The “I’m not like other girls” phenomenon is a rejection of typically feminine qualities like the colour pink, fashion, makeup, and boys. This happens when some girls disassociate themselves from “other girls”, making themselves out to be better and “different” for liking anything that isn’t stereotypically feminine. Not only does this paint other girls out to be “bad” and makes fun of feminine qualities, but it also suggests that there is something inherently wrong and unacceptable with liking those stereotypically feminine things, which is internalised misogyny in itself.
How did the ‘I’m not like other girls’ phenomenon rise?
A large role in this phenomenon is the rise of the manic pixie dream girl in movies. This is your typical main character in a rom com or a coming of age movie or even in a wattpad Harry Styles fanfic. She’s usually a tomboy who just ties her hair up in a messy bun, puts on little to no makeup, and always has her nose in a book.
Quite the surprise!
Of course, she’s not like other girls, she has a brain that forms coherent thoughts, unlike those mindless girls who like pink and wear dresses and makeup. The popular male love interest always ends up falling for her or leaving his prom queen girlfriend for her, telling her something along the lines of “you’re not like the other superficial girls, you can read and have a meaningful conversation”.
Smart and Feminine?
These character tropes enforce the idea that being feminine and smart or having a personality are mutually exclusive, which is incredibly damaging for young girls still forming a sense of identity. It can lead to these young girls forming their personality around gaining the male validation of being quirky and not like the other girls.
Legally Blonde: a Precise Depiction
A major refresh from this type of mentality is the movie Legally Blonde. It features Elle Woods, a fashion student that applies to Harvard Law school after her boyfriend who is set to go there breaks up with her for “not being serious enough”. First, she applies to prove him wrong and win him back, but she ends up finding herself in law, forgetting about her ex boyfriend, and excelling in it after hours and hours of studying.
Even when Elle is in her academic peak, she still shows up to school and to court in her all pink pantsuits and a full face of makeup. She is undermined by others but proves them wrong time and time again. If anything, she is the prime example of a capable woman, whilst also not rejecting feminine traits; she is unapologetically herself, a character we need more of in the media.
Victim and Saved
Personally, I was a victim of the not like other girls mentality and individuality complex. I hated the color pink and unironically referred to myself as a quirky potato. I hated dresses and the color pink was my worst nightmare. I started listening to pop punk and rejecting anything my idea of a typical girl would, like One Direction and Justin Bieber. I considered anything that wasn’t an action or sci fi movie or book to be an abomination.
But it wasn’t always like this. I was practically peer pressured into it. I remember sitting with my friends in 6th grade, when one of them asked me what my favourite colour was. Gladly, I answered: Pink. I was met with echoing laughter from my entire lunch table, as if I had just said something completely unacceptable. I was confused because I really did like that colour. My room was pink. I owned loads of pink plushies and toys, as well as Barbie dolls.
Weird or Unique?
Everyone else had answered the question with colours like blue, turquoise, purple, baby blue, embarrassing me further. I also loved One Direction, but similarly, every time I mentioned this I was met with looks of disgust or laughter. Strangely enough, in an entire grade of preteen girls. I struggled to find someone to share my love for One Direction and the colour pink with.
Loud and Proud!
Now, I’m proud to say that I am like other girls. I love the color pink, I love One Direction, Harry Styles, and Taylor Swift. I love cheesy rom coms. Dresses make me feel so pretty and confident, and I will gladly spend my money on clothes and makeup. But I am also smart and interesting and I love to read both complex classics and romance books. I love being like other girls.