Opinion: The “not like other girls” trope fuels division among women

Lucy Sullivan, Opinions Editor

“That’s just super … basic,” were the words that I heard all too often growing up when I told someone that my favorite artist was Taylor Swift or that I loved the color pink. As early as I can remember, girls around me have received praise for, and taken pride in, not being like “other girls.” 

To be clear, I take no issue with women who don’t conform to society’s idea of having “feminine” interests. What I do have an issue with, however, is when things such as a woman’s music taste or fashion sense is used to put down other women.

Are you a girly-girl, or a tomboy? Or nowadays, are you “basic” or “alt?” These labels can start off as innocent ways to explain one’s interests, but in a society where being less “feminine” makes a woman “strong” or “different,” it’s not uncommon for women to reject “basic” interests, and those who hold them, all in an attempt to distance themselves from  what the world views as an “average” girl. What I have seen happen time and time again is that the group that “isn’t like other girls” pits themselves against the “basic girls,” mocking their interests and ways of life.

Psychologist Meredith Fuller explained the phenomena of women bringing down other women in a 2013 article with “Psychology Today.” There she suggested that this happens out of a feeling of superiority, which in some cases is a front to mask underlying insecurity. The study explains that when women feel that they aren’t enough, and don’t exceed the societal standards of being a woman, they project that negativity onto other women. This can be blamed on the societal double standards for women, because while a woman is “weak” if she conforms to “feminine interests” she is “less of a woman” if she does not. 

In order to understand the root of this problem, you need to understand why “basic” girls’ interests are looked down upon in the first place. Women have had the lower hand in society on so many issues: suffrage, debates over whether or not we should have control over our bodies, and a wage gap that pays women an annual average of approximately $10,000 less than men, according to the most recent census information. Along with those issues, our interests are dragged through the mud when they are stereotypically “girly,” and are viewed as less important, because women are, at times, viewed as less valuable than men.

Social media is the one of the places where women bringing each other down is a prevalent issue, and TikTok, an app with more than 800 million users worldwide, is no exception. I have seen hate comments from women to women, videos meant to make fun of another girl’s appearance, targeting her style choices specifically, and countless harmful stereotypes come from women on the app trying to distance themselves from “other girls.” The “alt girl” community on the app preaches feminism and self love, while some of its members simultaneously bring down other women for wearing LuluLemon leggings or not exclusively listening to “underground” artists. Sometimes this is done as a joke, but it is still harmful nonetheless.

When girls hear their interests being attacked from a young age, it’s been found that it can lead them to develop internalized misogyny. The Stanford Journal’s Claire Francis explained this idea: “Disliking basic-ness is internalized misogyny given a name. It is the phrase ‘I’m not like other girls,’ packaged as an insult.” Internalized misogyny is often then projected onto other women when they demonstrate the traits that they had been taught to hate in themselves. 

If we, as women, stopped listening to society’s judgments of us and pitting ourselves against each other based on differences in taste, we could model a healthy relationship with our femininity, in turn ending the negative stigmas toward women for future generations. Successfully accomplishing this, we will eradicate the need for a harmful term such as “basic,” or at least model for the next generation of women that everyone’s passions are valid, no matter the label.