In classic romantic-comedy movies, when a girl performs some extraordinary task, such as shooting a basketball or ordering a burger instead of a salad, the camera will pan to a man looking over in awe who can only find it in himself to say those five words that nobody actually wants to hear: “you’re not like other girls.”
In an age in which it’s easier than ever to flirt-contact someone, whether it’s through Instagram direct messaging, Facebook or even Tinder, the concept of having a “great pickup line” has become too important to some.
But unlike many of the crude or offensive messages girls receive on the daily, “you’re not like other girls” is different: It’s supposed to be a compliment. Men type it out with confidence, thinking that they’re saying something nice, to the point where women have been conditioned to want to express that they’re also “not like other girls.”
The thing is, these are not compliments; these are statements that are not only sexist but also create a stigma that pits women against women. It’s 2018, it’s time for this backhanded compliment to finally get buried.
The phrase begs the question, who exactly are “other girls”? The compliment originates from the idea that women are stereotypically uninteresting, unintelligent and talentless. By saying “you’re not like other girls,” you are making yourself a part of the problem.
In movies, in particular, men constantly throw the phrase around to convey their shock at discovering just how capable a woman can be. Normally, after the remark, she’ll blush and look away, but what does this “compliment” mean?
In truth, if asked, “what do you mean by that?” the male movie characters would likely be left speechless because even they don’t truly know what they’re saying.
Why is it that men are shocked when women have accomplished themselves? It stems from a type of sexism that is so deeply ingrained in society that men actually believe they are serving the compliment of the century when instead, they’re insulting the very person they were trying to flatter.
Not only does the phrase encourage sexist stereotypes about women’s intelligence, the notion also lends to the idea that women are “crazy.” For example, if a woman acts relaxed in a relationship and not “controlling,” faux-flatters will say “you’re not like other girls.”
From all angles, the phrase is an insult and actually says more about the man saying it than the women herself.
In addition to revealing a lot about men who use the expression, the phrase also speaks volumes about the society that birthed it. It has created a stigma around being feminine, associating femininity with being weak, helpless and needy.
When girls are independent or have interests that are not considered “feminine,” they’re told “you’re not like other girls,” strengthening the concept that the less feminine the trait, the more powerful, and therefore attractive, it is. By rewarding and supporting masculine traits to such an extent, the phrase further roots and promotes sexism.
“You’re not like other girls” is quite comparable to the idea of the “friend zone,” both created to cradle a man’s fragile masculinity. “You’re not like other girls” is, in a sense, insulting the girls that rejected these men.
Using such sexist phrases is just a way for men to cope with the fact that not all women want to date them. So, no, this is not a compliment. Sorry, the “other girls” just didn’t want to date you.
This phrase not only compares women to men but also pits women against women themselves. By saying “you’re not like other girls,” you are trying to make a compliment out of insulting other women.
The generalization of “other girls” creates a stereotype that all girls are the same. It also creates a competition between women to be the unique one in what men perceive a mass of people with no individuality.
“I’m not like other girls” stems directly from the sexism of society that conditions women disassociated themselves from others of their own generation.
The stereotypes of the woman “just like every other girl” are so far ingrained that comments and examples like these go by without many people even batting an eyelash.
Think about the children books that you read. Almost everyone can remember one book in which the “tomboy” female character, who wanted to socialize with the boys and play sports, would pout when her mother would try to dress her up and scream, “but I’m not like those other girls!”
The mother would cry, thinking something along the lines of, “where did I go wrong?” while the boys would cheer her on as a unique figure. From a young age, girls are taught that possessing masculine traits is praised, and femininity is a punishment.
Instead of pitting women against women, people should be accepting each individual girl and abolishing the idea that she has to be anything rather than herself to stand out.
Though widely populated in culture, the idea of “other girls” cannot be defined easily. Who are the “other girls?” They are intellectual, accomplished and successful females people see every day.
They are also beautiful, kind and friendly. “Other girls” are CEOs, making progress in the STEM fields, raising families and living their lives. Truly, there is no such thing as other girls because there is not just one type of girl.
It’s time to stop giving women backhanded compliments that do not actually compliment at all. Generalizing women into one type is just furthering the sexism that is so ingrained in communities today.
Instead of using old, sexist compliments of being surprised when women are interesting and of pitting women against women, try embracing the awe that belongs to the female species
So, next time, leave the sexist connotations and “you’re not like other girls” behind and come up with a real compliment.