“I’m Not Like Other Girls” – Let’s Talk Bookish

Hey everyone. I hope you’re all doing well. Summer semester has started and so far so good. It feels a lot more chill for me, and it’s weird because I keep feeling like I should be panicked and stressed with multiple deadlines, but I’m not. Which is making me more stressed because I can’t accept that I can actually have my nights and weekends free.

School has traumatized me.

I hope the semester is going well for everyone else though if you’re taking classes this summer.

Anyway, it’s Friday, meaning it’s time for the second LTB discussion of this month. As always, Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by me and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.

Today’s topic is all about the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” Trope, brought to us by my lovely co-host Dani. Personally, I find this trope highly annoying, so let’s get right into it.

Main character = MC | YA = Young Adult

First of all, this trope is exactly as the title suggests. The female main character (usually found in YA fantasies) is just not like other girls. They probably:

  1. hate makeup
  2. hate dressing up/dresses in general
  3. more often than not find being a woman inconvenient
  4. are just so tough and strong
  5. are willing to beat all odds and prove themselves as good as men

Basically, they are the opposite of everything that could possibly make them look weak.

Why do I find this really annoying?

Because it creates the notion that being feminine makes you weak. More generally, it creates the notion that it’s not possible to be the savior of the world if you look/act weak.

And this is problematic in my opinion, because realistically speaking, I don’t think it’s a gross overstatement to say that most girls are just not like these YA heroines. I mean, how many girls can fight an entire army, or a literal “god” all by themselves?

Honestly, this doesn’t even apply to just girls. Can you think of any person who could do that?

And sure, there are definitely some girls out there who can relate to these YA heroines and see themselves in them, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!! That’s amazing for them! But what about every other girl out there like me who would probably die instantly if they were put in such an MC’s position?

Why don’t I get to see myself more often in books too?

I like dresses. No, that’s not accurate: I LOVE dresses, I love clothes, and makeup and parties (socially draining and incredibly awkward for my introverted self, but they’re fun to attend and prepare for) and looking pretty. I love cooking and baking. I love reading, and learning, and I don’t know if I’d be considered a nerd, but I’m definitely closer to that side than being the popular or strong one. Also, my physical capabilities are nonexistent compared to YA heroines.

So, why is it that most YA heroines are everything that’s the opposite of that? Why can’t I find that many who are remotely similar to me?

Seriously, I think such a heroine would just about die if they had to live in my shoes for a week.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being feminine or nerdy. You can love embracing all these “girly” things and still be a strong and powerful woman. It can even be a powerful weapon. I won’t lie, people will underestimate such characters, but that can be the beginning of their downfall. Imagine how satisfying it would be to have that quiet little glasses-wearing girl that the villain dismissed without a second thought being the destroyer of everything that they ever built. It would be so immensely satisfying.

I think it would also help with showing that muscle and power isn’t everything. That one person who doesn’t look like a threat can be the biggest threat of all because they don’t focus on how many forces they can rally to wage an epic battle, but on how best they can get to the heart of the issue and end it right then and there. I don’t know about you, but I would love to read more books with MCs who are like that.

There’s only one heroine that comes to mind when I think of someone who didn’t shy away from her femininity and used it to make herself even more amazing and powerful. She’s the one and only Nancy Wake from the beautiful historical fiction novel Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon.

Nancy was actually a real World War 2 spy and the book is a fictionalized account of her life during the war. The most important thing that stood out to me was the fact that Nancy shattered all the stereotypes of what a French housewife should be doing, and was the loudest, most opinionated, determined, and strong real protagonist I’ve read about in a long while. And she still managed to be an influential figure during the war. She was literally the only woman in a camp of Resistance fighters in the countryside for months, yet she kept her cool and commanded all those men without letting them use her however they liked.

Best part is, she still wore lipstick and dresses and cared about her appearance whenever she got the chance. It made me love her so. much. more.

She was just so absolutely amazing, and it pains me that we don’t have more characters like her in YA novels. I mean, she went from being a housewife (with no real background in martial arts or leadership or anything of the sort) to being a key player in the Resistance movement with the Nazis dying to capture her.

If she did it in real life, then it’s definitely possible for it to happen in YA and I hope it does in the future.

Now, one can argue that the character’s circumstances is what led to their abhorrence or dismissal when it comes to anything feminine, and that’s a fair and accurate argument.

Example: Rin from The Poppy War had nearly been sold as a bride because she was a young orphaned girl, and just the fact that she was a girl was very inconvenient at times for her plans to excel at Sinegard (an elite boarding school that no poor, dark skinned girl like her should have been able to attend). She didn’t grow up with nice clothes or free time to be going to parties, or to indulge in everything most girls would. Everything about her was about survival and making a life for herself and she wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way.

So, I don’t blame her for being “different” or for doing what she did to remain on top.

I don’t blame any such YA heroine for what they choose to do. More often than not, they do it to survive, and I’m not saying they’re wrong for doing it, or trying to hate on them for it. That’s not what I mean at all. I usually love these characters anyway and agonize over them, despite them not being like other girls.

What I am trying to say though is that the trope itself is kind of problematic since it’s so prevalent, and I would like to see diversity where we get different types of girls being able to shine as strong protagonists in their own books. They shouldn’t just be side characters, they should be main characters too.

There are so many ways to be strong, and we’ve had a strong dose of this trope’s type of strength. It’s time that we shift course and acknowledge other types of strength too.

That’s all for today. Be sure to visit Dani’s post to add your post to the linkup and to bloghop and see other opinions on the topic.

Some questions for you:

  • What’s your favorite YA novel with a female MC who is not like the “I’m not like other girls” kind of MC? (IDK, should we call them “like other girls”?)
  • Do you find this trope problematic? Why or why not? Do you think it’s most prevalent in fantasy novels?
  • What kind of MCs would you like to see in books?
  • Have you read Code Name Hélène? What did you think of it?

Chat with me in the comments below!

21 thoughts on ““I’m Not Like Other Girls” – Let’s Talk Bookish

  1. I love your list of qualifications. I think the most important part of the trope being bad is the girl thinking she’s superior for not being feminine/typically girly. I don’t mind more masculine protagonists. Especially in survival scenarios like you’ve mentioned here – but I hate when those girls look down on others who have a different outlook on life than they do.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think my favorite author who writes and subverts this trope is Tamora Pierce. Her OG book was a girl who has to pretend she’s a boy in order to become a knight and then just ends up being the kingdom’s first female knight. Her favorite MC for me is from the Beka Cooper series because Beka is tough and smart but she also enjoys some jewelry and learns to embrace her femininity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Why this should be a trope at all disturbs me – nobody is like anyone else. Of course, that’s the irony here – in reality, there are no “other girls” out there for these characters to be like or not like.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I totally agree with you here! This trope was interesting at first but it’s getting a bit old at this point. I’d rather hear more stories of ordinary, relatable girls breaking conventions and being badass than the odd one out that would predictably end up doing great things!

    Liked by 1 person

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