So, I’m reading a book that uses the “not like other girls” trope, and I couldn’t help thinking about how utterly toxic this idea is. What’s most upsetting about this is the fact that I never once thought much of it when I was a young girl reading these books. What’s even more unfortunate is the fact that I was introduced to these ideas at an incredibly young age.

You see, I began seriously reading on my own by the time I was finishing up Kindergarten. By the end of first grade, I was reading Nancy Drew. As a young reader with fairly mature reading skills, I was definitely reading books that were a bit out of my range of ability to fully understand and critically think about. So, the “not like other girls” trope was kind of pushed into my brain as something that is not only common but something I should strive to be.

I was probably fifteen by the time I realized that I had this sort of backseat, unconscious dislike–or hatred, really–of women. I hated myself for various reasons and have never really fully gotten past that and many of the motivations related to these ideas suggested a) women are inferior and b) women are always in competition with the more inferior women around them. I hated girls in general. The classmates I would get annoyed with and “hate” on a regular basis were more often girls.

And I don’t think I fully understood the implications, the effect that things like society and the “not like other girls” trope played on this response of mine. To this day, I don’t like having female pets. Up to just a few years ago, I would have internal hatred conflicts toward other women that I could never fully explain or understand. To say that these facets of my life were influenced by the material I read in my childhood is important. It is insane to think that I am only now, at 26, recognizing the deep impact this early exposure to these toxic ideas had on who I am as a person.

It’s insane to go through unlearning all of that. It’s difficult. And it’s emotionally jarring. A part of me regrets who I was in a large way, a person who was shaped to hate her gender and herself in part because of her society, but also because of the seemingly harmless thought that it was good to “not be like other girls” and that such breaks from femininity and sisterhood would make them more appealing to the boys that they liked.

It’s so toxic.

And while I recognize that I am now able to look at these shortcomings I had as a younger person and while I have worked on these issues and made a point to be better than what this society raised me to be, I resent the world that allowed me to think that way in the first place. I can find solace in the fact that these sorts of ideas are discussed openly today and I hope that the number of young girls who fall to these ideas as I did is smaller today than it was.

But that is why I hate the “not like other girls” trope more than most.

And as I wrap this up, I wanted to ask, what tropes do you think are incredibly toxic? Why? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Toxic Tropes

  1. There is a bit of a side point to this trope, and I think where it tries (and often fails) to originate from. That is to try to show those women/girls that never felt like they fit in anywhere that they still have significance or place or value. Instead, it creates an impression of “better than” rather than “different, but valued”. If any of that makes sense.

  2. I’m really tired of the abusive bad boy trope. The whole emotional abuse, I’m going to treat the girl terrible and she loves it… yeah I’m so bad and misunderstood. Most of the time the dude is written as manipulative and emotionally abusive, but the girl falls for him anyway. I hate it.

  3. I’m right there with you! I absolutely hate that trope so much, and the fact that it is STILL in books makes me so mad. Girls are already at a disadvantage because of society in general, we don’t need to be adding to it with the books we read, and the media we consume (again, the world’s fault).
    It took me a LONG time to unlearn hating other women (which is even more ironic because I’m a lesbian), but society, and the world at large, have a lot to answer for.

    It makes me endlessly mad that it’s still a trope that continues to be written about in books, and it makes me sad that there’s a whole new generation of girls who will be exposed to this toxicity because of it.

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