“You’re unlike any other girl I’ve met,” a man told me recently. “In a good way.”
I proceeded to send him “Most Girls” by Hailee Steinfeld. If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s basically about how women are cool and different, and saying “you’re not like most girls” is not a good compliment.
The man responded with, “you really don’t know how to take a compliment, do you?”
I explained that it’s not a good compliment. All women are different. His “compliment” implies that all women are similar and I am the exception, and the fact that I am unlike them is something to be proud of — as if there’s something wrong with being a “typical” woman.
If someone thinks being different from other women is a compliment, they clearly associate various bad qualities with women. I know because I’ve heard it all before. I also know because I’ve been there (thanks, internalized misogyny). I mean, would these guys like it if I said something like, “you’re not like all the other men out there. You’re not a stupid, egotistical fuckboy.” (If you think this is a far cry from what men mean when they give this “compliment,” just know that I asked the guy I’m writing about for specifics and he told me that most women lie and try to seem innocent when they’re not.)
When I was younger, I used to try to disassociate myself from other girls. I liked to portray myself as “one of the guys” because I believed the messages I received from society — that girls are so much more dramatic than guys, that expressing femininity meant admitting weakness, and that guys were easier to be around.
As I grew older, I realized that, more than anything, being dramatic is a personality trait that anyone can possess. I used to try to act like a “tomboy,” but now I embrace the feminine features that I like, knowing that I can be both stereotypically “feminine” and strong. I’ve now spent time with enough men to know that they’re not easier to be around than women. Some women are easy to be around, and some aren’t. The same is true for men. Everyone is different.
After I tried explaining this to the man, he asked, “would you rather me say that you’re all the same?”
Clearly he missed the point. “You’re not like other women” implies that all women are the same — except me, the woman cool enough to be deemed “not like most girls” by some guy. I’m not the same as every other woman out there. That’s because all women are different. Not just me. All of us. But I no longer want to distance myself from other women. Being different from them is not an accomplishment. There are many things that I admire about other women, and I would be honored to be compared to them. I know I must be like the other women he’s met in some ways, and that shouldn’t be meant as an insult. If I’m similar to other women – women who are strong, compassionate, smart, energetic and so many other positive things – I take that as a compliment (because, yes, I can take a compliment — I just don’t accept misogyny dressed up like a compliment. Halloween is over.)