The dangerous myth of the ‘cool girl’

Posted in Feminism
on November 23, 2017
The dangerous myth of the cool girl

Reading time: 6 minutes

 

The cool girl is one of the guys. One of the lads. The antithesis of the girly girl. She drinks beer, and straight liquor, she can hold her own in the lad’s banter arena, reeling off a pithy retort to an approving chorus of “wheeeeyyyy!” anytime.

She can talk sports, she can neck a pint, she laughs along when you make misogynistic jokes, she can play FIFA with you, she’s hilarious at all times, she doesn’t take anything seriously, she’s not ‘too into her looks’ but always looks immaculately made up, she doesn’t complain or nag, she’s not fussed about a committed relationship if you’re not, she isn’t needy, she requires little to no attention or affection, she never wants to talk about your relationship, she’d completely understand you eschewing a birthday or anniversary in order to have a lad’s night, she doesn’t drag you along to family events, she looks amazing without makeup and dressed in sweats, she’s into car maintenance, she thinks Valentine’s Day is pointless, she can beat you at any pub-based game (not that she would, because that would threaten your masculine dominance), she loves steak, she doesn’t get involved in ‘girly drama’, she’s not ‘uptight’, she’s never angry or emotional, and she happens to like everything you like.

When the time is right (when YOU can be arsed), she knows when to turn on her feminine charm. She’ll be sexy, she’ll always wear that Ann Summers underwear, she’ll maintain the body of a Victoria’s Secret model without any effort but is the first to suggest a kebab for tea, she happens to love all those dirty things you’ve never dared even hint at with other girls. In fact, she initiates it all the time. Her sex drive is uncomplicated, there’s no need for interest, affection, or foreplay. She thinks you’re a god, she pretty much worships you, but in a completely nonchalant way. She’s not like ‘other girls’, the ones who can’t take a joke. She’s essentially your best mate, who you can have no-strings-attached sex with.

Oh, and she doesn’t actually exist.

 

Maybe that’s a lie. Maybe you’re a girl reading this and thinking “I love all that stuff”, and that’s great, though I would question you about the misogynistic jokes part.

 

The cool girl definitely exists in movies, books, and on TV. I would go so far as to say that these cool girl characters are exclusively written by men, just because I can’t actually think of an example of a cool girl character created by a woman. Feel free to prove me wrong on that one.

The defining cool girl moment that springs to my mind is the appearance of Megan Fox in Transformers, you know that scene where she fixes Sam’s car?

 

I feel I have to pre-emptively say that I’m not attacking anyone’s personality or interests, because I’m not talking about anyone who actually, genuinely is that person, naturally. I’m talking about a patriarchal phenomenon whereby women are taught to believe that behaving this way, and liking all of those things, will increase their popularity with men.

The cool girl personality is one you should adopt if you want to be liked by men, apparently. The trouble is that the cool girl is and does whatever happens to be cool to any given man, making it impossible to be a ‘one size fits all’ cool girl. There’s some hideous metaphor in there and I’m quite sure I don’t want to explore it for now.

 

If you’re staying with me, I hope you like rants!

 

Women are socialised to behave this way. I don’t know exactly how it happens but my theory is it’s a myth created in the same subtle-until-you-realise-it way that all sexist myths are created. In the same way that women have been, for the most part, socialised to believe they should strive to fit an ideal unattainable body type through bombardment with millions of images of women who look one way, and an opposing inability to find images of women who look like them. Women have been implicitly taught to believe this cool girl personality is the one to go for.

To be a cool girl, you must be amenable. You can’t be ‘too’ anything.

We’ve heard men describe other women like this, both in real life and media. We’ve heard men criticise women who are ‘too’ anything. Yeah, she’s hot but she’s too emotional. She’s too smart, too skinny, too fat, too into her looks, or too needy.

Men will choose the cool girl over other women and appear to respect you, as the cool girl, as they do other men. They will listen to a cool girl, take her advice, and include her in conversation. It is built up to be the ultimate compliment to be called a cool girl.

And men think this girl exists because, for so long, women have pretended to be this girl. I’ve done it myself. I’ve caught myself thinking that way even recently.

 

This isn’t a natural thing that women want to do; it is socialisation into sexist ideals which exist to serve patriarchy. It serves patriarchy because it causes women to be competitive with other women. It compares women and sets them against each other.

It brings to mind the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speech, you know – you can have ambition, but not too much. You can be successful but not so successful that you threaten the man.

You have to be into ‘manly’ things but not so much that you threaten the manliness of the men you want to think you’re the cool girl. With me?

 

You can be opinionated, but only if it’s the same opinion as your boyfriend. You don’t want to be the angry feminist in any situation. Even as I write this, I’m aware that’s how I’m coming across, and it bothers me. And it bothers me that it bothers me.

The cool girl ideal creates pressure to be a certain way in a relationship. If you have strong feelings about anything, you’re hard work. If you ask for affection in a relationship, you’re needy. If you’re emotional, you’re difficult. It causes you to change your personality, whether consciously or not, because men will like you better. It’s filtered, and it’s not you.

It’s on the same side as ‘boys will be boys’, just let them get on with it, you will not challenge them on anything they do or say. You will be cool with it.

 

Again, it’s not that women don’t like all those things I listed at the start, or that all men want women to be that girl. It’s just that this is an overwhelmingly obvious thing that I’ve noticed, and all of the women I know have felt this at some point, even if they don’t currently. I can almost guarantee you’ll have experienced this (personally or otherwise) if you went to high school.

And maybe you are that girl, sometimes. But nobody can be one thing all the time. Nobody can read minds and be whatever that guy wants you to be at any given moment. Nobody can be happy living their lives being picked up and put down and living by someone else’s whim. Exhausting much?

It isn’t a bad thing to want men to like you, in fact, that’s kind of the point if you’re into men. But all I’m saying is that this is a real thing that women feel pressure to be, and it’s bullshit and, if you are into coupling (or tripling, or whatever your deal is), I want you all to find someone who is into YOU – emotions, difficulties, rough patches and all the wonderful things that make you you.

 

I feel like this might’ve been a bit of a risky post, so I’m totally up for a discussion about it. I’d definitely love to hear from you if you have experience of being, or wanting to be the ‘cool girl’, or if you’ve noticed it before.

 

Thanks for reading! I promise my next thing will be more light-hearted!

#Smearforsmear cervical cancer prevention week

4 Comments

  • Merkitty

    I think all women can be a few of those things, but I’ve never met any that ticked all those boxes either.

    November 28, 2017 at 12:57 Reply
    • North

      Oh absolutely. Any woman can be any or all of those things if she chooses to be. It just makes me sad to think of people completely altering their personality and putting others down to try and gain favour with people who aren’t even interested in them, if that makes sense?!

      November 28, 2017 at 13:13 Reply
  • Melanie

    This reminds me of April from Buffy. She was all those things. She was perfect, because she was a robot programmed to be that way. And as it turned out, he didn’t actually want a robot. The entire episode was basically about being yourself, and not trying to be what you think some dude wants you to be. God I love that show!

    December 3, 2017 at 19:58 Reply
    • North

      Ahh this is brilliant, Melanie! You probably don’t know what a huge Buffy fan I am, so that comment was ideal haha!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. And you totally got my point 🙂 x

      December 4, 2017 at 12:15 Reply

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