How do you feel about the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trope in general?
I had to think about this for longer than I anticipated but overall I don’t mind the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” trope as long as the attitude and portrayal of it is done in a certain way. By that I mean that I dislike when the character it’s being applied to has a haughty attitude or thinks they’re above other girls, but if it’s portrayed moreso that they didn’t ask for it and don’t have a negative attitude towards other women, I don’t mind it. The best example I can think of for this is that I despised Alessandra from The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller. Her attitude is so poor and she even had that Other-Women-Just-Don’t-Like-Me mentality which generally equals to you’re rude or mean to them but somehow don’t realize that or don’t have a problem with it. She genuinely believes she is so far above other people in the book that she’s shocked when she actually makes connections with two of the other women who are vying for the king’s affections. I have a full review of the book here if you want to know more of my thoughts on it but, spoiler alert, I gave it a single star. One of the best examples I can think of that is on the opposite side of the trope is Alina from the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. Alina never has a poor attitude or thinks she’s above other people even though she’s born with a one-of-a-kind ability that can truly change the world. She’s uncomfortable with the attention and wishes for things to go back to normal before her ability was discovered. Overall, I don’t mind the trope if the character is on the humbler side. Attitude is everything for me.
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”?
Like I mentioned above, I think the trope was done well in the case of Alina Starkov. Other books and characters I think conquered the trope well are Jude from The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black, the various main characters from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and Tris from the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. I’ve felt like I wasn’t like other girls in the sense that I feel like I don’t fit in most of the time. I don’t always see the appeal in mainstream trends in pop culture and I have never been afraid to “walk to the beat of my own drum” sort of speak. But that is as far as it goes when I think of myself. I definitely have thought about it in the case of other girls, particularly one girl I went to high school with. She was so pretty and smart and athletic and so kind as well. She never discluded anyone in anything or used her popularity to be mean in any way. I think that’s the best kind of “not like other girls” there is.
Why do you think this trope became so popular? Do you think this trope can be damaging?
I think the trope became popular because everyone wants to be special in some way. We all love praise even if we don’t love being the center of attention. Even if you aren’t the type to want to be wildly popular, you’d still want to be special to at least one person. It’s only human nature to want that kind of connection. In some cases I think maybe it’s a nice escape to see that being different equals to being admired in book worlds instead of an outcast or an extra like we sometimes feel in real life. And a lot of us use books for escapism so we’re not particularly interested in reading about ordinary people doing ordinary things since we can experience that ourselves. We hunger for unique people doing special things in extraordinary circumstances which easily leads into the “not like other girls” trope.
I think the trope can be damaging if it prompts or reinforces a negative feeling towards women in the reader. We’re already so used to being discounted in a lot of ways by society simply for being women that we definitely don’t need that feeling or attitude coming from other women as well. I think we should be holding each other up rather than tearing each other down and I love the sisterly camaraderie I automatically feel with other women until they make it clear they don’t want to be a part of it. If someone is able to separate fiction from reality, I don’t think the trope is particularly harmful other than being annoying at times. (Like Alessandra…)