When I was in high school, I knew of a girl who liked to advertise that she was “not like other girls.” How do you mean? She constantly would make a public effort to communicate things such as she was “one of the guys” and got along better with boys than girls. She made sure everyone knew that rather than being emotional and feminine, she was a tough person who didn’t wear makeup. She said that she knew that while she was beautiful, she refused to act like “a real girl” because she “couldn’t stand real girls.”
My response was something akin to “Real girls? As opposed to, what, fake girls?” She was a heterosexual ciswoman, so by saying she wasn’t a “real girl” wasn’t some sort of gender proclamation, but rather some sort of personal decision regarding standard femininity. She was superior, somehow, in her own little world. What exactly does this mean?
A while back I found this article entitled “Confessions of an Ex-Loophole Woman” that helped define this phenomenon to me in a whole new way I never even considered before. The author defined the term “loophole woman” as such:
“A loophole woman isn’t a female who’s anti-feminine (though she could be). It’s a female who changes who she is according to the masculine in order to gain a better status…There is no loophole woman because not all women are the same! You can love shopping, baking, and spend hours perfecting your nail art, but can also play video games, love reading, and not mind getting dirty when it comes to sports. There’s nothing wrong with masculinity, but there is something wrong with thinking less of femininity. I used to overplay my masculine qualities in order to earn respect.”
The more I thought about this, the more I’ve started seeing it more and more, not only in people I met, but glamorized in pop culture.
She wears shorts skirts, I wear t-shirts
She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers…
She’s got Chanel up on her lips
A four inch skirt down on her hips
And all I got is just a couple pair of jeans
She’s so hot, and she’s the only thing you see…
Right now he’s probably slow dancing with a bleached-blond tramp and she’s probably getting frisky
right now, he’s probably buying her some fruity little drink
’cause she can’t shoot whiskey…
This is even more problematic, as society has started trying to “empower” women by teaching them how to be “better” (read: more masculine.) In Anne Helen Petersen’s article “Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls” explains the idea version of the “loophole woman” persona – how this Loophole Woman is never emotional but is laid-back and passive, for being unreasonable and emotional is for those other girls. She loves all things masculine, right down to what she eats, drinks, what movies and music she likes, her pastimes and preferences. She’d rather knock back a whiskey and eat a plate of chili fries than have a salad and a fruity cocktail, she’d rather play video games than watch a chick flick. She is an effortless beauty, with no help from makeup or hairspray.
“She’s an ideal that matches the times — a mix of feminism and passivity, [and] of confidence…They’re basically dudes masquerading in beautiful women’s bodies, reaping the privileges of both.” (Petersen, 2014)
As unpopular an opinion I’m sure this will be, I feel like this idea has come to a climax with one fictitious shining example: Robin Scherbatsky from the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. It pains me to say this, since I used to love that show, but the character of Robin is the perfect example of how Loophole Women are often idolized.
For example, Robin does not wear makeup or work out and is effortlessly beautiful. She loves guns and scotch and cigars and careers and does not like fellow women (except the other female main character), babies, femininity, romance, marriage, commitment, feelings, or anything that would classify her as being like “other” girls. And not one, but two of the male main characters can’t get enough of her. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, it is completely unrealistic. The extent to which Robin’s idolization and “loophole-ness” is emphasized is over the top. Rather than subvert gender norms which I believe was the original intent of Robin’s character, it became yet another example of encouraging masculine behavior as a means to an end (power and male attention).
What’s the issue with all this, you ask? Well, the problem has nothing to do with women and girls who don’t like girly things or who are tomboys. The problem has nothing to do with having male friends. The problem is internalized misogyny. This great article I found explains beautifully the issue that internalized misogyny presents to women and the feminist movement – for example, looking down your nose at a “girly girl” only alienates certain “kinds” of women and reinforces the idea that some women are “doing it wrong” and that some women are superior to others. It reinforces that men are better than women, that masculinity is better than femininity. It can keep women from succeeding in the workplace and (potentially the most harmful outcome) is that it can turn hatred onto oneself, and lead you to subconsciously blame yourself for your own oppression because you are female. This video helps to illustrate my point.
Please, please, please do not assume I am condemning women who do not embrace femininity, who are tomboys, who have a lot of male friends, or whatever. I don’t think there is any “wrong” way to be a woman. Please, be yourself. Just please don’t pass unwarranted judgement on other women for no reason other than they are “girlier” than you are. The problem comes from the snooty superiority complex that a lot of women have when adopting this lifestyle and state of mind.
I implore you, challenge girl hate! I beg you, don’t change who you are or act exclusively a certain way so men will admire or respect you! Please don’t alienate your fellow woman for no other reason than she’s a woman!
And most of all, please, just remember that femininity is not a weakness. It’s just a part of the human experience.
“There are other women with baskets, some in red, some in the dull green of the Marthas, some in the striped dresses, red and blue and green and cheap and skimp, that mark the women of the poorer men. Econowives, they’re called. These women are not divided into functions. They have to do everything; if they can.”
-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale