I’m not like those other girls, I proclaim as I saunter down the street with my friend, both of us wearing stockings and boots and a dress. We’re fifteen. Clearly, this was the cutting edge alternative fashion back in 2008 and unlike what any other two girls were wearing at any one time. Clearly, I was the other: the single one girl who isn’t like those other girls because I was cool and hung out with the dudes, wore sneakers and pretended to vomit at the sight of pink. Clearly, I was better than all of those other girls, who did not have my intellect or, it seemed, my superiority complex.
Fast forward four years. I’m currently using my MacBook Air to write an article on feminism before I go out to buy purple hair dye and a satchel from an army disposals store. My cat lays, sleeping, as Broken Social Scene plays on my iTunes. If I hadn’t grown, I could be a modern day version of my fifteen-year-old, boot wearing, and floral dress donning self. I am the only one who will singlehandedly save this generation from a life of vapid vanities and orange tan lines. I am the true saviour who knows the real intellect can only be gained through worshipping Bukowski and ditching university lecture halls! I watch slam poetry instead of Jersey Shore! I am unlike no other who has come before me and this is what makes me the true innovator of our age! Thankfully, I have grown and no longer wear misogyny on the inside. Thankfully, I realise that I subscribe to a stereotype and cliché just like every other human being on this planet and thankfully, I can make fun of myself because if my fifteen year old self taught me anything, it is that having the arrogance and ego the size of a house gets tiring and boring after a while.
Now while I acknowledge that I am not, culturally speaking, “unique” in any particular way, shape or form, I am sure there are hordes of women who still distinguish themselves from ladies who wear pink. Because let’s get real here, this problem runs a lot deeper than a bunch of middle-class teenage girls with special snowflake syndrome and a $20 iTunes gift card that allows them to expand their avant-garde music taste. This runs deeper than the Mean Girls sentiment of “why can’t we just all get along and bake a cake of rainbows and smiles and eat and be happy?” (Which suggests that the only thing we must do to solve the world of internalised misogyny is to play nice.) For years there has been an ongoing culture of girls hating other girls for being simply that – girls. My fifteen year old self was not alone in thinking that she was the other, the alternative, the one who was more sophisticated, intelligent, well read and, generally, better. I am sure she is still not alone. I am sure there are still multitudes of women rushing forth to ascertain to the world that they are not like those other women.
We can’t really blame them, can we? Everyone wants to be unique. Everyone wants to be told that they possess special qualities that make them more valuable and worthy over other people, over other women. But let’s break it down. There is a difference between putting on your kicks and playing sports and thinking you are better than other women because of that, and putting on your kicks and playing sports because you genuinely enjoy it. I know that my fifteen-year-old self sure as hell didn’t care about the dynamics of video games or who won the local sporting event. But she pretended to care. Mainly because boys were cool, and they were strong and they never cried and they weren’t – gasp! – weak like girls. Perhaps this has more to do with my own shortcomings than my penchant for internalising all of my girl-hate, but we are told since birth that boys are stronger than girls. It’s a “fact” (or a, uh, enforced gender role but that’s a story for another time) and most of us don’t want to be seen as weak. I certainly didn’t want to be seen as weak, and I was going to let the world know by denying my femininity and shunning those who didn’t do the same.
Because let’s face it, girls get a bad rap. The stereotypical teenage girl is seen as a shrieking banshee, a “fan-girl”, ultimately unable to control her emotions and because of this is seen as weak. These days you need only mention the words “One Direction” to hear unanimous groans all around. I’ve heard a few One Direction songs and they are damn catchy. I am sure I’m not the only one who thinks so. But everyone wants to have the cultural upper-hand, to appear more sophisticated and ultimately, unique, so they don’t say anything. One Direction is for fourteen-year-old girls who yell too much and say things like “yolo” and “nek minnit”.
But now I know that there is nothing wrong with being a girl – whatever that may mean. There is nothing wrong with dressing up in a pink and dancing all night, just as much as there is nothing wrong with wearing your pyjamas and having a Law and Order: SVU marathon (but as long as you keep up your hygiene levels and probably, you know, shower). Let’s get rid of this preconceived notion of what a girl should be Let’s stop adhering to cultural stereotypes that hurt us as a gender. So, fifteen-year-old-internalised-misogyny-harbouring-self: you are not perfect. Don’t hang out with the dudes if you’re just doing it to separate yourself from your own gender, do it because you genuinely enjoy their company. Don’t put yourself on a pedestal because you think you’re better than others because you don’t wear pink but because you think you’re pretty fucking cool all by yourself and don’t need anyone else to validate that.