I wanna write more discussion posts. I mean, I always say this but this time I mean it! I want you guys to have something interesting to read and to discuss your opinion on this topic in the comments.
The “Not Like Other Girls” Trope
What is the “Not like other girls” trope?
To me it mostly means, that the girl in question is different from others in their age group. I can mean that she likes different things, is more savvy in things her peers are usually not knowledgeable of or mainly just stands out from the group. And easy example here would be that Mary likes football while all the other girls in her class play with dolls.
(Fun fact: There are studies that prove that male babies prefer looking at things that move like a mobile while female babies like looking at faces. So it’s actually biology not social engineering. Also, babies like to play with certain toys regardless of their colour. Just so you know.)
But I also know that when it’s said “You are not like other girls.” then it’s mostly meant in wonder and as a compliment. It’s meant as, “You are not like other girls I know.”
There are, of course, also negative connotations to this trope. I feel that is the reason why this trope is so controversial nowadays. While I want to believe that “You are not like other girls” in MG and YA is mostly meant like described above, in the real world it can also have negative and derogatory meanings like that being a girl means that you are somehow inferior and being “not like other girls” somehow means that you are a credit to your gender.
There are other explanations for this trope but I think that is mostly what it’s used for in MG and YA books.
How I feel about this trope:
I have to admit, I’m a bit on the fence with this trope. It might really depend on my mood when reading the book that features it. Sometimes it also depends on the character this is directed to. Sometime I might like it. Sometimes I don’t. It really depends. I think there are many scenarios were it indeed works. I also think it depends on the context and on the mood the person it’s said to is in.
Imagine the following scenario: The protagonist, let’s call her “Tammy”, has a big family with a lot of sisters. She tends to get lost in the shuffle, overlooked between her siblings, is just one of many. No matter how much she tries, Tammy is just “one of those” and is more seen as a “part of a whole” instead of an individual person. If she is seen as a person, for example by a teacher, it’s mostly to compare her to her sisters. Hearing in this situation that she is not like other girls, might elate her. It might give Tammy a boost in self-convidence and make her happy.
Imagine a different scenario: The protagonist, let’s call her “Sally”, has been a bit different from the others her whole life. Be it the way she dresses or talks or acts. Sally is being shunned by the other girls her age who make fun of her and never let her join in on any of the games they are playing. Hearing in that situation that she is not like other girls, might upset her. I can even see Sally trying as hard as she can to be just like the others after hearing this sentence.
You see, it really depends on the context.
How does this trope apply in the real world?
I think that as a teenager, when everybody is trying to stand out, it might be nice to hear that you are different. I remember a time where I myself thought that I was different from other girls. I was not interested in the same things as they were, be it makeup or boys or whatever passing fancy had struck them that season. Heck, sometimes I still believe it.
I think that our world is in a state nowadays were we are taught to be as individualistic as possible, to express ourselves no matter against whose opinions we oppose or who we hurt with it. We relish in the fact that we have something about ourselves that is entirely our own. Of course we love to hear a confirmation about that from somebody we admire or even somebody we don’t know. I think this is why this trope became so popular in books.
On the other hand I think that we still succumb to peer pressure or, that on our journey to be an individual we end up being all the same person. We all join social media. We cannot escape our human nature of forming a group and to ostracize people who display thraits or behaviours that deviate from the “norm”. (This was a good thing for group survival in the oldern times. It did have it benefits.)
What I’m saying is, that, like in books, telling somebody or hearing from sombody that you are not like the others, really depends on your mindset and context. Mostly it is meant as a compliment.
From a strictly feministic point of view, it can of course be taken as an offense. The phrase “You are not like other girls” can be met with a raised eyebrow and a huffed “What’s wrong with other girls?”. And there is nothing wrong with other girls.
However, I also do not think that that is what is implied. Mostly.
Still, there are nicer ways to tell a girl that she is “different”. (Tell her all the things you like about her. Make her laugh. Tell her she’s the only one for you. Just a suggestion.)
Can this trope be damaging?
This is a question Rukky and Dani were asking and it made me ponder. I understand the worry that a young girl that is maybe not completely sure of herself might think that she has to change herself to find friends.
However, I don’t think that this trope has so much power that it stimulates self-hate or self-harm.
I’m not really on the fence about this trope. I don’t mind it but I am not completely in love with it either. I understand that it is mostly used to pay the female character a compliment. It can be a plot device. I don’t really think it’s hurtful but I think it really depends on context and circumstance and mindset of the character. It should not be used to put the rest of whole gender to shame. It should not be used to lift one person up and put all the others down. That’s not what it should do. As a compliment, to make somebody happy, I think it’s fine and I don’t mind reading it in that context.
What do you think? Do you agree with me on this topic? What is your opinion? Do you like/dislike this trope?