"You're Not Like Other Girls" Is NOT a Compliment
“You’re not like other girls,” he said with a wide grin. He meant it as a compliment, proudly proclaimed that she was “one of the guys” with a lack of “drama” and knowledge of sports.
“I’m not like those other girls,” she insisted, a subtle diss to her own gender. Desperately, she distanced herself from “females” who were so bland and shallow. In her mind, nothing was worse than being grouped with those other women.
I know she felt that way, because I used to be her. I would parrot the “I’m not like other girls!” line. I was the girl who thought other girls were too high maintenance, overly emotional, and—I’m ashamed to admit it—weak. I didn’t identify with them. I’d look down on those girls, the ones who embodied the female stereotype. The pretty, peppy cheerleader who I thought was shallow. The popular girl who dressed to kill, who I assumed was a snob. The star athlete who was obviously an airhead.
What I realized later in life was that the cheerleader was also our school’s valedictorian, the soccer star volunteered at a nursing home and the popular girl worked two jobs to help support her family. None of them were one-dimensional; I had instead perceived them to be that way. It was easier to categorize them than take time to speak to them. I was exactly like the caricature of those “other girls” I disdained—I just didn’t know it yet.
Then, I had a daughter, and goddaughters, and nieces. Girls who were vibrant, vivacious and free. Other girls who embraced life and all its surprises. Other girls who let themselves laugh and cry and feel, and weren’t ashamed by it. These little girls I was surrounded with showed me the beauty of being a woman. The world had yet to tell them they were wrong. They didn’t know they were the “fairer sex,” or that were expected to control their emotions, or that one day they would have to work hard to prove their worth.
Becoming a mother and an aunt forced me to open my eyes to the damage I was doing to myself and the women around me. I suddenly understood the strength of women, not only physically, but emotionally. We are nurturers, protectors and fighters. Women have lead revolutions, ruled countries and made countless contributions to bettering the lives of those around them. Yet, we still belittle ourselves—and our sisters. We have bought into the idea that womanhood is a burden. When we say, “I’m not like those other girls,” we are rejecting those women who have blazed trails, and we set a poor example to the girls following in our footsteps.
The phrase has floated along and somehow become an acceptable way to convey uniqueness. In reality, it perpetuates the idea that traditionally feminine qualities are inferior. It praises masculinity—because if you’re “not like most girls,” you’re laid back and down-to-earth; the antithesis of every womanly stereotype.
These women at whom we turn up our noses—whose very existence causes us to frantically, pathetically demand we’re different—are women who captivate, motivate and embody the definition of feminine strength. They state their opinions and speak for those without a voice. They are women who unapologetically break down walls and live out their passions. They are far from brainless or boring. They are women who dress up, like makeup, and wear their heart on their sleeves. They are women who are smart, and kind, and hilarious. They work hard to take care of their employees and to offer mentorship and guidance. In this world of glass ceilings and wage gaps, they offer a positive light. They are respected and accomplished.
They are the women surrounding me—mothers, daughters, sisters, mentors and friends. They are brilliant, talented, powerful and wickedly funny. They are women who have triumphed, and suffered, and who pick themselves up after a fall. They are who I turn to for pep talks, heart-to-hearts, celebrations and for the straight-up truth.
Your worth isn’t tied to the woman next to you. Some women love sports, some love makeup, some are bookish, some are loud. Some are all of these, all at once—you can contain multitudes. And for every one of those traits, you’ll find one woman who is the opposite.
We have to change the mindset that, in order to be valued, we must renounce every other girl. From a young age we pit girls against each other. We size one another up as competition and spend a lifetime comparing achievements. Instead of cheering one another on, we’re spewing cries of “I’m not like those other girls!” Being a woman is stigmatized, but it doesn’t have to be. I am feminine to my core. I embrace every nuance of it. But, femininity isn’t simplistic. It’s not shoe shopping and emotional outbursts. It’s not being married and starting a family. It’s not career-driven. It’s not watching college football and drinking beer. It’s all of that. Or none of it. Or whatever combination you want.
I was wrong. I’m not, not like other girls because I like sports, or because I drink and cuss, or because I’ll walk out of my house with zero makeup on my face and a baseball cap on my head. I’m not like other girls because I wear heels and lipstick. Because I love cheesy romantic comedies. Because I yell—a lot. Because I’m a hot mess.
I’m like those other girls because there is no right way to be a woman—and no wrong way either. When we dismiss those “other girls,” we dismiss all the beautiful complexities women possess. We’re just like those other girls: intelligent and funny, tough and sweet, strong and vulnerable, silly and sexy. We can be all of those things, and more. Femininity is not one-size-fits-all. We are all in this together—and we’re in pretty good company.
Heather lives in Jacksonville, Florida, where she graduated with a degree in Converged Communication. She currently bartends to pay the bills, while looking for a new career in public relations. An avid sports fan, makeup hoarder, and mom of two, she survives on strong coffee and inappropriate humor. On days off you can find her dragging her kids on an adventure around town, checking out a new bar with friends, or simply wandering the aisles of Target.