The "Cool Girl" Myth

“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. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! 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. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)” – Amy Dunne, Gone Girl

The Cool Girl quote you see above is from one of the most iconic scenes from Gone Girl (no spoilers here, don’t worry), and a passage I find utterly fascinating, as I think it’s something many women can relate to in some way. No one should ever change who they are just to make a man think they are cool, but unfortunately it’s disturbingly common to hear women deriding things they like and forcing themselves to enjoy something they hate to impress a guy.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with taking an interest in some dudes hobbies (in fact, it they’re your partner I’d encourage it!), but to utterly lose your sense of self to become the ultimate Cool Girl is so sad. How often do you hear girls say “I'm not a like a girly-girl, I'm more like one of the boys?” Unfortunately this phrase is something I've heard far too many times in my life, and it’s so upsetting as it implies that being a girl, and liking stereotypical ‘girl things’ is something to be ashamed of, while being 'one of the boys' is something to aspire to, and is somehow better than being a girl. It also ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a stereotypical girl – we all have different interests, hopes, and dreams. Sure I like fashion, buying makeup, and watching Sex and the City, but I also love black and white Japanese samurai films, Gothic literature, watching Game of Thrones, and listening to The Pixies. I shouldn't have to feel like it’s wrong to enjoy any of these things to fit in to what a guy wants me to be, just like I wouldn't expect him to change his interest or hobbies either (unless, of course, they are dangerous or unhealthy).
When I was in high school there was a guy I liked who was super into emo music and despised anything popular, so of course, I quickly learnt all the words to My Chemical Romance’s first album and deleted all pop music from my iPod immediately. Looking back, I’m cringing just thinking about it – how awful is it to think that you need to stop listening to music that you like to impress someone? The guy was completely awful to me too, so it’s even more pathetic in hindsight. It’s absolutely ridiculous to proclaim that something as subjective as music and film is “bad”, or that someone is “wrong” for liking it – even watching things like reality TV, which is pretty much universally considered as a “guilty pleasure”, does not inherently mean you are stupid (although I would suggest perhaps not restricting your viewing solely to this type of programming).

Another story: when I first started hanging out with the guy who would eventually become my boyfriend (we’ve been together for 6 years now), we spent a night drinking together. Because a Cool Girl is not weak and can drink as much as any boy, I tried to keep up with him in the amount of beers he was drinking - needless to say this resulted in me spending the following day vomiting and awfully hung over. Not only was this stupid of me, it was incredibly dangerous, particularly as I didn't know him very well at that point. Luckily he was really nice about it and didn't make me feel like trash for spending the morning in the bathroom, but this is yet another instance of a girl (me) doing something I wouldn't ordinarily do to make a guy think I’m cool. I'm pleased to say that I've since moved on from this kind of desperate behaviour, but to even think that I needed to act in this way in the first place is such a toxic frame of mind.

I think the most powerful statement in the Cool Girl monologue is the following: “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.” This pretty much summarises what I'm trying to say in this post: many women are creating this persona that isn't even who they really want to be, it’s what they think men want them to be. And who wants to have their entire life defined by living up to the expectations (stated or otherwise) of some guy? What a miserable existence that would be! At the end of the day, it is your life you’re living, and to forgo the pursuits that make you happy is incredibly sad. Sure, take an interest in the hobbies and interests of your partner (you may even enjoy them) but please, don’t ever compromise who you are to impress someone. If you’re made to feel stupid or wrong for reading Twilight or wanting to have a Cosmopolitan instead of a craft beer, politely tell them to go to hell.

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