Artist Julie Hang made waves online when she posted a comic strip featuring a kind of character development that is uniquely female and rarely explored in popular media.
So, what exactly was it that Julie drew? Well, it was the story of her growth from the woman-hating ‘not like other girls’ girl to a woman who realized that other girls are actually pretty cool.
In an interview with Bored Panda, the artist shared that the comic was rooted in her experiences as a young girl. “I was a shy and anxious kid,” said Hang, “Instead of recognizing my anxiety and trying to overcome it, I’d thought I’m just not like the other girls.”
This belief was further bolstered by the “I’m not like other girls.” comics that were popular around the late 2000s to mid-2010s. Hang talked about how she used to identify with the ‘unpopular girl’ trope of these comics, saying she had drawn comfort from them instead of working on herself.
Few people develop the self-awareness to understand where their insecurities are rooted and even fewer manage to pick out the ways women have been trained to see womanhood as less than. The pick-me girl is just one of the ways our society has conditioned women into hating themselves.
What’s a Pick-Me Girl?
A pick-me girl is a woman who defines her identity by separating herself from the traits and interests that conventionally feminine women exhibit. While the pick-me girl often actually enjoys the ‘masculine’ hobbies she engages in, like video games and sports, what makes the pick-me girl so infuriating to other women is her ‘better-than-thou attitude about not being feminine.
This is often rooted in the pick-me girl’s insecurities about not being able to fit the standards of traditional femininity. The pick-me girl is a reaction, a defense mechanism to protect herself from the realization that her personality traits, interests, and habits are seen as unattractive in a woman.
Naturally, this hurts because by not fitting the mold of conventional femininity, the pick-me girl is made to feel less of a woman. She automatically becomes unappealing to many men, or at least that’s what she’s been socialized to believe, and the people around her, whether directly or indirectly, accuse her of being ‘unladylike’, a ‘tomboy’, or some other label that further alienates her from femininity.
So, what else can she do but own it? When pick-me girl finds herself complimented by like-minded men for ‘not being like other girls’, she develops a taste for connecting with men through their interests. Is there something inherently wrong with that? Absolutely not. But the pick-me girl goes about her business in a way that hurts other women.
As an Urban Dictionary definition puts it, a pick-me girl “…goes out of their way to impress boys and make them seem that they’re ‘not like other girls’ kind of like a simp but for girls. Otherwise known as; internalized misogyny. not the easiest to explain, but when you see one, you’ll know she’s one for sure.”
By disparaging other women for being conventionally feminine, the pick-me girl helps perpetuate the belief that female interests are less important than male interests.
Shallow, Basic, and Airheaded
The idea that female interests, and by extension, being a woman, are less worthwhile than interests that are seen as masculine and serious isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s one of the oldest ways women have been raised to think the things they like and do are wrong.
Consider this classic paradox of womanhood: You’re expected to look flawlessly beautiful without doing anything to maintain or enhance your beauty.
Make-up tutorials on YouTube may be a dime a dozen now, but back in the Victorian era, putting on make-up was something of a secret ritual. Women wanted to appeal to potential husbands, of course, considering that they had limited means to survive if not by the grace of a man. But make-up had to be light enough to not be too noticeable. Otherwise, it was scandalous and ‘whorish’. This contempt for women and their rouge continues today.
Women who enjoy a sharp winged liner and Victory Red lipstick are called ‘airheads’, bimbos who have nothing better to do with their time. This stigma follows women no matter what they’re into.
If she likes pumpkin spice lattes and owns one too many pairs of Uggs, she’s basic. If a woman doesn’t like dolling up, she’s a Plain Jane. If she enjoys consensual sex, she’s a whore. If she doesn’t do it, she’s a stick in the mud.
If she struggles to not be subjected to the same degrading attitudes towards women while remaining appealing to men as she’s been socialized to do, she’s a pick-me girl.
Celebrating Feminine ‘Frivolity’
It’s going to take ages before our collective attitude towards what it means to be a woman change into something that is wholly defined by women themselves. But that doesn’t mean we have to wait until then to reclaim femininity as something proudly ‘frivolous’.
Several female creators are already using their platforms to take hold of the common words used against feminine interests and women themselves. Youtuber Shanespear leverages the reach of the site and the popular format of the video essay to point out how Hollywood tropes have demonized hyperfeminine women. Y’know, for doing the things they’ve been socialized into doing.
Trans YouTuber Contrapoints explains this phenomenon in her video essay about beauty, “There’s this idea that caring about beauty makes you shallow or vain. You know, ‘smart people’ aren’t supposed to care about beauty.” She goes on to share how this was a major factor in why many of her female peers when she was taking her PhD avoided presenting as feminine. “But another part of it is clearly some kind of ‘not like other girls’ weird flex.”
Meanwhile, on TikTok, the home of the 2020s pick-me girl, creator @chrissychlapecka and her fellow bimbos are turning the word into more than just a slur against feminine women. Harkening back to Barbie, the o.g independent femme, TikTok’s bimbos embrace the peppy femininity associated with the bimbo trope and highlight her positive qualities which are often written off as shallow and airheaded.
In an interview with Refinery29, Chrissy shared that she initially didn’t identify herself as a bimbo until her followers started praising her with the word. Not surprising, considering that ‘bimbo’ typically carries negative connotations.
But Chrissy now embraces the term, saying that, “The bimbo is somebody who radiates confidence, is comfortable in themself, and doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone says to them.”
TikToker @fauxrich is another latest edition bimbo queen who’s changing the way people think about hyperfeminine women. She’s aware that girly girls are portrayed in media and seen as stupid in real life.
But the bimbo, who currently holds a degree in mathematics, has no problem with strutting in perfectly curled blonde hair and platform heels.
She puts it perfectly in one video posted to her TikTok page, “I’m a new age bimbo not in a ‘I’m dumb’ type of way but more of a post-cool girl/I’m not like other girls type of way to represent maligned women in media and prove that you can be feminine and hot without compromising anything about yourself.”
Maybe one day we’ll have a generation of women who don’t hate pink because of its associations with womanhood. Until then, I’m counting on the bimbos to make Legally Blonde‘s Elle Woods and Clueless’ Cher proud.