Girl Power.

  • Sun, 1, Jul, 2018 - 5:00:AM

Why ‘you’re not like other girls’ isn’t a compliment

I’ve recently rediscovered Hailee Steinfield’s Most Girls. It’s the song I’m most likely to be singing at the top of my lungs while I’m sitting at the traffic lights at the moment (#noshame). It’s just one of the many girl-positive songs that has exploded into the pop music scene over the last few years (thanks to artists like Steinfield, Little Mix, and Demi Lovato among many others), and its message got me thinking.

The supposed ‘compliment’ that “you’re not like other girls/women” is hardly new. It’s been around at least since I was at intermediate school. Back then it was the height of romance to be told by a boy that you weren’t like most girls. Because, of course, nothing could be worse than behaving like roughly half of the population.

Being “not like most girls” generally meant being some combination of unemotional, reticent, jokey, into (or pretending to be into) sport/gaming/action movies… basically being like “one of the guys”. Whereas, by implication, being “like most girls” meant being talkative, emotional, into chick flicks, and stereotypically ‘girly’.

The problem with that dichotomy? It suggests that being ‘girly’ or feminine is bad, lame, and deserving of derision. Stereotypically masculine traits are rewarded, while stereotypically feminine traits are scorned. It divides people into arbitrary gender profiles, and promotes competition and bitchiness between girls. It may be dressed up as admiration, but when the compliment relies on insulting a whole gender, it’s more poison than praise.

Bottom line? It’s sexist. And not to mention restrictive. Once you’ve been dubbed “not like most girls” you’d better not show any emotion! Because then – gasp – you’d be like most girls. 

A better compliment would focus in on the specific wonderful things about a person. “You’re so funny,” would do the trick. As would, “I think it’s awesome that you’re so into rugby”. On the flipside, stereotypically feminine behaviours and traits should also be worthy of praise. What’s wrong with being kind and/or gregarious?

Nothing. 

Which is why I love Steinfield’s song so much. As someone lucky enough to have lots of female friends, and a female partner, I think that girls and women are pretty great. Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by kind, fun, chatty, caring people? 

Most girls are awesome. 

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  • Stereotypes /
  • Gender /
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