On Being a “Cool Girl”

What is a “cool girl”? The “cool girl” is the new ideal female personality from the male perspective. First, let’s acknowledge that the “cool girl” is constructed from the male perspective. When we define the “cool girl” it’s from how the male sees her. The “cool girl” can be described from the female perspective, but this description is inextricably linked to how males see the “cool girl”. The female description of the “cool girl” is a reaction to the male definition of the “cool girl”.

From the male perspective the “cool girl” is beautiful, but not high maintenance. She can talk about sports, but she doesn’t make you look dumb by knowing more than you. She likes video games, specifically first person shooters. The “cool girl” drinks cheap beer, likes pizza and chips, and will play wingman when you’re at the bar. She’s easy to talk to and isn’t easily offended. If you don’t want to date her you definitely want to sleep with her and if she’s really a “cool girl” she’ll probably let you with no strings attached. From the female perspective the “cool girl” is your boyfriend’s best girl friend who makes you really nervous, or she’s a “slut” who’s “faking it” to get male attention.

Just like I used to be “one of the guys”, I also used to be a “cool girl”. I didn’t used to think that they were different things, but as I have read more about the “cool girl” construct I’ve realized that I engaged in certain behaviors that I thought made me “one of the guys” in order to get male attention or draw male gaze. Things that I thought were legitimate parts of my personality were actually a show for the males in my life. This is a tough realization. I never would have guessed that I was putting on a show for attention or to get guys to like me. I remember reading an article a couple years ago about Jennifer Lawrence and the cool girl construct that asserted that the “cool girl” was a persona women wear for men. At the time, I disagreed with and hated the article. I resented being called “fake” for being a “cool girl”. I thought “this is just my personality? Who are you to call it fake?” At the time I didn’t realize the extent to which I was putting on a show when I played the “cool girl”. In hindsight, I can see exactly how much time I have spent in this performance.

I surrounded myself with male friends because I felt more comfortable with them and soon began to understand that they would like me better if I was “in to” the same things as them. I started playing video games, reading comics, playing card and board games, watching sports, laughing at misogynistic jokes, behaving raunchily, and pretending that I was never offended by anything they said. The result, of course, was that they did like me more. Gratified, I continued to build up the “cool girl” persona. I began to openly and casually talk about my sex life just to watch them blush or gaze at me hungrily as the words left my lips. I started to pretend that I liked video games I didn’t like, had read comics I hadn’t read, or that I liked football even though I didn’t.

Now let me pause here for a minute and dispel an argument that may be forming in your brain. There’s a huge movement on the Internet trying to prove the existence of “fake geek girls”. I plan to write an entire other post about this because, frankly, it’s bullshit. For now, I will briefly say that my experience sounds like a “fake geek girl”: a girl who only pretends to like geek things because of her boyfriend or to get a boyfriend or to steal your boyfriend. I am not a fake geek girl. I will admit to pretending, at times, to like geeky things to engender the favor of men, but I like geek things all on my own. My comic book collection is respectable and I have read most of them. I play Magic the Gathering and World of Warcraft because they are enjoyable. I play board games because they are fun. I have been a Trekkie since I was three. Not kidding, ask my mom. Though I did a fair amount of pretending about my geek interests, I found that I legitimately loved geek things in my own right. So I don’t want to hear about how I’m just another “fake geek girl”.

Back to my descent in to “cool girl”. I won’t lie, I loved the attention I got being a “cool girl”. It worked, so I continued. I played the “cool girl” so effectively that I integrated it in to my personality and no longer realized that I was playing a part for the benefit of my male friends. I didn’t know what I really liked or fake liked anymore. I really thought that I just was a “cool girl”. I thought “other girls may pretend to be ‘cool girls’, but I’m the real deal.” But I wasn’t. I was trapped in performing my gender in a way that benefitted men. This has been true for women throughout all of history. We have always been expected to perform gender in a way that is appealing to men. Being a “cool girl” is the same thing as being a “fifties housewife”. It’s a gender performance to please males based on what males believe is cool at the time.

Realizing that my “cool girl” behavior was a persona was a long process. I slowly started to notice where my behavior didn’t fit with my beliefs or where I behaved a certain way just to get male attention. I started to notice how uncomfortable I was when my male friends told a misogynistic joke. Eventually I started to speak up and say I thought the joke was inappropriate, even though it meant losing some “cool girl” status. I started to notice that I would say bawdy things just for male reactions and I stopped doing this, even though it meant I had a lot less to say in all male situations. I admitted that I hated football and baseball and stopped watching. I admitted that I hated FPS’s and stopped suffering through Call of Duty sessions. I was honest when I hadn’t read a comic book, even though it lost me cred. I was honest about the video games I did like and advocated to play them. I was honest about the comics I did like and spoke about them without looking for validation from my male friends. I stopped performing the “cool girl” and just became a real female friend.

The best thing is I discovered that I didn’t need to be a “cool girl”. My friends, male and female, like me for my real personality and interests. It’s freeing to be authentic.

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