I’m Not Like Other Girls
I’m not an airhead. Not like those other girls.
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.
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?