Photo taken by Bailey Beller
A look into the “not like other girls” mindset and how to break free
What does it mean to be a woman? In modern America, many women are aware this is a complex question that does not have a single answer. Yet across the internet, the “I’m not like other girls” mindset has become pervasive. Ideas like “Oh I’m not like other girls, I like beer and sports” and “I don’t like wearing makeup I live in sweats and messy buns” are examples of this mindset.
This isn’t to say that liking sports or choosing not to wear makeup is problematic, but the malicious attitude behind these statements is harmful to women.
When browsing Pinterest I stumbled upon a profound quote from Reddit user @the-radical-buzzard-of-discourse.
“I used to cringe so hard at my ‘I’m not like other girls’ phase until I realized that most girls have this phase and what we actually mean is, ‘I’m not a thoughtless one-dimensional caricature of makeup and boobs, which is all I’ve been taught to believe girls are,” Reddit user said.
This user brings up the excellent point that women have been conditioned to believe that having independent interests makes you unique because women are portrayed in media frequently as one-dimensional and underdeveloped characters (ie. the Bechdel Test). This is why movies like Barbie caused quite a buzz in the media because it was a female-centric and empowering movie.
Being stereotypically feminine is seen as a negative thing, and unless a woman acts or has more masculine interests she is seen as less likable. I posed a question to a fellow female UTK student, Mayah Kelley: “Have you ever had an experience with the not like other girls mindset, and how did it affect you?”
“I think it affected me in the way that I would specifically not do something just because it was a girly thing to do so I was scared to have any relation to being a girl…It took a long time for me to enjoy doing “girly” things because I think I was scared…of how society would look down on and criticize women–
Because of this, I missed out on the most fun parts of being a girl as a tween and early teen because I didn't want to be like other girls and I thought that would make me different in a good way,” Kelley said.
This perspective was incredibly insightful to the impact and harm the not like other girls mindset can have on a girl’s development.
More recently, there has been a push for women to support each other and their interests with the idea of girls supporting girls. Women need to understand that everyone is different, and that’s okay. Often common qualities and interests bring women together rather than divide them.
Think of how many of your female friends like Taylor Swift, hiking, Gilmore Girls, reading, or a sport. Chances are, you know at least two women with one of those interests because the beauty of womanhood is the sense of community it offers. Another female student at UTK, Emma Greene, voiced her experience with girlhood.
“I think that finding commonalities between women is the best part of girlhood; you get to build a close relationship and bond over your interests.” Greene said.
So hearing all of this is great, but how does one combat this mindset when it jumps out? My answer is to stop yourself and consider if you are putting other women down for a particular interest or hobby they have.
If a friend says something in line with the “I’m not like other girls” try gently correcting them by encouraging their interest and redirecting them from being negative toward other women. It’s through acknowledging this mentality that we as women can grow to accept each other for our uniqueness while growing in a community together.