Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, that is hosted by Rukky @Eternity Books and Dani @Literary Lion. It’s a chance to discuss certain topics, share opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.
Posts are written on Fridays, and you can suggest topics using the form that you will find on Rukky’s Contact page.
This week’s Let’s Talk Bookish prompt is
“I’M NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS” TROPE
asked by Dani @The Literary Lion
Prompts: How do you feel about the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trope in general? Have you ever seen the trope done well? Did you ever think you were “not like other girls” OR think that a girl you know wasn’t “like other girls”? Why do you think this trope became so popular? Do you think this trope can be damaging?
How do you feel about the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trope in general? Have you ever seen the trope done well? Do you think this trope can be damaging?
Whilst I totally understood what was meant by the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trope, I did feel the need to do some reading around the subject before writing this post, and boy what an eye opening, not to mention fascinating, piece of research that became! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my reading choices are generally “adult” and include speculative/science fiction, suspense and romance. I have experienced the trope in some New Adult books, particularly romances, though I do try and avoid those as I often find the protagonists to be incredibly irritating and difficult to relate to.
Before I began my research my opinion was that I find the trope a little tedious/boring and perhaps even caricaturist. However as someone who reads in the much judged and ridiculed romance genre I try not to judge the reading choices of others. The more I researched the topic, the more concerned I became that actually this can be quite a toxic trope.
When I have read a YA book (usually urban fantasy) the heroine very often is written as “Not Like Other Girls”. And that does concern me because very often it puts females into 2 camps. The first is the heroine, who doesn’t like anything feminine/girly and aspires to more manly pursuits but also won’t be validated until she is accepted by the hero. The second camp are the fluffy, bitchy, cool girl group who are always the bad guys who at some point are brought down a peg or two. And how often is their BFF a gay guy and the girl herself is stunningly gorgeous and desired by all who see her, but doesn’t actually realise she is so beautiful.
That’s not to say the NLOG trope can’t be done well. I’ve read books where the NLOG heroine is best mates with at least one “definitely like other girls” girl, though in this case she doesn’t tend to be bitchy or popular, just pretty and girly. If the book passes the Bechdel–Wallace test, then it tends to have a much better representation of women within it’s pages. I firmly believe that it can be a very damaging trope, it isn’t until I read articles on topics such as this that I realise how much of an impact they may subconsciously have had on me. I’m in my early 50’s and was lucky enough to have two supportive parents who guided and encouraged me to become whatever I wanted. Whilst many of my childhood peers were focusing on marriage and children, I was forging a career in teaching. Just the sheer fact that I have accepted stereotypical and sexists views simply because they have been the norm is testament to how undermining tropes such as this can be.
Did you ever think you were “not like other girls” OR think that a girl you know wasn’t “like other girls”?
No to both. People in real life are much more multifaceted than the protagonists of books. We are all individuals and whilst we tend to have things in common with our friends, we also have an individuality that makes us unique. We are the product of both nurture and nature. Even amongst my friends I could have identified something that made each one different to “the rest of us” in some way.
To add some context I’m from the UK with a very different set up to our education system. Students can not be held back a year, unless you are rich you go to a state funded school run according to national rules set by the government. Teachers are employed directly by the school and there are no such things as morality clauses in their contracts. Our schools have a set uniform of school tie, school blazer, school jumper and shirts, trousers and skirts of a set colour. Most will walk to school, be driven by a parent or travel there on public transport.
As a secondary school teacher of far too many years it means I can categorically state that we don’t particularly have “in crowds” and definitely not to the same extent that they are shown in American YA books. Yes there are “popular” kids, but equally there are the notorious kids and the clever kids – all of whom have importance within their own sphere of influence. School sports teams aren’t such a big think over here either. We don’t have homecoming (whatever the heck that is), nor do we have cheerleaders, whilst proms are only a fairly recent introduction and strictly for the students who have just completed Y11 (16 year olds).
So the point of saying all that is that we don’t have the bitchy, cheerleader, pretty and popular “in” crowd that is the usual foil to the NLOG protagonist. So if we don’t have those, it’s impossible to have girls that aren’t like them, since they don’t exist.
Why do you think this trope became so popular?
We all love the underdog and want them to succeed. To the extent that as a child I always wanted Dick Dastardly to actually get that pigeon and Tom to best Jerry as despite initial appearances they were truly the stooges. I also think that most of us are riddled with self doubt – especially through puberty and early adulthood – so can readily identify with the protagonist who doesn’t fit in. One article I read talked about lazy writing, and I do think that probably is a strong reason behind this. Is it that the trope is popular so authors write it, or that it is so widely used readers have little choice other than to read it?
Some posts I read and enjoyed