Throughout history, men have depended on women to tell on each other and keep each other in line.
I think often of the young women who set off and kept the Salem witch trials going, probably knowing that their claims were entirely fictitious yet holding to them anyway. By the end of the trials, fourteen women and five men were executed, their accusations primarily coming from young women and girls. As noted by Megan Abbott, there is something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls, but only so often does the boredom of teenage girls turn an entire community into mass hysteria and deaths. Still today, despite the lack of a formal witch trial, it is the social pressure of women and girls that keep us in line socially.
Throughout my life, I have always been a girl’s girl. I can excuse the crimes of a woman no matter their severity, will condone the actions of my friends to the point of delusion, and try my best to be supportive to my friends no matter what. Despite this, I have never felt like the Other Girls. Never pretty enough, never interested enough in the same things, or interested exactly the same amount but in the wrong ways, too loud, too weird, too gay. For so long, and even still, there is a resentment I nurse deep in my chest for the girls who seemed to fit into this Other Girls role so effortlessly. Boys liked them, they knew what to say, they knew how to look. I couldn’t figure it out, why could they?
If I couldn’t be like them, I first decided to simply be against them. Being Not Like Other Girls was much cooler anyway! If they didn’t want me, I didn’t want them.
The idea of not wanting to be like Other Girls is nothing new, despite the popularity the idea — or the criticism of it — has garnered on TikTok. In the early 2010’s when I was a middle schooler browsing Facebook memes, the girls who were not like the Other Girls were the ones on the receiving end of praise. Not Like Other Girls liked to play video games, hated makeup, weren’t boy crazy but received male validation anyway, and were cool and funny where their more feminine rivals failed. These girls, while appearing to detest all factors of life that make it difficult to be a woman, only play into their own version of the male fantasy. The Cool Girl.
The Cool Girl, as identified by Gillian Flynn in her novel Gone Girl, is everything a man wants her to be without ever having wants of her own. She’s thin, yet she loves burgers and wings…