“Well, you’re different, you’re not like a girl.” When I first heard that statement, it filled me with pride. It was a compliment. It meant I was special, I was low-key and fun. I had entered the realm of inclusion where I was no longer defined by the stereotypes of my gender. I had surpassed my gender, I was better than a girl.
But as more of my guy friends became more comfortable talking of their conquests and “guy stuff” with me, I began to reconsider this compliment. What does it mean to be better than a girl? What seems like a compliment is secretly, backhanded. While it is not an insult against me specifically, it is an insult against all women.
By saying that someone is “just a girl” or “not like a girl” the implication is being a girl is bad, that being a girl means to be crazy, emotional and unable to take a joke. It means we take hours to get ready because of the pounds of makeup we have to cake on. It means once a month, we lose all sense of our self-control and become raging hormonal monsters. It means that if a cute guy talks to us, we are completely overcome with desire for him and are already planning our wedding. It means that we can’t open the lids of containers and need someone to squish bugs for us. It means we are weak. It means we are less than a man.
“Just a girl” or “quit being a girl” are insults. They are thrown around at sports events when guys fail to make a play. It is used as an excuse by less athletically inclined women everywhere. It is slowly unwinding the progress so many women have made at defining a girl as strong and capable.
When the compliment to be “not like other girls” is given, it is insulting females everywhere. And many, like me, fall victim to being honored to be not like the other girls. It’s like we were given membership into a super-secret club—the club of guys. The club of being considered strong and worthy of having a conversation or being considered “chill,” of being treated and thought of as an equal. It means we can keep up with the guys in our life. That we can listen to guys complain about the women in their lives, calling them crazy and dismissing most of their very real concerns as “hormonal.”
And it’s not evil, sexist guys who are making the idea of being a girl a negative thing. Good guys are falling prey to this mindset because it is embedded in our culture. It’s in the television shows in which the girl is repeatedly shown desperately searching for love, as if a man is necessary to complete their existence. It’s in the movies “Beauty and the Beast” and “Moana” made headlines because of their portrayals of strong female leads, something that should be a norm. It’s on the radio—woman are either depicted as someone to be saved or a sexual object. Men are continuously being shown negative images of what it means to be a girl. It’s no wonder that being a girl has become equivalent to being called weak, needy and emotional.
Women fall prey to this idea as well. Women try to hide their emotions or concerns because they know that if they show very real human behaviors they risk being categorized and dismissed as being “just a girl.”
But why should we try to disprove and hide the fact that we are girls? Shouldn’t we be proud of the fact that we are girls, and that does not make us any less equal than a man? Being a girl means to be strong, female and fierce. It is not something that we should shy away from.
There needs to be a change from this idea to a more realistic idea of what being a girl is. Being a girl is to be strong. It is to be independent. It is the ability to bring life into this world. It is to follow dream careers and own empires. It is to be emotionally brave and a rock for our families. Being a girl is something of which to be proud, and everyone needs to remind the world of that.