Special snowflake syndrome
I want to talk about sexism. But I don’t want to talk about sexism in the way we’ve come to expect – by men against women. With this university lad culture engendering that oh-so-hilarious ‘women in the kitchen’ brand of banter, it’s sometimes hard to see sexism in other forms – but here I want to talk about women who perpetuate sexism towards other women.
I’m talking about girls who define themselves as ‘one of the lads’ because girls are ‘just too bitchy’. We all know girls like this – I’ve definitely been guilty of saying things like this in the past. Boys are just so much simpler! Girls will just talk about you behind your back! And fine – if you do get along with men better, then that’s totally cool. But there’s no need to throw womankind as a whole under the bus while you’re doing it.
This attitude is more commonly known as ‘special snowflake syndrome’, and it really is everywhere. It’s called special snowflake syndrome because girls who perpetuate it make a real effort to prove that they’re ‘not like other girls’, and believe that that makes them special and unique.
I’m talking about girls who find it necessary to point out all the female stereotypes they can think of – wearing make-up, taking ages to get ready, wearing high heels – and then emphasise just how little they identify with said stereotypes. The best example of this in popular culture comes from the queen of special snowflake syndrome, Taylor Swift. Her Grammy-nominated song ‘You Belong With Me’, is a story of a girl in love with a boy who already has a girlfriend – and this girlfriend is a ‘typical girl’ stereotype, which is clearly something that Taylor Swift has a real problem with.
The entire song perfectly captures this feeling of being oh-so-special. Swift creates a platform of superiority by explaining how different she is to this ‘typical’ girl, for example: ‘but she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts’ or ‘she wears high heels, I wear sneakers, she’s cheer captain and I’m in the bleachers’. She then uses this superiority to point out all the reasons why she is far better suited to being this boy’s girlfriend, whining about how ‘she doesn't get your humour like I do’.
The thing is – it’s totally cool if you prefer trainers to heels, and if you don’t like wearing make-up, just like it’s totally cool if you do. What isn’t cool is thinking you’re better than someone else because of this individual, personal choice. And then boasting to everyone about how you’re not like these other fake, boring girls because you just LOVE playing FIFA with the guys.
Here’s the disclaimer – saying these things doesn’t protect you from sexism. It really doesn’t. Making ‘women in the kitchen’ jokes in front of your group of male friends might help you to fit in, but if you think that’s going to stop people making those jokes about you, then you’re very, very wrong.
The exact same rule applies with girls who call other girls sluts and whores. You don’t like having casual sex? That’s fine. But shaming other girls for their own choices isn’t going to magically protect you from someone else – girl or boy – calling YOU a slut. We all know that the word ‘slut’ can be applied to any sort of female behaviour that’s deemed unsatisfactory – you’re wearing a short skirt? Slut. You had a one night stand? Slut. So judging another girl and calling her a slut isn’t some magical code that means people can’t possibly judge you in the same way.
This special snowflake attitude might help you ingratiate yourself into a group, or get you out of a couple of awkward situations, but in reality, it’s actually pretty damaging. It’s damaging to people’s perceptions of women, it’s damaging to your personal relationships with other women, and it’s damaging to your feeling of self-worth. If you have such contempt for members of your own gender, how happy can you really be with yourself?
Girls hating on other girls doesn’t help anyone. So you prefer beer to cocktails, playing COD to going clubbing, and you only take five minutes to get ready? That’s cool – it’s just what makes you you. But it doesn’t inherently make you a better person. Seeing yourself as ‘different’ is fine – but being different isn’t synonymous with being better or right. Speaking as a girl with a lot of awesome women in my life, if you think you just can’t get along with other women because you see yourself as one of the lads, then you’re missing out on a lot of really great things.