Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Other Girls

"I'm not like other girls."
"I don't get along with girls very well. I prefer hanging out with guys; they're less dramatic."

These are probably statements you've heard before, or maybe you've even said them yourself. On the surface they're pretty harmless, right?
Look deeper. When we say we "aren't like other girls" and wear it as some sort of badge of honor, what exactly are we saying about those "other girls?" Demonizing other women doesn't make you any cooler, or smarter, or more fun to be around. It's exactly why phrases like these bother me so much. We can't group all women together into some big hub that all thinks and acts the same way, yet society does just that. We're constantly hearing about how men just can't understand women, as if we all have the same inscrutable thoughts. But what if we decided to scrap that notion altogether, and start viewing women as human beings, each with our own individual thoughts and beliefs?

Growing up, girls are bombarded with the notion of what they should be. Feminine, but still independent. But not too independent- you don't want to be intimidating. It's these contradictions that make it so hard growing up as a girl. You're constantly trying to switch between all of these different extremes, never knowing if you're reaching an acceptable balance.
We're told that if you're one thing, you can't be another, yet you still somehow have to be everything. To be the glowing example of an independent woman, you have to shed your girlishness. I consider myself to be incredibly independent- yet I still love partaking in traditionally feminine activities, and I'm sick of feeling like I have to apologize for that. Femininity and independence should not be mutually exclusive, and they don't have to be.
I don't want to be just one thing. I am a number of things all rolled into one: a sister, a friend, a writer, a sorority woman, a teacher, a reader, a pop culture junkie. And we need to stop assuming that all women are the same, singular type of person. It is not only possible to be a hodgepodge of traits, it is real. It is when we try to put people into boxes of "types" that we ruin the capacity to be well-rounded individuals.

Teaching girls that it's good to not be like "other girls" is harmful: you are teaching them that there is something inherently wrong with who they are. Calling a successful woman a bitch, or a girl you don't like a slut, perpetuates the idea that women can be backed into corners by unjust labels. It's often more comfortable to fit people into these labels than to get to know them and see their value. Women can be friends with whomever they want, participate in any activities they want, have sex with whomever they want, and they still deserve the same basic respect as anyone else. Young girls should be taught that they can be anything they want without fear that someone will attack them for their personal choices.

So I challenge you to drop the phrase "other girls" from your vocabulary. We are all people, and no one fits strictly into the boxes society has made for us. In literature we have stock characters like the dumb jock or the bitchy cheerleader, but the mistake comes when we apply these notions to real human beings. Real people, when viewed with understanding, fall a little bit of everywhere in between.

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