By: Ceci MacLachlan
March 16th, 2023
When some women grow up in a family dominated by men, they may distance themselves from anything tied to traditional femininity and adopt more “boyish” attitudes and opinions. They may despise girly things and pink, distance themselves from bands, shows and books that have a large feminine fanbase or find makeup tacky and fake. This stems from a belief that emulating anything seen as feminine is a weakness.
A toxic belief like this can hamper forming relationships with girls in school, with adolescents shrugging it off as “Well, they’re too dramatic anyways.” To Gen Z’s detriment especially, e a chunk of early 2000’s media was saturated with female characters praised for being “the cool girl” or a tomboy. The characters who were more comfortable being openly feminine were demonized as catty and mean because the protagonist forgoing femininity was seen as a carefree, powerful individual. Young girls began aspiring to be different– one of the good ones–.and they wanted this action to be praised and noticed.
A trend has cropped up on social media where creators mock the trope by using the slang term, pick-me girl. A pick-me girl, as defined by The Urban Dictionary, is “a girl who seeks male validation by directly or indirectly insinuating she is “not like other girls”.” They are characterized as overly flirtatious, acting differently around boys, and frequently putting other women down. Thousands of memes, TikTok compilations, YouTube videos and Instagram posts, all flooded with ridiculing comments, are used as ammunition against pick-me girls, and the most common conclusion for the attention-seeking is internalized misogyny.
Internalized misogyny is essentially sexism trained into women’s consciousness by society. Ella Dameron, staff writer for Vox Atl, in her article, “Internalized Misogyny: ‘Pick-me Girls’ And Introspection,” puts it as “a fancy way of saying that women can be sexist against women too.” So, when a woman expresses their distaste, perhaps even hatred for other women, it’s the manifestation of internalized misogyny. In return, they receive the same attitude back and are branded as an obnoxious pick-me.
However, only pointing to internalized sexism as the answer minimizes the complexity of the issue. The yearning for validation also stems from feeling isolated. The push of “I’m not like other girls” is also the reaction to a society that actively demotes anything associated with teenage girls as stupid and immature.
There is no surprise some would take their disinterest in “girly” media or hobbies as something to set themselves apart. Girly hobbies face constant backlash: makeup is designated shallow and fake, fashion is trying too hard and bBoy bands are cringey.
Just think about how ruthlessly romance books aimed at young girls are picked apart to death (the Twilight series being a prime example). When misogynists applaud young girls for agreeing with these sentiments, it only encourages them to keep pursuing being “one of the good ones.” The adolescent desire for connections combined with the higher risk of bullying would deter anyone from openly enjoying a controversial interest , especially at this crucial age of discovering self-identity–how youth want to be perceived and what exactly defines them. The overt disregard for so much culture limits self expression to a box that favors what the patriarchy deems worthy of respect.
This loneliness is not an exclusive experience. According to Youtuber Adella Afadi in her video titled, “‘Pick Me Girls’ Explained,” she states that “to an extent, we all exhibit pick me tendencies.” Acting differently around certain people is a universal action. There’s pressure to be polite in professional standings, pressure to be outgoing at parties, pressure to impress a crush, pressure to fit into what people perceive and even pressure to fit into a mold as a means of survival.
Everyone wishes for love, acknowledgement and inclusion. By labeling someone as a pick-me, making fun of and ostracizing them, it gives the impression that they’re unwanted.
Pick-me girls are the result of the stifling patriarchal system that pushes a power disparity and pitting women against each other. As Gen Ze fights to scrutinize and break down these stifling, patriarchal systems forced upon them, they must keep an empathetic outlook. They must address why femininity and typical girly passions are so scrutinized and deemed inferior. They must lift themselves up and build community instead of shutting others out and casting them to the side as deemed traitors to feminism, succumbing to the oppressive system.
The social climate is changing and the narrative of women against women is becoming less favorable, opting for companionship and sisterhood instead. May all women be able to express themselves freely and not feel pressured to compensate for a system determined to limit their growth.
Ceci MacLachlan is a senior majoring in Public and Professional Writing with a minor in Comics and Graphic Novels. She aims to edit in a publishing house and eventually become a full-time comic artist. She obsesses over manga, daydreaming about stories to write, and cuddling with her goofy cat, Mob.