The Unspoken War Between Women
The Ugly Side of Women's History
Note: There are women who believe and engage in bigotry - this post is not about them. That behavior is inexcusable. There are times when, despite our shared suffrage and sisterhood, those women need to be held accountable. Furthermore, it does not excuse the harm that has been caused by "pick me" behavior and decisions. The goal of this post is simply to raise awareness in the different ways that, despite our attempts to further gender equality, women are pinned against each other.
Most of us have heard the phrase "pick me girl" before. If you haven't, it typically refers to women who speak or act in a way that would gain them favor with men.
These kind of women are usually accused of feigning interest in hobbies, politics, or even sexual acts that will make them more appealing to men.
The idea is that these kinds of girls cater to traditional (and often offensive) male fantasies. Essentially, they become anything and everything that a man (whether generally or one in particular) would like.
One of the most popular discussions - and critiques - on this behavior comes in the movie Gone Girl, based off on the novel by Gillian Flynn. Character Amy Dunne refers to this as the "Cool Girl."
As the infamous speech puts it:
Men always say that as the defining compliment, don't they? She's a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she's hosting the world's biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don't mind, I'm the Cool Girl…
Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they're fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men - friends, coworkers, strangers - giddy over these awful pretender women, and I'd want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who'd like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.
Essentially, the "cool girl" is a man's (unachievable) dream girl. She acts and thinks like a man, yet looks like Pamela Anderson, while maintaining a laid-back persona. She's so chill about things that other women deem offensive (such as expectations of traditional gender roles).
The quote argues that these women don't exist in and of themselves. They are crafted charades to fool men (who are all too willing to believe) that they can be the perfect dream girl.
This charade gets the Cool Girl the man. The man gets the charade. None of it is real or meaningful.
From the perspective of other women, this charade is maintained so the woman will be accepted by a man. In the age of fourth wave feminism, masking oneself for male validation is largely offensive. There are multiple reasons as to why, but the main one stems out of feelings of betrayal, of one's own self and the female gender as a whole.
The "Cool Girl" is perceived as the antithesis of feminism.
In response to these "pick me" girls, non-pick me girls (note, there is no clever quip for these women) resist these perceptions. They try to actively reject the ideal male fantasy, prove themselves the opposite of the male ideal, and berate the "pick me."
It's not an uncommon behavior. We see it in TV, movies, and books. The protagonist is "different." She sees beyond male BS, has her own interests, and critiques the girls that try to maintain the "pick me" vibe. But it is precisely this attitude that attracts her to the audience and, depending on the genre, male lead.
Often, social media encourages women to resist being "pick me" girls - and can play a role in tormenting the ones already labeled as such.
This exact thought is later addressed in the infamous Gone Girls monologue:
And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They're not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they're pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.
Once again, a very FEMALE issue becomes about men. Because of that, this is an area where women are starkly divided and are often encouraged to turn on each other. The "pick me" hates the resistors, and vice versa.
This is not to say that the critique on "pick me" girls is inaccurate. Women morphing themselves to cater to male fantasies is (and always has been) a real issue. It is discussed by many female writers and philosophers, such as Margaret Atwood.
But the issue with these "pick me" women goes far beyond catering to men: it reveals a deeper and more dangerous issue - women betraying other women (and themselves).
Because, whether someone is a "pick me" or not, this issue turns the war inward. It creates a divide between women who should all be fighting for the same cause.
This is where we must turn and look at the other side of the issue. Through critiquing and downright mocking "pick me" girls, the other women (non-pick mes) have raised themselves on a platform that puts them above "those" women. It creates an us vs. them.
In the media, we often see these "non-pick mes" laughing at those women - typically alongside men. The "pick me's" opinions, interests, and behaviors becomes a punchline to the women who see themselves - and are presented as - different. Because they are not catering to male fantasy - or at least they don't appear to be - they are better than the other women.
Because of this, women once again become the butt of the joke. They are silly, oversexualized, and downright not respectable compared to the girl who is different. Her behavior as a "non-pick me" sets her above the other women.
All this does is manage to create more internal division among women and in the feminist movement.
This is described well in a famous quote by Bonnie Burstow:
Often father and daughter look down on mother (woman) together. They exchange meaningful glances when she misses a point. They agree that she is not bright as they are, cannot reason as they do. This collusion does not save the daughter from the mother's fate. - Radical Feminist Therapy
Though the quote specifically addresses family members, it works in nearly all scenarios. In this instance, the "non-pick me" laughs at the foolish charade of the "pick me" - boiling their behavior down as a pathetic attempt to receive acceptance from men (of which the "non-pick me" is much too good for).
Yet, mocking and belittling these women serves the "non-pick me" no purpose. It does not save her from the same fate. She remains disrespected by the male.
The dangerous aspect of this is that - if unchecked - this leads to the new type of a "pick me."
Of course, this is an extremely nuanced conversation. It cannot be simply boiled down to which women are right and which women are wrong. But the term itself does raise red flags about the division of women regarding feminism itself.
The goal of feminism is for each woman to individually choose her identity and achieve true gender equality - this cannot be done when women themselves are setting limited standards for what qualifies. We don't get to decide for someone else.
For instance, the aspiration for motherhood at a young age has become a hot issue among women. Young mothers (especially stay-at-home-moms) often account (through social media) the scrutiny they face from other women for their choices.
At the same time, single or childless women face stigma for "failing" to fulfill their societal roles as mothers. Each side feels belittled. This only creates division in a movement that relies on unity.
But to truly understand the dangers of this type of thinking, we must dig deeper. This is accurately described by one of Margaret Atwood's most famous quotes:
Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it's all a male fantasy: that you're strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. Even pretending you aren't catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you're unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else. You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur." - The Robber Bride
According to Atwood, even not catering to male fantasies is, in its own way, catering to fantasies. This quote is proof of how nuanced this discussion must be. Boiling feminist theory down to easy quips like "pick me" do not deal with the real issues plaguing women in the 21st-century.
I won't pretend to have the answer. This is a complex and very real problem dividing women in our modern society. And the idea of a "pick me" is harmful. It maintains traditional and unrealistic standards for women. It gives men power and authority over female identity.
But berating and critiquing these women only suggest that other women are the enemy or problem.
As Atwood so aptly put it, women will always fight to define ourselves in a patriarchal society. That is not something that can be easily changed overnight. But other women - women who aren't like you or me - are not the real enemy: it is the patriarchal society we live in.
About the Creator
Ashley is a freelance writer & artist. She likes to create pieces about feminism, chronic illness, and everyday ramblings. Her work has been featured in multiple publications. Check out her website for more at https://msha.ke/ashleytripp
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