February 24, 2016

By Nijah Glenn

 Although we as a society love to bash pop culture and dissect every last bit of media for symbolism that isn’t there, it is appropriate to give credit in situations where it is due. Though the film was released in 2014, the central character of Gone Girl Amy Dunne raised solid points about the role of women and the perception of a woman in society. Without spoiling the plot, a long repressed monologue is uttered via narration: a monologue deploring the “cool girl”. As narrated in Gone Girl, the Cool Girl is a “defining compliment” from men. Amy (played by the incredible Rosamund Pike) notes in her monologue, “Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want…Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl.”

Fast forward to last week. Between scrolling through multiple social media sites, I had the misfortune of seeing varying forms of the “I’m a bro/ I’m one of the guys” from different girls. Quite honestly, I was absolutely fed up with it. What is it about being just like the boys that’s such an amazing defining quality valued above our character or personal traits? Why is it that a socially acceptable girl has to be one that a boy can “relate to?” Kindly speaking, what about the rest of us? You know, the girls and non-binary people of the world? Why is there so much flack behind characteristics associated with women? It’s absolutely disturbing and feeds the notion that people should be treated as a commodity, merely as what they are and not who they are. In truth, it’s a disheartening expectation forced upon many to be “the Cool Girl.” It not only serves a long existing narrative in which the feelings and desires of boys are given more worth than that of girls, but also fuels division within girls between those who will comply with these expectations, and those who will not.

 As a girl, it’s difficult to live in a world that values these standards. In fact, it plays off of famed writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech on feminism, “We Should All Be Feminists” (sampled by none other than Beyoncé in her song, ***flawless): “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much…Otherwise you will threaten the man.” It’s as if our worth is contingent on how we are viewed according to the male gaze. It is that same idea that dictates how we as women and non-binary people view and shape femininity. Hobbies associated with women are often looked down upon, while societal masculine interests are held in reverence. Being a “bro” is held as an honorary title; it means your interests in sports/ rowdiness/disinterest in “girly” things belie your gender identity and make you of more worth than your counterparts who do not embrace these “masculine” qualities. Furthermore, it creates girls who are resentful towards other girls. In one instance, it creates the girl who touts the “men cause less drama”. In my experience, these girls idly bash other girls for the sake of acceptance from boys, even going as far as to mock themselves or an interest in order to stay the Cool Girl. It teaches girls that they do not matter in the same way boys do. It supports the notion that women can be good, but inherently, they should aspire past feminine qualities, except when “needed” (as a wife or mother).

The toxic notion of a Cool Girl creates a society of girls who understand that they are second-class citizens, and that they should distance themselves from an identity they have in order to be taken seriously or to have value. I have a serious problem with such disgusting notions, and they create polarity between the camp of girls who are “cool” and those who are not. I have had many friends who were boys from the time I was a child to now. In the cases where I have lost male friends, they have come down to a defining feature: my honest and definite personality that I inherited from my grandfather. Every boy I have ever had a qualm with has praised girls for being “like one of the guys”—enjoying male designated hobbies while keeping mum when girls are criticized, while simultaneously bashing me for a “strong personality,” a trait commonly associated with masculinity.

Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that while a Cool Girl who enjoys screaming at the TV during football games is cool, it’s not cool to have a girl critically think and demand respect. In that respect, women are meant to be submissive and know the place that society has built for them: that to be seen, not heard. We need to abandon the idea of the Cool Girl. Not because I don’t fall into that category, but because it is a regressive train of thought.

This is the 21st century. We have hoverboards, probes traveling to other planets, the ability to FaceTime with friends halfway across the world, and the ability to stream every season of Law & Order, and yet we still see women in a binary and gender as a solid and non-fluid concept. We have to be honest about how little we value girls (and non-binary folks) and hobbies called “feminine” in order to progress. We have to stop creating molds to fit people into in order to respect/not respect them. It’s not cool and frankly, we can do much better as a society.