I’ve always been a girly girl.
I hate that term, but for this article, I’ll use it, so that you can understand the point I’m getting at. I’m one of those typical girly girls. The kind that dresses up, puts on makeup, learns fancy braids for my hair and hangs out with other girls.
Basically, the kind of girl that people now mock and distance themselves from. I’m the type of girl you’re referring to when you say that you’re “not like other girls”. Which, by the way, you need to stop saying, because it is so misogynistic. But we’ll get to that point, as well as why we’ve come to demonise the girly girl. For now, we’ll talk about me, as the girly girl loves to discuss herself in detail.
I’m the youngest of three girls, and the most tomboy that any of us got was a phase where my sister wore three quarter length cargo shorts and tried skateboarding for a week. We only bought a Playstation so that we could have Singstar, and we even got a female dog to complete the set. We were three girls, and didn’t see an issue with it.
Until you get to high school, maybe earlier, maybe later, and suddenly everyone is making fun of any girl that acts how we’ve been taught women act. We’re raised with the barrage of information telling us that we need to be beautiful, wear makeup, do our hair, and more, and the minute we do, we’re mocked for it. We’re incorrectly taught then men only want us for sex, and then we’re judged for not having male friends. All of our products and entertainment is geared directly to us, and then people are surprised that we actually go for it.
Because women have to act as women to get by in this world, and yet we’re judged for doing so. And the worst part is how women upkeep this trend, how they’re the ones trying to differentiate themselves from the rest of us, because they try to earn a man’s approval by saying that they’re “not like other girls”.
I spoke about this recently in an article about the label ‘women’s fiction’, and since noticing it, I spot it everywhere. So I apologise in advance if you can’t escape it now that you’re informed as well!
In society, we treat content targeted at women to be inferior. Think of female singers like Taylor Swift or Halsey, even male singers who have predominately female fans. We treat their music as a ‘guilty pleasure’, assuming you must feel guilty if you like it when it is merely a matter of taste. Whereas male musicians with predominantly male listeners are considered to be ‘better’ music, of a ‘better’ quality, a true artist you might say.
We do this with TV shows, books, movies and more. Time and time again, we treat anything that women like to be inferior, including women themselves.
A woman who is interested/enjoys female-orientated things is viewed as inferior, as one of ‘those’ girls. They’re mocked and even intentionally avoided. Simply for enjoying things that were directed at them, that they were taught they should like.
So if we were to summarise, the lesson is that women need to appeal to the strict beauty guidelines set for us, including covering blemishes, wearing mascara, dressing in a flattering manner, but no one should know that we spend more than a minute on these things. We must do all of these things but take no pleasure from them.
Clothes are a rigorous part of our day, appearance and identity, and yet to be involved in the design and production of clothing is often trivialised. We assume men in the industry can’t be straight, and that the women are vapid. When it’s a creative pursuit, to be respected like any other. Simply because it’s a creative pursuit directed at women rather than men.
We need to stop treating women-focused industries as inferior, whether that’s jobs, artists, media or more. You can play a part in this. You can support music taste regardless of the gender associated, and you can respect everyone’s interests and professions. We have been complicit in this, but we don’t have to be.
You don’t have to be interested in these things to support a woman’s, or man’s, right to be. If you never wear makeup, all you have to do is not belittle women who do. If you aren’t a Taylor Swift fan because you prefer rock/metal/rap/other pop artists, simply view it as a difference in taste rather than assuming quality.
I’ve put off ever writing about this because I still hold a lot of internalised shame on the subject. You see, I’ve never had many close guy friends in my life. I saw all these women around me have intimate bonds with male friends, and I never really did.
It wasn’t an active choice; perhaps my interests were different, perhaps I was a bit shyer, maybe it’s just coincidence. But I was often made to feel like there was something wrong with me, like I had failed for this reason.
I was fine without having male friends, but I couldn’t help but notice that the women who do would often put girls like myself down for it. They’d differentiate themselves by saying they have more male friends than female. Making this an accomplishment conveys that females aren’t good friends and aren’t worth as much as a male friend. You put the worth of women down through this simple statement.
Another one that does the trick? I’m not like other girls.
This simple phrase, tossed out so carelessly, implies that there is something wrong with being a girl, being the other girls. It’s often accompanied by saying you’re not friends with women “because of the drama”, narrowing all women down to this single identity. Maybe you, or the men you say this to, will even go as far as to label you as a “chill girl”.
There is no “chill girl”, as any woman can be chill in the right situations, and won’t be in others. Women aren’t necessarily associated with drama, this is an assumption perpetuated by the patriarchy and one we feed into. Those that present women as gossiping, drama-hungry creatures. The kind that backstabs and uses each other, the ones you often see in male-written films.
There is nothing wrong with being a girl, a woman, or any gender you identify with. So don’t let your vocabulary insinuate that there is. Because I don’t think you believe that. Still, by implying that you’re different, by implying that men are superior friends to women, you contribute to a patriarchy that oppresses us as a whole.
You can have more guy friends than female friends, as gender shouldn’t play a part in who you choose as friends. There is nothing wrong with being a female who hangs out with more males, just don’t claim that it’s because you’re so different to other women, and don’t put them down in the process of obtaining your friendship.
Just like you can wear what you want, and do what you want, as long as you give others the same freedom to do so. Remove these loaded phrases from your vocabulary, and ensure that everyone around you does the same. This small step is a stride towards equality, towards being allowed to identify as you wish to, despite gender and the constructs that accompany it.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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