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The problem with “I’m Not Like Other Girls”

By Lucy Evans

She’s not like other girls - she thinks reading books instead of going out to parties makes her

‘different’, she thinks being friends with girls causes too much drama, she is convinced liking old

music makes her ‘quirky’. Sound familiar? If not, I’ve just described the “I’m not like other girls”

phenomenon. It is essentially used by, and to describe, girls that seem different and quirky

because they don’t conform to the traditional stereotypes attributed to women and femininity.

While some seem to view this phrase as a compliment that makes them stand out amongst

other girls, the truth is far more problematic.

Instead of it producing the desired effects of flattery or confidence, when someone uses

“I’m/you’re not like other girls” as a self-affirming phrase or compliment, what is actually being

said is “other girls are bad and it’s good that you’re not like them”. It is often given as a badge of

honour as if to say “you’ve managed to avoid all stereotypes about women and therefore you’re

better than those who haven’t managed to do this”. This phrase isn’t congratulatory at all. It not

only creates a hierarchy of women - those that align with stereotypes of women are at the

bottom and those that are “different” are at the top - it strives to pit women against each other.

The phrase “I’m not like other girls” is a symptom of our conditioning to believe that we need to

be different and better than other girls in order to be valued by men and the patriarchy.

The patriarchy loves to worm it’s way into our lives, pitting woman against woman in a

competition for male validation, and I used to be its victim. My early teenage years were filled

with a fourteen year old Lucy desperately trying to prove she was different from the “other girls”

in her school year. I thought that choosing to read every night instead of going to a party made

me “different” and interesting - it didn’t. I was convinced that if I hated pink enough then boys

would see me as edgy and cool (even though pink is actually my favourite colour). I loved

wearing makeup but claimed I wore it as a form of artistic expression instead of just admitting

that I liked wearing makeup in an attempt to appear better than my peers (still cringe over this


FYI, it’s completely fine to do any of those things. It’s valid not to like parties or to love reading

or to not like wearing makeup. These are all valid choices and a part of who you are, maybe

forever or maybe just right now. But, and I say this with love, doing these things doesn’t make

you different or better or any more special than other girls. We’re all multifaceted beings capable

of being vividly interested in different things. The patriarchy is tricking you into thinking that other

girls don’t have hobbies or interests or rich friendships. We all have our own interests and

individual tastes, but just because they're different from another’s, it doesn’t mean you’re better

than her.

Way back in my early teenage years, I thought these things did make me special and different. I

now know that my desire to be seen as “not like other girls” was due to my difficult relationship

with femininity. This difficult relationship was founded on internalised misogyny. It is important to

recognise that those still stuck in this “I’m not like other girls” mentality are often thinking this

way through no fault of their own but through a patriarchal conditioning that cultivates a rivalry

with other women. The patriarchy brainwashed fourteen year old me into thinking that I should

strive to be as different from other girls as possible because other girls are the competition and I

needed to stand out amongst them. This idea that women should be constantly competing with

each other is a tactic used to make us strive for the validation of the male gaze. The patriarchy

ensures that we break our bonds and ties with other women by painting them as the competition

for male validation. This idea that girls needed to constantly compete with each other made me

dislike a lot of traditionally “feminine” things so I would stand out and be seen as cool and quirky.

As much as I tried to distance myself from traditional femininity and instead adopt the “not like

other girls” mentality, I knew deep down that I was jealous of these girls. I wanted to be like

them. I thought they were incredibly cool, stylish and interesting. I was jealous that these other

girls could wear, do and say exactly what I wanted to wear, do and say but couldn’t because I

was supposed to be in competition with them. I denied myself the opportunity to do so many

things and have friendships with many amazing girls simply because I wanted to be “not like

other girls”.

It’s safe to say that, after my introduction to feminism, fourteen year old me overcame this logic

that other women were competition and I had almost retired “I’m not like other girls” to the back

of my mind. That is until last year, when I was struck with a cliche ‘compliment’. They told me

“you’re not like other girls - I like the fact you don’t wear much makeup”. I remember blinking,

shocked at what had just been said and a bit unsure on how to reply. I thought that using this

phrase as a compliment to impress girls was just a myth I’d heard about that only ever seemed

to appear in fanfics or YA novels. But someone had actually tried to compliment me by bringing

other women down (not to mention by being wildly inaccurate - I actually wear lots of makeup).

This supposed compliment revealed to me the way they thought about other women. They

thought I would be flattered by saying I was somehow better than them. Fourteen year old me

would’ve been flattered - being complimented because I wasn’t like other women was the

ultimate goal. But now all this compliment brings is a massive red flag and a reflection on how

much I’ve grown since those days of competing with other women for space, attention and


I’ve come to realise that I’m exactly like other girls - we are all the same. We are all multifaceted,

multidimensional human beings capable of having vivid interests, an individual sense of style,

varying hobbies and so much more. Realising that I was exactly like other girls was a major

catalyst in helping me overcome my internalised misogyny and difficult relationship with

femininity. We must stop trying to compete with other girls for attention and male validation.

Easier said than done, I know, but on the other side of this competition is a healthy relationship

with femininity, womanhood and with other girls


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