A red flag if we ever heard one (and we have, too often)
Let’s take it back to 1997, to episode 12 of FRIENDS season three, otherwise known as The One With All The Jealousy. Monica dates (and shortly after, dumps) her coworker-turned-boyfriend, Julio. Some context: they go out, he stops mid-makeout to write her a frankly mediocre poem entitled The Empty Vase. With verses that go, My vessel so lovely with nothing inside / Now that I’ve touched you, you seem emptier still, Monica’s friends determine that The Empty Vase is about her.
She confronts Julio, but he tells her not to fret. “The poem is not about you,” he explains. “It’s about all women.”
See, FRIENDS is hardly the social barometer for present times, but they were on to something with this particular breakup. This episode aired 24 years ago, but things have largely stayed the same. By some form of witchcraft or twisted logic, men still think that “you’re not like other girls” is a compliment, and women have yet to catch a break.
Gentlemen, let’s set the record straight. It’s time to rip that page from the playbook.
This page on Reddit’s r/AskMen, aka the last place I’d imagine myself voluntarily clicking into, elaborates on the backwards form of flirtation. The very first comment says it’s code for “please accept my penis,” and one further down claims it means “I want to have sex with you and I’ve found this line helps.” Weird flex but okay; if it’s a thoughtless quip that comes out of your mouth for the sake of crawling into someone’s pants, then sure.
I’d debate that the issue lies in the folks who wholeheartedly believe that saying “You’re not like other girls” is a legitimate form of praise. As one bro comments, “Goodness, this is pure insanity. Try to make a harmless compliment, even awkwardly, and it’s like we are insulting you.” Sit down, Julio. And buckle the fuck up.
“You’re not like other girls” is the epitome of unguarded misogyny, no matter how valiant your intentions. It’s a lazy, backhanded compliment at best. It’s “I like you because you’re good—unlike all the other women I know.” You’re different. Cue the eyeroll.
If you tell me that I’m not like other women, I’m left to wonder what exactly makes other women so terrible. I’m ambitious and speak my mind, so are other women too shy and timid to take up space? If I like video games and read books and make you work for it, am I a rarity in what you believe is an abundance of basic bitches?
The problem with the Julios of the world is that they don’t bother dissecting what a supposed compliment says beyond the surface. Not a fuck is given because it’s harmless. Because like many other jokes and comments that are said just for the sake of it, it’s women who have to deal with the repercussions.
Too many times and for far too long, women have been boxed into personas that have been preselected for us. Quiet, apologetic, defenseless, less-than. It’s an age-old stereotype that still seeps its way into the workplace, into relationships and down our throats regularly—and we’re still collectively crawling our way towards shutting it down. Gender constructs continue to shackle us, even in this progressive era. And as if the circumstances aren’t dismal enough already, we’re constantly pit against each other for the sake of friction and dramatic flair.
Which is all to say that no, you don’t get to shove our fellow females back into the very same generalizations we’ve worked hard to escape. Hating other women doesn’t get you a free ticket between our legs—or into our lives for that matter.
Back to that Reddit thread, there are folks who translate this perplexing guyspeak into more understandable terms. A deleted user shares his translating prowess: “It’s another way of saying ‘you’re unique and have a lot of characteristics that I like and don’t exhibit common characteristics I see that I don’t like.’ Simple as that.” Another chimes in, “I mean that she and I actually have things in common we can relate to[—]whether it’s hobbies or values.”
So why not just say that? Compliment my looks, my personality, my fashion sense, my determination, my interests, my approach to love. Now do it again without degrading other women.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver