Nearly every college party or related near romantic experience I’ve had has followed either of two pretty standard formulae: scenario 1. I’m out with my friends and we’re having a good time and all that, and someone, almost definitely a male, will come up to me and ask, “who’s your friend?”. Scenario 2. I’m out with my friends and we’re having a good time and all that, and someone, almost definitely a male, will in a vague attempt at making me feel special, will say “you’re not like the other girls.” Scenario 2 is almost definitely the worst, because they’re assuming that this will intended compliment will make you feel special, worthy, lucky almost.
I remember being made aware very early on that I wasn’t very pretty, or athletic, or slim. My apparent “lack” became a defining feature of why I was unpopular and not worthy of attention or respect. Then, there’s a weird thing about the “popular girls” who are both pretty and sporty, and you’re encouraged to be like them and also hate them and pride yourself on the fact that you are not like them. Girls who are told early on that they will never be “One Of Those Girls” are made to feel like they should be the exact opposite, that their typecast is just as preferable as the other typecast. It gets everybody in that girl hating cycle.
The Other Girls only have male friends, because girls are too bitchy for them, and those girls are cool because they hate all the other girls. And the boys all like her and think she’s cool, though not romantically, because she’s one of the guys! But most importantly, not really a girl.
Now I’m older I know this is internal misogyny. I used to wear “tomboy” clothes because I thought it made me cooler, but really I don’t like “looking like a boy” (whatever the hell that means). There’s nothing wrong with dressing however you want to dress, but there is something wrong with valuing one dress sense over another because you believe the other to be unworthy. But when I was wearing “boy-ish” clothes, I was aiming to show people that I wasn’t like The Other Girls, and therefore I was worth more.
What’s even worse is that I was explicitly taught this as a young person by quite a lot of people. I know that kids get taught the simplified version of a lot of really complex issues but there are some things, like gender expectations, that simply shouldn’t be enforced or taught in such a didactic way that makes girls hate themselves for not fitting a certain mould. Girls are taught that if they like books and flannel shirts, they’re not allowed to like make-up and short skirts. Girls are taught that they’re not allowed to think of themselves and their interests complexly and it makes us diminish ourselves and deny ourselves of experiences that could enrich our lives.
I still there is this thing where boys (and girls) will say that they think a girl in baggy trousers and a flannel is cooler than girls with pounds of make-up on. Though more of us are becoming aware of it and naming it, it still persists. When we separate our experiences in such a way, and create these dichotomies between femininity and masculinity we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and it’s just dull. It’s hard to unlearn misogyny, especially when it’s propped up by societal reward. Males of the human species, I’ve got some great news for you: I am exactly like the other girls.