Why “She’s a Cool Girl” isn’t the compliment you’re looking for

I used to have a friend back in high school who was always surrounded by more guy friends than girl friends. She was into ALL sports, ate whatever she wanted, and rarely got angry or upset over anything. All of the guys wanted to date her and pretty much all of the girls wanted to be just like her. However, it wasn’t until reading Gillian Flynn’s novel “Gone Girl” that I finally realized who my friend was and why everyone was so inexplicably taken by her: she was the real-life Cool Girl.

Now, for those of you who haven’t read or seen the movie adaptation of “Gone Girl” let me bring you up to speed (or you can check out this link. WARNING: link includes spoilers): in the first few pages of the novel we are introduced to a married couple: Nick and Amy Dunne. After discovering that Nick has cheated on his wife with another women, Amy pretty much goes a-wall (as she should) and introduces us to the concept of the “Cool Girl”:

“Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping… Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want.” (Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl pg. 210)

Amy continues to assert that, while men are naturally drawn to this type of woman, the Cool Girl is 100% fake. In fact, she’s a work of fiction. Depictions of the Cool Girl literary trope have flooded books, movies, and television shows for decades. Think: 1920’s film star Clara Bow in the movie Dancing Mothers, Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary, or Zooey Deschenal in the t.v. show New Girl. Because the Cool Girl is plastered throughout all forms of literature, women are thus encouraged to intentionally shape themselves into the low-maintenance, down-to-chill, sports-loving girl that all traditional heterosexual men perceivably want. However, by making the character choice to be more like “one of the guys” women are inevitably forced to throw out some of their feminine qualities. “Ohhh my gosh you spent the weekend out shopping with the girls!? Well I was out playing a pick-up game of tackle football with the bros, grilling stakes in the new pit and building a deck. AT THE SAME TIME.”

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Photo found on Flickr

While there’s nothing wrong with genuinely sharing these characteristics, the real problem comes when women force themselves to be like the Cool Girl in order to impress a guy. And what’s worse than changing yourself to be something you’re not? Throwing your fellow home girls under the bus in the process! The Cool Girl tells us that in order to be attractive to a man, we have to rid ourselves of our feminine qualities that society has deemed as petty or weak. By agreeing to do so we make it okay for others to scoff at our girl friends who rock the stereotypical feminine look or personality. While pretending to be the Cool Girl teaches men to expect nearly unachievable standards from women, it also turns women against one another.

While it’s pretty clear that patriarchal standards have dictated the control over what makes a women’s body attractive for years, the Cool Girl is taking an even scarier path by telling women how to think, act, and feel. Conforming to these standards set up by the Cool Girl not only encourages men that this fictional character actually exists, but it continues to dig at a female’s autonomy. Therefore, it is time we critically reassess the ways in which women are being portrayed through literature. I, for one, would much rather read a book or watch a show about a woman who is not afraid of being perceived as weaker, or lesser just because she shows off her feminine qualities.

Whether you’re into sappy rom-coms or action-packed thrillers- or BOTH- do not let someone else encourage you to intentionally change the fundamentals of who you are.

Soooo in closing of this blog post I’d like to leave you with some feminist food for thought in the form of a quote from Abby Rosmarin’s blog: “True Confessions of a Former Cool Girl”:

 “Here’s the thing the indie movie producers and TV show writers don’t tell you: you cannot truly love yourself if you are, consciously or unconsciously, chasing after Cool Girl. Perhaps we can focus all that energy we once used to be the Cool Girl – or to hate her – and channel it towards a new definition of “cool,” one that is synonymous with being yourself.”

 

One thought on “Why “She’s a Cool Girl” isn’t the compliment you’re looking for

  1. Damn, this is spot-on. It also just reminds me of how the media recycles old ideas over and over and never adds anything new to them. The same has happened with this trope. And it is scary how in order to achieve this status, we’re expected to strip ourselves of qualities we may even like about ourselves…and how does this fit with out sky-high beauty standards? We all know damn well that even if someone is a “cool girl” to the T, she still needs to be beautiful, thin, large-breasted, etc.
    Yikes!

    Like

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