Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My issues with the whole "cool girl" thing

Hi everyone! My name is Mary, and I'm a girl. *waves* Here are some things I like:

  • Make-up. Especially lipstick. Pretty, cherry red or rose pink or vibrant coral lipstick.
  • Retro A-line skirts that could have been plucked from Mad Men (the Mad Men-ier, the better)
  • Purple and pink. They are awesome colors.
  • Chick flicks. They make me laugh.
  • Romance novels. They make me swoon.
  • Lace and flower patterns. Preeeeetttyyyyyy...
  • High heels. They make me feel fabulous.
  • Tea and tea cups and tea sets and all things tea. They are adorable.
  • Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and a whole squad of fun pop music
  • Disney princesses. Mulan's the best, of course, but Ariel's my secret favorite, thanks to a childhood of watching her movie on loop. Whatever you say about her changing her whole self for a guy, she was doing it because she wanted to. Let the girl have her legs.
  • Lots of other wonderful, frilly, totally girly things
Here are some other things I like:
  • Star Wars. Seriously, I'm obsessed. I'm the girl carries her R2-D2 backpack around whenever she's not at the office. I'm the girl who knows more quotes from the Jedi than from the Presidents of the United States. But you already knew that.
  • All sci-fi, actually. I don't just obsess over it; I write it. And fantasy (which Star Wars arguably is... see, I'm nerd enough that I know that). Give me kings and elves and magic wands and secret portals any day.
  • Comics, superhero movies, and superhero TV shows (Marvel all the way!! Though Superman will always hold a special place in my heart). So different, yet too interrelated to divide into different bullet points... I've already spread this nerd thing over three.
  • Action movies and thriller novels. Bang, bang, kaboom--get the bad guys!!!
  • Beer. Cognac. Whiskey... especially Scotch. Neat, please. Rocks just dilutes the awesomeness. And Maotai, which is deadlier than those three combined... and so, so delicious. Also, while craft beer is obviously the best, I'm not above chugging the cheap stuff.
  • Chili dogs. You can never have just one.
  • Steak. The rarer, the better.
  • Burgers. Also rare, though give me enough ketchup, and I'll eat any kind. Okay, now I've just spent three bullets on food... and made myself extraordinarily hungry.
  • Rock music. Both modern alt rock and classic rock. Rock on.
  • Dirty jokes. What??? They're funny! And I'm not above making crude comments.
  • Cursing. I hold back a lot because I take no pleasure in making people uncomfortable for no reason (especially since I never know who'll see the stuff I post online), but I'm seriously foul-mouthed.
  • Lots of other stuff that would put me in that much-maligned "cool girl" territory
The whole "cool girl" thing goes beyond Gillian Flynn's iconic passage in Gone Girl. It's seeped into comedy and criticisms on many fronts. And it bothers me because it feels like another way to pit women against women. When someone implies that a female can only like things such as beer and Star Wars because she's seeking male attention, that drives me nuts. Because Jedi with sabers and bright, hoppy flavors are two of my favorite things because I like them. And when I'm taking a swig of my Guinness while watching Empire Strikes Back, I really don't care what some guy thinks. Every time I see a rant against the "cool girl", which very often mentions sci-fi, I want to scream, "But Star Wars is my favorite movie!! And who says sci-fi's just for guys???"

At the same time, I get the sense that the whole thing was a way of criticizing the super girly-girls who seemed superficial due to their love of pretty things. The after-effects of the "glitter canon" that targets little girls with dolls in pretty dresses and further shoehorns them into a rigid kind of femininity. No doubt there are those who have felt trapped by such expectations... told to wear a dress with a pink bow and play house when really, they want to scrape their knees in jean shorts and climb trees. But neither is more genuine than the other. And they're not mutually exclusive... I was the girl who pranced around in her poofy, sparkly, totally amazing pink princess gown in the morning, then changed into shorts, built a fort out of branches, and came home with bloody scrapes in the afternoon. Today, I'm the girl in the bright purple coat. With a bow.

"Not like other girls" has become something of a trope these days, and it makes me cringe. It's implying that you have to reject a certain kind of femininity to be likable, desirable. It also implies that the aesthetic you're trading the lipstick and heels for is not femininity, and that is just false. Women are not a single, definable mass.

Sexism is very real and very harmful to women of all kinds, and it's doing women no favors to push them toward one extreme while harshly condemning the other. So please, next time you're criticizing misogyny (which you absolutely should!), try not to stereotype any kind of woman in your opinion piece. Because for those of us with varied tastes, it's not fair to make us pick a side. 


  1. Thanks so much for making the effort for you personally to share such a nice information. I genuinely prefer to reading your blog post.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Couldn't agree with you more! It's a real 'thing', this pitting women against women, as if it's some kind of competition to see who qualifies as the most 'real' kind of girl/woman.

    I was lucky enough to be a teenager in highschool when Star Wars hit the big screen for the very first time - and I fell head over heels in love with the entire notion of sci-fi, fantasy, and Star Wars in all it's glory.

    I don't drink much Guinness anymore because it's hard to come by where I live, but I developed a taste for it *block your eyes if you are overly PC* - as a child of about 7yrs old. My Irish uncles would always let me sip theirs. They also let me sip on their Rum & Black - and I love rum to this day. I don't like watching sports on TV, but I love to give any kind of sport a go. I learned to surf at 40 - not because it was cool, but because all the males in my family surf and I was sick and tired of being left alone on the beach.

    But do I love pretty lacy dresses and high-heels? You bet I do!

    Thanks for the post, Mary - well said! The things we like to do, the things that make us happy, don't necessarily define who or 'what' we are, and they certainly shouldn't be devisive.

    1. Thank you! That's awesome that you can surf... I'm jealous :-)

      Yeah it always annoys me when people (including a lot of feminists!) frame women who like certain things as just a male fantasy because it implies that those women don't exist. Or are faking.

  4. Love the post. I am forever bothered by the millions of different ways that people always have to dissect girls into the two groups-forever pitting us against one another. Each group mocking the other group and their choices.

    I think (*hope*) we are moving to more enlightened females that are standing up and saying "You love high heels?? Well that is awesome!! You like to race cars.. That's awesome too!!"

    It's remembering we are all in this together and our jobs as humans to help support and build each other up instead of an us vs. them mentality, otherwise, that is how the zombies win :)