Let’s Talk Bookish: The “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trope

I’ve mixed feels about the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trope for a variety of reasons. I’ve seen this trope go either way — but usually when it is referred to head-on, there is a problem. Thing is, there aren’t phrases like, “He’s not like other boys,” so I don’t completely understand the need for not-like-other-girls.

Most of the time, the not-like-other-girls trope is a diss to all girls, or women, implying a standard box a female is supposed to fit into.

“There’s this rule that to be special, you have to be different to other women.” ~Hailee Steinfeld

Not-like-other-girls trope done well

I have no idea of the origins, but the times I’ve seen the not-like-other-girls trope done well regard character development and multitudes. The difference extends way beyond the obvious and into the depths of one’s personality and environment.

She’s not like other girls — she’s a clone, she’s a doll, she’s a robot.

The moral of the story is always that, despite what it looks like, not being like other girls is what makes you like other girls.

By this “done well” representation, it is a fallacy itself.

I used to think I wasn’t like other girls.

I always knew I was different from other girls in my youth. I’m autistic. I have dissociative identity disorder.

Yet, plenty of girls and women have this in common. It doesn’t make me different.

Plenty of things can make me unique, but that doesn’t mean I must be different from other girls. Notice the emphasis — that’s precisely what the trope perpetuates: the idea that other girls have a negative connotation.

There is an unspoken rule that women must be different from fellow women — girls different from fellow girls — in order to express themselves, as if it’s always only a competition.

That’s what it boils down to, always: competition. The implication that girls and women must always be compared to one another.

Why doesn’t society have a male equivalent?

Oh, wait…it does, but the context is different. People say he’s not like other guys to describe someone who is either more polite or much less manly.

Into the boxes people are placed, based on society’s approval.

We R who we R, and instead of celebrating similarities and differences together, social constructs and protocol seeks to stabilize the divide instead of destroying it.

It rubs me the wrong way when someone tells me I’m not like other girls/women.

Usually, the context is based off other women turning so-and-so away because they wouldn’t put up with toxic behavior. If someone tells me I’m not like other women, I am on the lookout for additional red flags — something along the lines of, “blah blah they’re wrong in the head,” for instance.

I was chatting with a person preferred to present as female and wished to be “used like a woman” by other women. I do not know if they were trans or simply cross-dressing — that was not the issue. Their ex-wife was displeased with their choices, and they constantly put women down and referred to anyone who didn’t put up with their toxicity as “wrong in the head”. They said, “But you, you’re not like the other ladies on here, lol, you seem like the real thing.”

I have no idea what that was supposed to mean, but I definitely draw the line at wrong in the head.

Usually, people say someone is not like other other [fill-in-the-blank] with derogatory intentions.

I surmise it popularized due to men thinking of their own self-importance and presuming it would be a lovely line for all women in pop culture — and potentially conditioning women to think so. ‘Tis likely the problem of men writing female characters, conservative values and the idea that women must always be polite and grateful for whatever men say to them, and archaic traditions.

Most of all, I feel the not-like-other-girls trope attempts to box me in, put me in my place.

Feminine-presenting person lying on floor while reading magazine, with headphones in a cami
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Imagine this: I’m not like other girls because…

  • I don’t post nudes on the internet.
  • I don’t have an OnlyFans.
  • I’m always clothed in my pictures, never showing “too much” skin.
  • I leave things to imagination.
  • There is still a mystery about me.

All of these things have been said to me, and I’ve wanted to rebel against them all just to prove that, yes, I am like “other” women — but most of all that they don’t know me as well as they think they do.

I am me. I’m comprised of multitudes. I am an alter in a DID system of 15.

I absolutely detest the obsession with otherness, because it implies a superiority complex.

What are your thoughts on the not-like-other-girls trope?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a bookish linkup by Eternity Books and Literary Lion. The Book Blogger Discussion Challenge is another bookish linkup, by FYFA and ISAM.

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Comments on this post

Oh, yes, I definitely hate this trope 99% of the time. (I thought your exceptions were interesting, though.) The idea that being “not like other girls” is superior somehow implies that most girls and women are bad. Um, what? It’s bad enough when guys have this stereotype, but even worse when women writers put them in their stories. What’s wrong with “other girls”? Absolutely nothing.

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It also puts an “other” status, and the only experience I know to refer to it with is mine being both indigenous and white, and sometimes having to put “other” on legal docs that don’t have the indigenous option OR having to put “White and one or more other races”. 😬 I dislike it because I didn’t grow up identifying as that, and I identify as white-passing so am othered into whiteness, or whatever.

I dislike the idea that people who don’t fit into a set of check boxes must be categorized as “other”.

Diversity movements will do it, too. Diverse reading challenges include lists of diverse books to read, and it honestly just feels like they’re trying to complete the list and not giving it much thought. There is always the option to read other diverse books that do not fit the check boxes, but that’s a whole other post on its own. 😤

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Ooof, I totally agree. Don’t get me started! It’s not just a problem in fiction, either. I have friends in the town I live in who insist they’re not *like* other girls, they don’t like salad, they don’t wear pink, or whatever they think the man in the room wants them to say. Competition like that is not healthy and watching girls start in on that from the time they’re kids because they’ve been taught that there’s such a thing as an unacceptable way for a woman to be is really hard to watch.

Plus, there’s no acceptable woman, either, that’s the rub! We’re given unreasonable standards and if we strive to achieve them, we’re vapid and shallow and one of ‘those’ girls. If we do our own thing we’re weird and gross. If we don’t fit into the projection made for us, we’re somehow less, but fitting in doesn’t earn us respect. Ridiculous.

Women are pitted against each other in real life by everything from the fashion industry to the weight loss industry, and even in personal relationships. It’s gross. Media’s portrayal of women and the tropes that define them definitely has a negative impact, but society’s been doing this to ladies for eons.

Oof, sorry, I didn’t mean to rant! I got carried away, eeep!

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It’s not ranting; it’s a discussion. 😉 Don’t apologize for expressing yourself. ♥

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