This post comes from two things:
1) A quote I saw making the Tumblr rounds, which said, “I’m not like other girls!” It went on to avow wearing Converse instead of heels, preferring computer games to shopping, so on and so forth. When I saw it, about 41,000 girls had said they weren’t like “the others.”
2) A few weeks ago, I posted a comment on Twitter saying that, if the internet had been around in 1980 (the year “Empire Strikes Back” came out), we’d all be Team Luke or Team Han. Some guy took it upon himself to inform me – to explain to me, like I was not alive and aware during that year – that “girls didn’t like Star Wars.” He insisted that we were, in 1980, only interested in Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy, the heartthrob stars of “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.” (Surely some girls also liked Pamela Sue Anderson as Nancy Drew, but we shall let the heteronormative side of this slide for now.)
Let’s try to count everything that’s wrong with that, if we can:
In 1980, EVERYONE EVERYWHERE IN THE WHOLE WORLD LOVED STAR WARS. I cannot emphasize this enough. From 1977 to 1983, Star Wars was basically as popular as Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, One Direction, American Idol, NASCAR, chocolate, and oxygen, combined. Also, EVERYONE EVERYWHERE IN THE WHOLE WORLD includes girls. I personally built an X-Wing fighter simulator in my closet, owned a “Star Wars Passport” that guaranteed me entry to Mos Eisley Spaceport and Cloud City (have not tested this, more’s the pity), and had collected a group of Star Wars action figures that rivaled my brother’s in quantity and desirability. He really only had the edge because the Millennium Falcon playset was his, though I played with it nearly as much as he did. (Once, when allowed to borrow the Lando Calrissian action figure that was clearly and undeniably my property, said brother traded it to another kid – for a lowly Hoth Ranger, no less! – and that remains a point of contention to this day. Yes, we’re in our 40s. Your point?)
And no, I was not the only girl out there who felt that way. All my friends loved Star Wars. Lucasfilm made Princess Leia dolls, and Princess Leia bubble bath, and Princess Kneesa stuffed Ewoks with pink headwraps; they knew there were little girls who loved and wanted these things. I’m in a Mardi Gras krewe here in New Orleans called Chewbacchus – cofounded by a woman – in which women and men both dress up in science fiction costumes to parade around. A good friend of mine named Jen Heddle loved Star Wars as a kid, then as an adult, so much and so deeply that she now works for Lucasfilm. Every single one of those women grew up loving Star Wars. No, it wasn’t just me.
And you know what? I loved Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy too.* Why? They were cute, damn it. And that is JUST FINE.
Because we’re all individuals – we’re all big enough to contain multiple enthusiasm, multiple ways of life. Everyone. And, as I said above, everyone includes girls.
It saddens me to see girls proudly declaring they’re not like other girls – especially when it’s 41,000 girls saying it in a chorus, never recognizing the contradiction. It’s taking a form of contempt for women – even a hatred for women – and internalizing it by saying, Yes, those girls are awful, but I’m special, I’m not like that, instead of stepping back and saying, This is a lie.
“I know someone like that!” you might be saying. Well, a bunch us know someone like that. But does that description fit most of the girls and women you know? The people you spend time with? Why should those few individuals define us all, and why would we buy into that perception? And also, even the people you think are like that? You might be surprised what’s going on beneath the surface.
The real meaning of “I’m not like the other girls” is, I think, “I’m not the media’s image of what girls should be.” Well, very, very few of us are. Pop culture wants to tell us that we’re all shallow, backstabbing, appearance-obsessed shopaholics without a thought in our heads beyond cute boys and cuter handbags. It’s a lie – a flat-out lie – and we need to recognize it and say so instead of accepting that judgment as true for other girls, but not for you.
They will tell you that everything girls love is stupid and horrible. They said that about Elvis Presley; they said it about the Beatles; they said it about Frank Sinatra. Guys didn’t discover those artists, now recognized to be among the greatest of all time. GIRLS DID. Meanwhile, they will tell you that everything that appeals to guys is actually really cool, in defiance of all reason. There are grown men who will get into arguments about Optimus Prime.
And yet — there are girls who love Transformers! And guys who had huge crushes on Elvis!
Me? I wear Converse instead of heels. I definitely spend more time on Tumblr than I do shopping. I continue to be interested in Star Wars. And you know what? Today, I bought two handbags. One of them was pink. That doesn’t make me shallow, vapid, unintelligent or incapable of enjoying absolutely anything I’d like to enjoy. It just makes me someone with a killer cute pink handbag.
What I’m trying to say is, There are as many ways to be “girly” as there are girls in this world. There are always going to be people out there telling you that if you like things pop culture tells you are girly, you’re stupid, and that if you claim to like things pop culture tells you are guy stuff, you’re lying. And what I’m saying is that all these people are full of crap.
Love what you love. Be proud of it. Anybody who tells you what you “should” or “should not” like, because you’re a girl, is a big fat liar. You ARE like the other girls, like we all are, in that none of us came off some Female Assembly Line. We’re all individuals. We should all get to express it without being judged – either by pop culture or by ourselves.
*Though I loved them back in 1977, when that series was actually on; it was off the air by 1980. Stupid Belligerent Pop Culture Dude did not even know Pop Culture. It’s sad, really.
I shall now dismount my soapbox and get back to the important work of revising my latest book outline and looking at cute pictures of James McAvoy.
As a Trans female I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve seen things on both sides of the fence, so to speak, and its ridiculous how ‘compartmentalised’ people make things! My gender does not determine my likes and dislikes. The only thing that determines my likes and dislikes are what I like and don’t like!
Thanks so much! It’s good to hear from someone who has, as you say, been on both sides.
Thank you for this! As a man I must say that we are also victims of stereotypes. Most of us are really looking for a girl who is brave enough to be herself and proud of it. Ignorant people of both sexes try to categorize each other. Open minded girls should be themselves and open minded guys love them for that.
I agree that gender stereotyping fences us ALL in.
I love this. I don’t know how many times I see on Facebook or wherever, “Oh I’m not like other girls, I’m just one of the guys!” No, you’re not. You’re a girl, who has her own personal interests and ideas.
So glad you agree!
How do I make the entire universe read this post?
Thank you. As one of the many girls who are not like the others, thank you very much for this.
Thank you so much for this! Beautifully expressed the seething frustration i feel when I hear this.
Thank you so much!
“Meanwhile, they will tell you that everything that appeals to guys is actually really cool, in defiance of all reason.”
Claudia, this is probably the most important observation in a beautifully spot-on and quite heart-breaking post. 50-odd years of feminism have still left many women feeling inferior in everything they do, think, and feel – to be cool, they feel they have to emulate the lads. Imagine this turned round (for more than a pick-up line): “I’m not like other guys – I, too, like >insert ANY propagated female interest<" Equally cool to as many?
Me, I'm just happy I can ignore football and cars :))
Wow, that reversal says it all, doesn’t it? Great observation.
I, too, am happy to ignore football.
It’s very sad to see so many girls and women internalize these ideas that women are vile and superficial and alienate other women. I wish people wouldn’t fuel the stereotypes, wouldn’t choose to believe in them, and really just look around at the women and girls in their lives and realize that really none of them fit that vile stereotype. People are multidimensional. There is no woman who only cares about handbags.
I feel like maybe we’re finally catching on, as a culture? Here’s hoping.
First, i’d like to apologize for my english if i make any mistakes.
Second, My teacher told me to do do an assignment on any topic i wanted to. I decided to do it on feminism and i’m going to include some of your quotes because i couldn’t agree more even if i tried to.
And third, i want to thank you, someday i want to inspire someone as much as you have inspired me.
Your English is excellent! I’m so honored that the blog post meant so much to you, and of course you are very welcome to quote as much as you like. It is girls like you who inspire me.