Although society imposes an ideal image of femininity, movies and TV shows have inspired a movement for girls to rebel against these standards. These films feature female protagonists who are “not like most girls”. They reach their goals, often including catching the eyes of incredibly attractive male love interests, by the time the credits roll.
The protagonist is incredibly relatable; she is flawed and struggles through the turmoil associated with romance and professional goals. She rejects female stereotypes and even mocks those who follow what is socially expected. Films, like “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Mean Girls” and most chick flicks, really, antagonize girly girls. Cheerleaders are presented as gossipy evil creatures and the most popular girl in school is the leading lady’s biggest enemy.
Although it is great that these movies present images of girls who choose to be themselves and do not conform to society’s standards, they also create a new competition among girls over who is interested in stereotypically masculine things. Typically male apparel like blazers, combat boots and comic book T-shirts flood fashion magazines, stores and wardrobes. Female athletes and professionals in typically male-led fields are celebrated. Masculinity is the new trend.
This is a beautiful blurring of the line between male and female, but when women say things like “I’m not like most girls because I don’t mind getting dirty,” “I like sports,” or, “I actually know about cars,” they bring down other girls to elevate themselves, either in the eyes of men or for their own competitive reasons.
Their intentions are understandable. They aim to set themselves apart from society’s strict expectations for what women should be like. They reject the stereotypes and take pride in the fact that they don’t care about what other people think. However, they disrespect and trivialize other women and foster unnecessary competition while doing so. It is unfair to claim that every other girl is a cookie-cutter copy of the ideal image of femininity.
In reality, there is no “typical girl.” Some girls like to dress up for every occasion while others wish everyday was casual Friday. Some girls strive to be high-level professionals and some dream of being mothers, while others want to do both. Some girls like camping or are sport stars and car savvy. Other girls might really like cheerleading and romantic comedies.
Similar to how women are often judged for not being feminine enough, it is assumed that girls who genuinely like stereotypically feminine things are like the girly girls in chick flicks: vapid, catty and two-faced. The emphasis on stereotypes, either feminine or nonconformist, makes no sense because everyone has their own collection of personal interests, goals and strengths of varying associated genders.
Girls should never use phrases like “I’m not like most girls” because they encourage stereotypes that do not and should not define a woman’s personality and worthiness for friendship or male attention. By bragging about her separation from social expectations, a girl who explains that she is an excellent driver, unlike other girls, reinforces the stereotype that women can’t drive and that she is some sort of anomaly.
Although she aims to separate herself from the stereotype, she acknowledges its existence and validates its accuracy. She frowns upon typically feminine behavior and associates every woman with the gossipy, superficial archetype of what girly girls are like in movies and on TV. She considers herself more down-to-earth and worthy of male attention or professional achievements than other girls. She makes it okay for guys to accept, use and make decisions on women based on female stereotypes. That simple phrase, “I’m not like most girls,” constrains gender images more than complying to social expectations.
Women should be celebrated for being themselves and encouraged to be whoever they want. The beauty of being an individual is that everyone has different interests, personalities and abilities. Just like a girl should never be judged for playing videogames and sports, girls who love fashion and makeup should be accepted for who they are without being labeled ditzy or mean.
Phrases like “unlike most girls” further divide feminine and masculine expectations, when most girls share qualities of both. Implications that all other girls are terrible at math, incredibly high maintenance, or only like to talk about shoes enforce stereotypes and trivialize women who might actually not be good at math or might be passionate about shoes. The only way for women to escape from stereotypes is to resist them, rather then reject their relevance to a particular individual.