The worst part about it is that, in an effort to become “one of the boys” so that I wasn’t like other girls, I missed out being friends with other girls for a long time. And, contrary to what this “compliment” would have you believe, other girls are awesome. My girlfriends are one of the greatest parts of my life, and they’re the most exceptional people I know.

Contrary to what this “compliment” would have you believe, other girls are awesome.

I did it because the compliment “not like other girls” forces women into a competition none of us agreed to, where the goal is to lessen our femininity. But girlhood isn’t something I want to break out of, it’s something I want to celebrate. Things we consider ditzy–lipstick, high heels, pretty dresses, too many pillows on the bed–are fun things girls should be able to enjoy without any negative connotations. And if I can love them all and graduate with a higher GPA than the guy who allegedly complimented me, it’s because enjoying girlhood doesn’t make me a ninny.

The truth is, I’m not like other girls. Neither is my sister, or my cousin, or my best friend, or my roommate, or the girl who sat next to me on the subway this morning. We’re all different from each other because—get this—we’re actual people with actual personalities. A subtlety the dude who insists I’m “not like other girls” just can’t grasp.

When I told my guy friend this, he rolled his eyes and told me I was overanalyzing. But language is where our thoughts start. It’s what we use to express ourselves. And what we’re expressing here is a deep-seated disgust for femininity that’s engrained in the words we use every day. It’s about time we changed that.

 

Read more: Does Our Language Discourage Women?

Have you ever been told you’re not like other girls?

Born in France but raised all over the place, Auriane has wanted to write ever since she was old enough to spell her name. In her spare time she loves reading, hanging out with her best friends (even when they're not in the same time zone), and spontaneous singing with her Broadway-bound roommate.

57 Comments

  1. Lana Urie

    I hate the phrase “I’m not like other girls” It most of the time is followed by something that rejects the typical idea of “femininity”. Girls are taught that if they stray away from what society defines as feminine, then they will be seen as “cool” or “quirky” and that makes them better than girls who do typically “feminine” things. Girls, if you prefer to wear sneakers, great! But it doesn’t make you better than someone who wears 5-inch heels. Don’t shame other girls for their choices. Embrace your differences and uplift each other.

  2. Marina Henderson

    Ladies, it is time to stop subjecting ourselves to the offensive and unrealistic standards set by society. There is no correct way to be a girl, and there is no such thing as the ‘ideal’ girl, despite what everyone tells us. Ending internalized misogyny is a team effort. Girls need to be there to love and embrace each other’s different lifestyles and choices. Together we can create a community of support and empowerment!

  3. It’s a misguided compliment, plain and simple. The man you’re talking to believes he’s praising your uniqueness and other good qualities he hasn’t seen in other women so far. But in the process, he’s inadvertently putting down other women, by saying that all of them don’t have the qualities you have. Which, by definition, includes your family and friends. It can be a pragmatic language use issue, not an uncommon mistake for aspies. Doubly so for whom English is not the first language.

    I see it as a male equivalent of saying “you’re a nice guy”. The dictionary meaning of “nice” is positive; it means kind, good-natured, etc. But in everyday language use, being a “nice guy” is bad. It doesn’t mean “a guy who’s a nice person”; it means “Nice Guy(TM)”. So this goes both ways.

    • Danielle Wilson

      These are MAJOR generalizations. “You’re not like other women” may be a pick-up line (which might actually lead to a wonderful relationship), it may be an insult, or it may be a genuine, heart-felt compliment. “Different” does not automatically mean “bad,” just as it doesn’t automatically mean “good.” Similarly, someone being considered a “nice guy” can also be a compliment. Assuming that a certain phrase or word has only negative connotations outside the dictionary is just as bad and dangerous as assuming it always means something positive. Context is crucial.

  4. I think that when people say that, about themselves or others, they are usually making a huge and negative generalization about other people. It is easy to believe that your experiences are felt more deeply than anyone else’s, or to meet somebody you get along with and feel like they are the chosen one and on a higher level of consciousness, but everyone who doesn’t look and act like you at first glance is not a cardboard cutout with no personality or legitimate interests. And yes, women are disproportionately stereotyped that way.

  5. I think the problem with statements like, “You’re not like other women,” is that it indicates they’re lumping every other female into a single monolithic category as if women weren’t a variety of people. If someone stereotypes women that much, that’s a bad thing, regardless of what that stereotype is.

    It’s a long the same lines as “You’re one of the good ones [among people of your race]” or “You don’t look autistic.”

    Yeah, I’m not like most other women, but most women aren’t like most other women, but on the other hand there are plenty of women I’m fairly similar with, too.

  6. I honestly think if a man says “you’re not like other women” then you should run but not because he hates women, he most probably doesn’t. It’s just a lame pick-up line. And you should probably run away from lame pick-up artists whether you appreciate their sentiments or not.

    • Yuppp!!! The reason women say to run from a guy who uses that phrase is because it’s a line generally used by creepy guys. Chances are the guy doesn’t know you very well and is not actually commenting on your differences, so while you might embrace being different, he’s not saying that as an observation. He says it to all girls, to make them feel “special,” and get in their pants.

  7. Lucretia Asher

    Women cannot be contained to a single archetype, and there is no wrong way of being a girl. Other Girls don’t exist—only other people, who are just as capable as you are of feeling love or loss, joy or suffering. Once we stop degrading our own gender it will be so much easier to support, encourage, and love one another. Empowered women empower other women, so build each other up and watch each other grow.

  8. Debbie Jones

    The first time a guy told me I’m “not like other girls,” I blushed and said thank you. It’s nice to hear that someone thinks you’re special. As the night went on, however, I couldn’t help but ponder the subtext of his praise. Being told I’m “not like other girls” stopped feeling flattering, and started to feel like a thinly veiled dig at my entire gender. Why do I have to be unlike the women I call my friends, family, and role models in order to be wanted? By saying that my wit, values, or independence make me different from “Other Girls,” he was basically saying, “I think girls suck, but you are the lucky exception.” Appealing to my ego by insulting other women isn’t a compliment; it’s forcing women into a competition that none of us agreed to.

  9. What is so wrong with being an ordinary woman that everybody’s going on about not being like other women? That’s a huge insult to the whole gender, especially when it comes from women!

  10. Sonja Fallow

    5 star blog entry! It’s as if you wrote these words straight out my mind.

    If a girl isn’t like other girls people will notice. Oh and for the record, there also isn’t anything wrong with “being like other girls”. 🙂

  11. Lena Dzeko

    The only thing more annoying than men who tell women they’re not like other girls is, women who claim they’re not like other girls. Honestly, and this is the truth right here, if they are not like other girls or not like a typical [insert type of person here] guess what? They don’t feel the need to tell people. These girls are poser girls, people can see right through them in an instant.

  12. Felicia Stewart

    “I’m not like other girls”…. The girls who totally are like other girls desperately trying to convince other people (usually men) they are not like other girls. Which ruins it for the women or girls who really aren’t like other girls.

  13. Kimberley Foulkes

    Instead of saying we’re not like most girls, let’s clarify that we’re not like society’s preconceived notions of women. I’m not like a lot of girls. But I am like tons of other girls, too. There is no list of qualities that most women possess. For any quality one woman possesses, there is a woman that possesses the opposite quality.

  14. Melissa Princeton

    I cringe a little harder every time I hear any variation of this statement. Even worse? Being told, “you’re not like most girls.” Sure, it’s meant to be a compliment, but what’s wrong with being like other women?

  15. Molly Twain

    What an amazing article!!! Well spot on! It took me way too long to realize that every woman I’ll ever meet is an individual. Every woman I meet has something to teach me. The craziest thing to think about, looking back, is the fact that I was so deeply affected by the unappealing stereotypes I had internalized about women before I could really understand what they meant. If you had told me that I was “not like other girls” when I was 14, I would have taken it as an enormous compliment. If you said the same thing to me today, I’d probably tell you to really talk to some more women. lol

  16. Evelyn Sandler

    I 100% understand where this impulse comes from. I used to do this, too, in college. We’ve all gotten the message, loud and clear, that being a woman/girl is Bad. Girly hobbies are shallow, girly objects are inferior, girly literature and movies are fluff. Girls are crazy, emotional, desperate, bossy, hormonal, unreasonable, irrational, illogical. It’s a barrage of negativity we face from day one and I understand why girls who internalize that uncritically would take any escape they imagine they can find. I get it that they think “acting masculine” (as if anything is inherently masculine or feminine) will make guys respect them more, listen to them, take them more seriously. And it will. For a while.

    But there’s a nasty secret about “not being like other girls.” The moment you disagree with men who fall for that crap? The moment you stop performing to their standards or playing their game? You’re just as “crazy” and “hormonal” and “shallow” as you’ve been told the rest of us are. Trust me. It doesn’t even need to be relevant to your friendship. I lost ALL my guy friends in college because we had a disagreement over whether an unrelated thing a college-aged man did. Not like our interests changed or I accused anybody. I just disagreed in what I thought was an obvious argument. But I got called an irrational b***ch.

  17. Kim Hartford

    I love this post. Sending this to my sister, she’s definitely a girl who considers herself “not like other girls.”

  18. Jennifer McSween

    I clicked on this thinking it was going to be something else but instead I got something so much better. I am tired of women that put down other women for being “girly” so that they can make themselves stand out. 😉

  19. Amanda Roberts

    You know.. I hear this from men all the time. “Whoa, you like xyz? Girls usually don’t!” …Really? Because I have tons of female friends who like comics/whiskey/gaming/sports/metal/whatever. This idea that “most women” are a specific way is so bizarre!

    And what’s more is that I’m supposed to accept “You’re not like other girls” as some kind of compliment or benchmark. But really it’s just kind of obnoxious and offensive.

    • Roberta Bennett

      Yeah, what the heck is with that “compliment”. It just makes me realize that they have a very specific definition of what a woman should be. No thanks, I want a partner that can appreciate all sorts of women.

    • Diana Hewitt

      My coworker said something similar the first time I met him because he found out in the same shift that I liked classic sci-fi and whiskey. I told him that I was exactly like other girls, because other girls are also complicated and capable of liking both wine and single-malt and chick-lit and Dune and shopping and video games. Just like I like all of the above. Needless to say, we do not get along nearly as well as he initially thought we would.

  20. Emma Blackwood

    I’m just gonna be frank here. I’ve heard “I’m not like other girls” from more women than I can possibly recall. If all of us, collectively, are not like other women, then who is even left?

  21. Grace Stirling

    I couldn’t have read this post at a better time. I’m so much in this boat and definitely the same. I don’t say that girls are too much of a drama or think I’m superior other people, but I do think I’m different than many other women. Not all of course, but many at least. I just haven’t found many women who seem similar to me and who I can relate to.

  22. Renee Wilk

    Beautiful, insightful writing. Hits home and sounds true. I’m so glad that I’ve found a group of friends that are “not like the other girl’s” we hang out and play video games,sometimes bake and play sports together. I believe many people struggle with this and your article can provide some comfort and relief on the anxiety brought on by this issue. These words are true gems that I will read and re-read and pass on to all I know.

  23. Leslie Williams

    In my humble opinion the whole “I’m not like other girls” movement should really be called the “I don’t want men to treat me the way they treat other women” movement because that’s what it really is. Women know that a girl who wears makeup is as respectable as a girl who wears none. Women know that a girl who wears makeup is as respectable as a girl who wears none. A woman who started her own law firm is as respectable as a single mom who works in the service industry. A lesbian who has no interest in men is as respectable as a straight girl who loves her boyfriend.

    • Nicky Bryan

      I agree. Women have been extensively shamed for saying “I’m not like other girls” when what they are really saying, maybe without knowing it, is “I’ve heard the way men talk about specific types of women, typically women who do things that they don’t understand or relate to, and I really, really want them to separate me from that and see me as a person who is worthy of being respected.” How much respect a woman gets from men is very rarely indicative of how much she deserves. “I don’t want you to treat me the way you treat other girls, because you treat other girls like shit.”

  24. Sibel Jenkinson

    Depending on the context in which you meet me, you might think I’m a “cool girl,” or you might not. But what’s most important is the way I see myself: a unique woman with my own set of characteristics that can’t be boxed into one trope. And I don’t think it would be particularly “cool” to have to sacrifice who I am. 🙂

  25. Delilah Peyton

    This kind of idealization of being different from others leaves us questioning ourselves and who we are in how we can be different from other people, which just leaves us isolated again when instead we could be getting together with some of these “other girls” to eat cheese doodles and talk about books.

  26. Esther Earl Harris

    This is a really good way of putting it. Looking back on it, I think that’s what others were doing – creating a “brand”. You don’t even realize you’re doing it, until you look back. I don’t hate women and think they’re all horrible. I have some great friends who are awesome people now.

  27. Camila Hilhorst

    It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. When we embrace how “not like other girls” we are, and we shout it to the heavens on our handy-dandy Instagrams or whatever else we have, we give “nice guys” the impression that it is a compliment to say “you’re not like other girls” when it really shouldn’t be.

    *“Nice guys” is in quotations because they are not, in fact, nice guys.

  28. Olivia Peterson

    We’re told by the guys who like us that we’re “not like other girls” and by the guys who don’t that we’re “just like other girls.” The guys who like us are trying to compliment us (even if it is terrible because, as Shakespeare taught us, comparisons as compliments are not always the way to go), so we internalize that as being a good thing. We weren’t like other girls, and they liked us because of that, therefore we should embrace our status of “not like other girls” in the hopes that another guy will come along and fall in love with our specialness. Also, one of the insults “nice guys”* like to throw around is “you’re just like the other girls” which we also internalize as a thing where we don’t want to be like “the other girls” because “the other girls” are somehow bad.

  29. Mary Johnston

    What you said resonated so deep within me. What a difference my day would be if I only loved myself deeply and was a lil bit gentle. This will be my purpose in 2016. Thank you for sharing this. Great guidance!

  30. Sydney Nowak

    The thing with the “not like other girls” bit is that you are, in fact, like other girls, even if you do not perceive yourself to be like other girls. Because there will be other girls out there who share the same interests with you, even if they’re not as open about it or if they don’t live right next to you. There are also some places in general where being different makes you popular, so long as you are different in the right way. They want to be different in a way that makes them special and separates them from the other girls while also making them somehow superior to the girls who are not different (and who usually end up being bullies in the stories).

  31. Anna Kaplan

    I have 4 brothers, so I’ve seen things on both sides of the fence, so to speak, and it’s ridiculous how ‘compartmentalised’ people make things! My gender does not determine my likes and dislikes. The only thing that determines my likes and dislikes are what I like and don’t like!

  32. Julia MacLean

    It’s very sad to see so many girls and women internalize these ideas that women are vile and superficial and alienate other women. I wish people wouldn’t fuel the stereotypes, wouldn’t choose to believe in them, and really just look around at the women and girls in their lives and realize that really none of them fit that vile stereotype. People are multidimensional. There is no woman who only cares about handbags.

  33. Franny Pimms

    This is probably the most important observation in a beautifully spot-on and quite heart-breaking post. 50-odd years of feminism and there have still left many women feeling inferior in everything they do, think, and feel – to be cool, they feel they have to emulate the lads. Imagine this turned round (for more than a pick-up line): “I’m not like other guys – I, too, like >insert ANY propagated female interest<" Equally cool to as many?
    Me, I'm just happy I can ignore football and cars 🙂

  34. Monica CONOVER

    Thank you so much for this! Such a great piece that beautifully expressed the seething frustration I feel when I hear this.

  35. Tracie Raymond

    Well said. I used to think girls were too much drama, now I think people in general are. I still have no interest in a large group of girlfriends. I think that the pressure of having to be “perfect” is what really creates the drama. Thank you for your inspiring words.

  36. Colleen Frasier

    How do I make the entire universe read this post? ???

    Thank you. As one of the many girls who are not like the others, thank you very much for this.

  37. Ashley Moore

    My feelings exactly. I wish I could hug this post. So beautifully written for a world obsessed with finding and loving one self. Our very being and selves are beautiful enough. Thanks you for this. 🙂

  38. Helen Dark

    Hey Sister,
    Thanks for that article, it came at the right time and answers so many questions for me.?

    xoxo,
    Helen

  39. Lela House

    What you said was beautiful and really resonates with me. I heard it a lot, like “you are not like other girls” and I would say “I know ‘coz I was just being me and I am a woman”. Thank you for the reminder of this perspective. It does feel SO good when I am not trying to be anything but myself, or trying to figure out who that was. I’m going to come back and read and reread this a few times. 😀

  40. Francis Woods

    Well-written article!!! For me, “you’re not like most girls” would be more acceptable than “you’re not like the other girls.” Yeah, the second one would have a negative impact on me!!! I can’t explain why…

  41. Emily Sauer

    Amazing! I love this perspective. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this topic. I realized I’m not like other girls, but I’m also not like other people.
    I’m my own person and I love that. And I can show people that without saying it. 🙂

  42. Christina Brown

    I had pretty much the same experience as well. And agreed on the dramatic thing. When i was younger, I was the ultimate boyish and not interested in the traditional western societal ‘girly’ things. I never disliked girls. I disliked people who are petty, shallow, and obsessed with drama.

  43. Another inspiring article from Urbanette! I’m not like the other girls because I’m better than them.

  44. Unfortunately, female stereotypes exist. I think depending on the tone and who the speaker is (if it’s a male or a female), “you’re not like the other girls” can be a compliment or a destructive comment. I have seen younger ladies react to this negatively. They would be bothered and ask what’s wrong with me?

    But a more experienced woman like me, would just say “thanks,” be glad someone notices that “unique” personality and would feel proud that she’s not like the other girls.

    • Agree! And I would have to add, depending on the situation.

      If I’m out on a first date and the guy will tell me, “you’re not like the other girls,” I would definitely be questioning myself, is it a compliment or a negative comment. Does he mean I’m better than other girls or I’m not what he’s expecting and would not want another date with me?!

  45. Heather Strobel

    You hit this one out of the park! You are such an inspiration. This is beautiful, and I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying. Thank you for showing me that no matter what I am and what I seek to do in the world I must first and foremost, love myself. This one will be read, again and again. Thanks so much for this article.

  46. Michelle Robbins

    Great read! As a woman who has an unconventional sense of humor/jokes/emotional depth, I have been receiving this “you’re not like the other girls” comment a LOT! But well, I don’t really care, at least I know I’m unique and enjoying myself!

  47. Sarah Evanston

    If I receive the “You’re not like the other girls” comment, I’d definitely feel happy because someone sees I’m unique. I won’t question “why am I not like the other girls?” Honestly, questioning what made me different from other girls would just make me feel frustrated…

  48. Louise Stone

    That was just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. 🙂

  49. Nice article! I haven’t received such comment. Mmmm… Probably because I love shopping (shopaholic I guess), an activity associated with women.

  50. Courtney Watson

    Have you ever been told you’re not like other girls?

    YES! Like the author, I was told I’m not like the other girls because I don’t wear makeup. But unlike her, it was easy for me to respond “thanks” 🙂

  51. GREAT article and perspective. I remember being told this many times, and it never really sat right with me. I couldn’t articulate why, but it’s clear to me now — thanks!

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