You’re having a conversation with a guy and everything is fine, there’s a good back and forth, until the infamous statement “You’re actually so cool, you’re not like the other girls” comes out as if it’s supposed to be a compliment.
I never end up finding comments like this flattering, because I don’t feel the need to distance myself from womanhood to feel good about myself. When people tell me this, all I can hear is “You manage to have a good personality despite being a woman”.
What is it about me anyway that makes me so different from the “other girls”? Is it because I made you laugh? Because I have aspirations? Because I’m independent? Viewing independence and substance as innately male traits says nothing about women, and everything about how women are perceived.
Women are constantly displayed as caricatures of themselves rather than multidimensional individuals. There is no one type of woman that this backhanded “compliment” can be placed on. Being a woman and having feminine traits is not a defect. Women can enjoy feminine things, like makeup, shoes, or their sorority. A woman displaying these interests doesn’t make them incapable. Strong character is not mutually exclusive with womanhood or femininity.
I am proud of being a woman. The women in my life comfort me, uplift me, and make me laugh. When I’m with women, we don’t see our gender identity as a limitation, we have drive and independence. We have our own individual personalities, identities, and interests that stay with us regardless of how we present ourselves.
The truth is that I am like the other girls, I relate to women’s experiences because I am a woman. my identity is comprised of countless elements inspired by women I look up to. The state of being a woman is not something I try and distance myself from. I draw from my experiences as a woman, it is a part of my identity, and one that I pride myself on.
So for all the guys who are guilty of giving this back handed compliment, I understand it isn’t always malicious. The quirky girl trope is all too familiar in movies, and what girl doesn’t like to feel special? Hell, what person doesn’t like to feel special? Unfortunately, what is intended as innocent praise is anything but. It only reinforces the one dimensional view of women, and labels it as something to avoid.
To all the guys I have talked to, and all the guys I will talk to in the future, I promise that to my core, every part of me is part of a woman. The part of me that take three hours to get ready when I go out, and the part of me that will spend three hours playing Guitar Hero.
Cover Image: Amanda Seyfried as Karen Smith in Mean Girls – YouTube/Paramount ( YouTube/Screenshot/Paramount )