Don’t worry Chad, I’m not like the other girls
by Ruby Wang
“Boys have cooties!” The first and last times I heard a girl utter these words were when I was in early elementary school. The idea that boys had “cooties” meant that these young boys carried some contagious disease, and girls were to stay away from them to avoid contracting the cooties. But after these boys grew up, all of a sudden they became men girls all sought validation from. In middle school, we suddenly became jealous if Sally went on a date or if your crush John liked someone else. When we became even older, some women started tearing each other down to get attention from men. How did we evolve from “boys have cooties” to hating ourselves?
I recently had a conversation with some of my girlfriends late at night about the “pick-me” girl. The pick-me girl pines for male attention and approval, subverting typically “feminine” characteristics to prove that she’s “not like the other girls”. Previously, I never understood why the pick-me phenomena was so problematic. I firmly believed that all women were allowed to have individualist characteristics outside of what was expected for women to act. It wasn’t until my friends talked about their encounters with past friends that fit the pick-me girl trope that I realized there was an enormous difference between acting authentically and acting for a man’s attention. To be authentic means to genuinely act yourself. Pick-me girls reject what other girls do, and then put these other girls down for acting like themselves.
One recalled when she was with a couple of her male friends and a girl came over to chat with the guys. When my friend tried to greet her, the girl didn’t even bat an eye to her. At that moment, my friend felt infinitesimally small.
Of course, nearly everyone hears the story of girls who pick up hobbies for the sake of impressing a boy. These fake skater girls and pro-gamer girls become too busy to put time into their previous interests. I’m not criticizing the girls who genuinely love skating and gaming, but rather emphasizing the girls who all of a sudden cast the girls who put on makeup everyday and wear miniskirts as “basic”. To avoid and insult “girly” or “feminine” trends or stereotypes for the sake of receiving male approval infers that they believe there is something unworthy about acting feminine.
Recent media and commentary have denounced pick-me girls and many people poke fun at the line “not like other girls”, but few discuss why the phenomena of pick-me girls exist.
First, men have made fun of women for nearly every interest or activity catered to them. You like to dance? “As if that’s a real sport.” You only like romance movies? “Grow up! That’s so childish.” If you’re a woman who enjoys putting on makeup, be prepared for nasty clown or vile cake-face jokes. When a hierarchy has been created where anything men do is superior to women, many girls grow up realizing they have to act like men and denounce feminine interests in order to get male approval.
Second, women live in a system that constantly perpetuates the importance of receiving male validation. We grow up watching films that portray us to be weaker, damsels in distress that need men to come save us. From a young age, societies reinforce the idea that all women need a strong man. Because we live in a country where few women are in high leadership positions, we are often subordinate to men. Many women forget to focus on becoming the leaders of our system, instead prioritizing how to be the better subordinate to a man than their female counterparts. Consequently, in the workplace, dating life, and in other day-to-day occurrences, women are pitted against each other. Thus, it’s no wonder that pick-me girls are desperate for male validation.
Furthermore, the highly-critical nature of what a woman should be like often turns women off from acting like a girl. For me, I can certainly attest to growing up in a harsh household that required me to be skinny, gentle, and delicate because I was a girl. When I was young, my options of interests were limited because my mom thought soccer was for boys only. Even as I entered college, my potential career was limited by my father who thought engineering would be a poor career choice because it was a field dominated by men. Our society creates norms that frame what is expected, and consequently gender norms constrain what women can and can’t do. Because of these limiting expectations, many women are turned off from the prospect of ever acting girly or engaging in feminine interests.
Many may believe pick-me girls are not misogynistic because men can fall under the “pick-me boy” category too. Pick-me boys manipulate women into dating them, by using rhetoric that coerces women into believing they are “nice” guys. They utilise gaslighting and manipulation strategies to undermine themselves in a way that convince females to uplift them and grow closer to them. While these men seek validation from a woman similar to the pick-me girls that seek validation from men, the belief that these are the same phenomena ignores the fact that we live in a patriarchal system.
Pick-me men will never have to revert from their gender norms to seek attention from women. Instead, they must pretend to be “woke” and alert to social justice issues like gender inequality in order to gain the attention of a woman. In movies or popular media, nearly all male characters who engage in “feminine” interests are depicted to be homosexual, while female characters like Gracie Hart in Miss Congeniality or Cady Heron in Mean Girls are praised for their non-girly characteristics. Women being complimented for following male norms deeply perpetuates the idea that men are superior to women.
While it will take a long time before we fully erase gender norms, for now, we ought to all treat each other far more kindly. There’s no need to put another woman down to get a man’s attention. After all, he probably has cooties.