Shattering the Myth of the “Other Girl”

There is this myth about the “other girl” that both men and women use to assert a woman’s uniqueness and to establish herself as different than all the rest. It is the same myth that gives rise to scores of passive aggressive declarations like “I hate girls” by girls desperately trying to convince others that they are indeed unlike other girls. Girls who are just “one of the guys” use this myth to highlight their laid-back attitudes and low-maintenance lifestyles, because “other girls” are catty, vapid, and have lives filled with drama.

The myth of the “other girl” has roots in a long-standing misogynistic stereotype which describes women as superficial, bitchy, fickle people that gossip and relish drama. It is a stereotype that takes femininity and reduces it to characteristics connoted with negativity, thereby reinforcing traditional gender roles. When men profess, “You’re not like any other girl I’ve met before,” they essentially propagate the stereotype because his statement implies that other girls are inferior. 

It is the existence of this myth that makes the likes of Anne Hathaway or Taylor Swift so easy to hate while celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone remain loveable. They’re all beautiful women, but while Lawrence and Stone demonstrate a tomboy insouciance to their lifestyles, Hathaway and Swift are almost picture-perfect girly. Take Swift for example: tall, blonde, and thin, she likes sparkles and writes songs on boys, love, and heartbreak. She embodies traditional femininity from the way she dresses to the topic of her music. And maybe that’s why so many of us hate her; Swift and Hathaway are too “girly”, which must mean they’re frivolous, catty, and stuck-up. On the other hand, J.Law talks about wearing t-shirts and jeans while eating whatever she wants. She admits to being goofy and boisterous and to being all the other traditionally male traits. So we love to love her because we think, “she’s just like us – she’s not like other girls!”

The danger of the myth of the “other girl” is that it makes girls see other girls as the enemy. It makes femininity inferior and leads women down a self-destructive path. Not only does it perpetuate traditional gender roles, but this myth forces women to validate their own lifestyles and characteristics. Girls who are girly feel they need to apologize or justify their being that way, while girls who do display more masculine traits automatically feel superior. The “other girl” is a demeaning stereotype that belittles women empowerment and demonizes women overall. In order to shatter this myth, women everywhere have to get rid of the notion that being girly must mean you are shallow and spiteful. Whether a girl loves pink and heels or wouldn’t be caught dead in either, she should be entitled to expressing herself in whatever way she feels most comfortable without needing to defend herself from her own gender. The right step toward female empowerment is not to reject femininity but to stop discrediting our own gender and reaffirm the belief that we are all unique.

In Defense of Dating

Being single can be simultaneously liberating and downright confusing. Some days, it’s great to revel in your freedom during which you can stroll through a museum, watch hours of Girls in bed, and spend time doing the things you love at your own pace. Other days, you can’t help but want a cuddle-buddy, a dinner partner, or someone who simply wants to be a part of your life. These are very opposite desires of the heart: one is completely at peace with independence while the other craves a more intimate partnership. One way we try to remedy this tension is by finding someone new and jumping into relationships, only to make a quick exit when we realize there’s little substance beyond initial curiosity and attraction.

As a Millennial I’m part of a generation that is accustomed to instant gratification. Most of what we want and need are at our fingertips, thanks to the likes of Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix. I’m also part of a generation that doesn’t handle being alone very well. When you couple the two traits together, you end up with what is often called “hookup culture.” Granted “hooking up” has an ambiguous definition, but whether it is for physical satisfaction or emotional fulfillment, it feels as though such a trend has made it harder for dating to take place. Nowadays, most of my friends say they’re “seeing someone” or “hooking up” or that they’re “a thing.” Rarely does anyone use the word dating to describe two people getting to know each other. Too many times I see one-night stands turn into casual flings which turn into relationships. Call me old fashioned, but I miss when college-aged people used to actually date.

Dating. It’s an archaic word, and some would say its meaning is also rather antiquated. Dating is a form of courtship, referring to two people engaging in activities together to see if they’re compatible as a precursor to a potential romantic relationship. Historically speaking, it is a relatively recent phenomenon (think of all those arranged marriages and staid formal courtships complete with chaperones in every Jane Austen novel!). Dating offers a newfound freedom to explore and determine the qualities you value in a significant other.

As a college student, it’s rare to find peers that understand, much less partake in the act of dating. Logically speaking, dating does require a lot more effort and with hookup culture abound, it’s less likely that a twentysomething-year old would prefer to take someone out on a date over a Friday night with a friend with benefits. Because it requires patience and a willingness to be vulnerable for another person, dating can be a lot harder and definitely a bit scarier. However as a twenty-one year old, it just might be the most valuable thing I can do for myself.

Throughout our late teens and early twenties, we do a lot of growing up. I’m definitely not the same wide-eyed freshman I was at age eighteen, but I’m no wise sage when it comes to life. Despite plenty of aspirations and ideas of what I want in the future, I’m open to exploring what else may come my way. So when it comes to romance, I’m a big proponent of dating because it offers the chance to really flesh out what attracts us to another person. Instead of caving into an initial physical attraction, there’s a lot more to be gained by getting to know that person. We all have this mental checklist of the qualities we think we want in the ideal significant other: tall, a sense of humour, soulful eyes, athletic, etc. However, those qualities may evolve with time as we change, and going on dates with different people is a great way to determine whether or not those characteristics remain invaluable. We eschew from dating because we see it as something formal and stuffy when they don’t have to be. A conversation over coffee with an interesting classmate or an afternoon rock climbing with someone you were recently introduced to constitute dates. As we get older and leave behind our adolescence, knowing what we want versus what we don’t want is vital and empowering. So don’t be afraid to date. Along the way you might make a special connection, but even if you don’t, it will still provide an opportunity to learn more about what you want for yourself and in a partner. 

The Pursuit of Pretty

I attend a university where a vast majority of the student population is unnervingly attractive. Despite a respectable sense of self-worth, my inner self-critic can’t help but face insecurity when surrounded by beautiful, put-together men and women. Society’s standard of physical perfection seems to rise year after year, but it’s even harder to maintain satisfaction with your reflection when real, tangible people around you seem to fulfill all the physical attributes society deems ideal.

For women in particular, the pursuit of pretty can be an endless addiction. From an early age, we are reminded of the importance of being presentable and looking attractive. This idea is reinforced by the the bombardment of countless images showing stunning, long-limbed models in various states of airbrushed perfection. Everyone’s New Year resolution usually involves one intention that deals with carbs (or lack thereof). Ads detailing the many ways a revolutionary serum can reduce fine lines or reverse aging convey the implicit societal view that pretty belongs to the youthful. With all that scrutiny on our exteriors, it’s no wonder that more and more people suffer from eating disorders with each year.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a consumer of fashion and beauty, and I love dressing up and looking pretty. However, I also recognize that our looks fade with time and that basing our self-worth on our appearances can lead us down a dangerous path. It’s an ongoing struggle to look into a mirror without criticizing or wanting to change some part of me, but taking the brave step to invest in inner beauty produces the greatest return that no make-up can provide.

Feeding our inner beauty results in an inner radiance that spills over to enhance our outer beauty. Whether that means we partake in a new dance class, engage in healthier eating habits, or read an interesting novel, these actions make us more beautiful. They build confidence which fosters a newfound self-worth that can’t be faked like being pretty can. Pretty isn’t sustainable, and endeavoring to be pretty will only provide finite gratification. So in lieu of looking at our reflections and figuring out ways to look prettier, let’s focus on what makes us beautiful. Let’s identify the things that bring us joy, the experiences that fulfill us, and make choices to feed our inner beauty. 

The Root of Chivalry’s Demise

It’s a Saturday morning. You’re at brunch with your girlfriends recounting the scandalous events of the previous evening. With mimosas in hand and a slew of hazy memories, we vow to forget about the guy who never called the morning after and harden our hearts against another potential relationship mishap. These days, it feels like women are often bemoaning the belief that chivalry is dead. Moreover, we tend to blame its demise on men, all the while failing to see the unfortunate truth that men did not kill chivalry; women did.

When it comes to dating, chivalry stumbled to myth as we women lowered the standards for both ourselves and the men we date. It’s one thing to don a miniskirt to feel sexy and powerful for yourself, but an entirely different thing to wear that miniskirt in hopes of attracting attention from a future one-night-stand. By dressing provocatively with that intent, we invite men to stare at our assets and objectify us. When we forget that we have genuine personalities, aspirations, and thoughtful opinions, our conversations at the bar revolve around what drink we’re having and how pretty we look. Adopting a vapid and meaningless persona only invites conversations devoid of much substance. Such actions convey to women that it’s okay to be indecent or air-headed in order to get men while sending men the message that we are easy. If we don’t uphold ourselves as worthy recipients of gentlemanly behavior, then is it fair to expect such behavior from the men we desire? Chivalry isn’t dead; women killed it when we collectively decided to act as if we aren’t deserving of it.

However, chivalry’s demise isn’t just unfortunate for women, it poses a catch-22 for men too. If a guy spies a girl at the bar and everything about her screams come hither, it isn’t out of the question that he’ll approach her. His first tactic may be of the sensible, polite variety. Perhaps a, “Hi, I’m (insert name here). Can I buy you a drink?” or a, “Hey, how’s it going?” Perfectly reasonable and fairly gentlemanly, but for some reason, she’s not buying it. At this point another guy, one with a little more swagger and far less inhibition, approaches the same girl and this time, she’s met with, “Hey, babe. You look hot tonight. Let me buy you a drink.” To him, the girl smiles and nods only to leave her first suitor incredulous and dumbfounded. Now the nice guy is convinced that the only surefire way to pick up a girl at the bar is to become an ultra-alpha male and assert himself onto a woman. Thing is, most men are capable of chivalry, but this sort of interaction understandably confuses them. If approaching a woman with etiquette and courteous curiosity leads to rejection while a slightly misogynistic and tactless manner helps you score, then it further solidifies the male belief that boorish tendencies are more successful in attracting a woman.

By settling for men without chivalry, women behave with all the provocation and inhibition that is underserving of chivalry, convincing men that we can be wooed without it. And in turn, when men behave gracelessly, it only reaffirms the female belief that men are incapable of chivalry. Now this is beginning to feel a lot like a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” paradigm. Alas, all hope is not lost. Chivalry may feel like its dead, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Chivalry isn’t meant to exist because women always expect chocolates and flowers and for men to always pay for dinner. As gender roles shifted to create more equitable and balanced relationships, chivalry faced a similar evolution. It is no longer about catering to every woman’s whim or fulfilling archaic expectations; it’s more a notion that involves mutual respect and courtesy. In order for women to see chivalry’s revival, we need to learn to treat ourselves with self-respect. Once we do that, men will recognize that not all women can be won with trite compliments or superficial admiration. Admittedly, this sounds like a lot more effort for both parties. But that’s the point. Chivalry demands patience, confidence, and a healthy regard for both the self and the other person, and until we roll up our sleeves and own up to putting in the work to resurrect it, chivalry will remain dead.