Illustration of being feminine in a "Pick Me Girl" world
The "Pick Me Girl" trend on TikTok fails to reflect the variety of womanhood. (Illustration by Diana Egan, University of Kentucky)

The ‘Pick Me Girl’ Is the New ‘I’m Not Like Other Girls’

The trend ravaging TikTok can trace its ancestry to another sexist archetype — and both are the result of internalized misogyny.

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Illustration of being feminine in a "Pick Me Girl" world

The trend ravaging TikTok can trace its ancestry to another sexist archetype — and both are the result of internalized misogyny.

Since 2019, the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trend has taken over the internet, manifesting itself in an abundance of memes. From young girls using the phrase seriously when they do something they see as quirky in men’s eyes, to women using the phrase ironically to mock and belittle those who want to stand apart from other girls, the “not like other girls” girl has become her own character.

The archetype can be seen when a girl begins to detest femininity in favor of more stereotypically masculine practices, traits and sense of humor. This girl may prefer sweatpants and sneakers to dresses and heels, the natural look to a full beat and maybe she prefers playing video games (you know, because we have to gender pixels on a screen? Obviously masculine — yeah, that makes sense) to going shopping.

The serious use of “I’m not like other girls” builds a dynamic of superiority of the one “type” of girl over the other: the “others” at the bottom of the pyramid, and the person being described by the phrase at the top, the ideal girl. The phrase can be intended as a compliment to someone but, ultimately, demeans their entire gender. The phrase may also be used ironically to shame girls for genuine interests that happen to be part of this constructed category of “quirky.” No matter the context of the phrase, it is used as a sword with its blade always pointing at women.

From out of the “I’m not like other girls” phenomenon sprouts the newest meme — the “pick me girl.” “Pick me girl” videos have gained popularity on TikTok with the trending audio clip that goes, “pick me, choose me, love me,” accompanied by a “when girls…” caption. Pick Me Girl makes sexist “I belong in the kitchen” jokes, or she “only hangs out with boys because girls are just too much drama,” or she feels compelled to mention that she “doesn’t wear makeup when she’s around guys,” suggesting a negative connotation to wearing makeup.

In a more extreme example of a “pick me” moment, Kaitlin Bennett, Kent State’s renowned “Gun Girl,” tweeted, “Honestly, letting women vote in this country wasn’t one of the best ideas. Females vote with emotion and overwhelmingly support Democratic feel-good policies that take away our ACTUAL rights. I’d rather lose my ‘right’ to vote than lose my right to defend myself with a firearm!”

Pick Me Girl tries to distinguish herself from other women by subverting traditionally constructed femininity to impress and attract men. As the name suggests, this woman is begging to be “picked”; her desperation for male attention and approval pushes her to the point of denying her own femininity. In this case, she’ll even talk about her willingness to give up her rights as a woman. She will often throw other women under the bus in the process — quite similar to bullying, she will put others down as a result of her own insecurity in an effort to raise herself up.

The “not like other girls” or “pick me girl” tropes perpetuate traditional gender roles and stereotypes. The phrases define femininity and what girls “should” be and enjoy, i.e., putting effort into their appearance, and acting passive, sweet and graceful. Gender roles and stereotypes are toxic, confining and detrimental to those who do not fit into these socially constructed categories.

Not only do the phrases define femininity — which is limiting, and its arbitrary requirements do not reflect the variety of womanhood — it then takes a step further to reject it. Femininity is squashed into a tiny box and then that box is thrown off a cliff; the traits that are supposed to “make up a woman” are deemed negative and she should strive to be more masculine instead.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying makeup, fashion and putting effort into your looks, but anybody who enjoys such “feminine” actions are devalued as well. Basically, there’s no winning the game. She can’t be too masculine because then she’d undermine a man, but she can’t be too feminine either, because that would make her like other women.

But why would a woman decide to belittle other women or degrade things that she may enjoy? The “pick me” archetype is a product of internalized misogyny — hatred, dislike or mistrust of women. Misogyny is internalized when women or men subconsciously absorb sexist beliefs through socialization, which is then projected onto oneself or others.

Society perpetuates gender norms and stereotypes; imagine every instance in which you enact gender. From choosing a gendered bathroom, clothes-shopping in a certain department or selecting birthday presents for your little twin cousins — a Barbie doll for Karen and a truck for Ken — we all do gender.

Misogyny comes into play within the patriarchy, a sociopolitical and cultural system that values masculinity over femininity, as defined by Tiffany Ferguson in her “I’m Not Like Other Girls” internet analysis video on YouTube.

A patriarchal society is still present, as evidenced by the leadership gap across top industries such as government, medicine and academia. Women in leadership are oftentimes treated differently than their male counterparts, such as being interrogated about their fashion during the race for the presidency or being asked to twirl after winning a match at the Australian Open.

Because of underrepresentation and misguided representation, misogyny becomes an ingrained cultural norm. Misogyny is perpetuated by our surroundings even in subconscious ways. For example, Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly” series explores the objectifying and unreal image of women construed by the advertising industry. Even our language has hints of sexism and can be exclusionary, such as male generics or the lack of male-equivalent words to female insults.

When we grow up encompassed in a binary, gender norm-dominated and sexist society, these thoughts become ingrained in our own heads unintentionally. Even when we may be aware of the gender roles and stereotypes at play, we still can internalize some deeply-rooted misogyny from what we’ve been taught. We must make a conscious effort to reconsider these thought processes and undo the damage.

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