Deconstructing the “Cool Girl”

By Morgan Fisher

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One of the best books I’ve read to date is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The story is intense, sinister, and uncomfortable, and I walked away from it trying to wrap my head around what the hell it all meant. And that, in my opinion, is what makes a great book.

The most thought-provoking quote from the book is a long passage about the “Cool Girl,” in which one of the main characters, Amy Dunne, is contemplating this phenomenon and is appalled at the prevalence of the “Cool Girl” in the world.

Essentially, the “Cool Girl” is the girl who likes everything her man likes: video games, poker, sports, beer, and what-have-you. On top of all of this, she also lets her man do whatever he wants without making a fuss about it, smiling along with whatever he decides, no matter what. But she also has to be hot. She has to, as Flynn writes, do all of these things “while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are, above all, hot.”

Obviously, this type of girl doesn’t actually exist. But men still think she does, mostly because some women, especially at the beginning of a relationship, will act like the “Cool Girl”. Flynn goes into this concept in great depth in her novel, and it’s something that fascinates me immensely. Why do women do this? What does it say about what we’re willing to do for love? And what does it say about what men really want in comparison to what women are actually willing to give?

These are frightening questions. They are frightening because, whenever we can, we avoid them, as a way of pretending that our society doesn’t do this. But we’ve all seen this girl. All too often, we are guilty of being this girl. This girl is the one who dumbs herself down so not to come off as too pretentious. She’s the one who pretends she loves baseball when her boyfriend casually mentions what a big fan he is. She’s the one who laughs off sexist jokes because to get offended would mean she was just being “too sensitive.” She’s the girl who is okay with everything her man does because to argue would be to contradict her “Cool Girl” image.

Nothing good comes from acting like the “Cool Girl”. When women do this, they are perpetuating the notion that being a woman in a successful relationship means being passive about one’s own feelings and opinions. If a woman acts this way, she is saying, “I am not comfortable with myself, and I don’t think you would like me if you saw my true personality, so I will indulge your fantastical perceptions of what a woman should be, just as long as you don’t leave me.” Some women rationalize by stating that it actually gives them all the control. But what control do you have if you’re acting like someone you aren’t?

Not to mention the fact that once you’ve become the “Cool Girl,” when the illusion inevitably fades (because no one can act that way for long without emotion interfering), the relationship erupts. Arguments fueled by “I thought you didn’t mind that?” or “Where is this coming from?” start to pop up all over the place, escalating from little to huge things. Arguments over the man deciding to go out with his buddies instead of spending a night in with his significant other, frustration with the way he talks to that girl at the office, anything—big or small—that the “Cool Girl” used to shrug off, now overshadowed by years of repression of the real woman that’s been inside all along. After this, there’s no telling what will happen. Divorce, separation—usually it’s not pretty. Bad things tend to happen when you completely change your tune on a man who liked you for false reasons in the first place.

Here’s what bothers me so much about the “Cool Girl.” By deciding to be this girl, choosing to actively ignore your wants and needs and altering your beliefs and principles in order to please a man, rids you of the opportunity to let a man see you for you. From the beginning, you’re giving off the illusion of someone you are not, challenging the man to look at you and daring him to find something he doesn’t like. When he doesn’t find anything, he thinks, “Oh, wow. This is exactly the girl I’ve been waiting for.” Not to say that this man is justified in feeling this way, considering that if he’s looking for someone to sit back and indulge whatever he wants, he’s probably not looking for much relationship depth. But nevertheless, he thinks he’s struck gold, and all rationale about the situation is likely going out the window as a result of how “lucky” he’s gotten. So when the “Cool Girl” shows her true self, the man is blindsided.

“Cool Girls” seem to have have little genuine passion in their relationships. There’s no arguing, no working through problems, no growth. When women perpetuate the stereotype that it’s okay for men to walk all over them because the “Cool Girl” will sit there and take it, they fuel the idea that personality doesn’t matter as much as security.

So let’s change this. Let’s show our true selves from the start. Let’s show men how awesomely imperfect we are, and challenge them to accept it. Let’s get rid of the “Cool Girl” once and for all, and show that women who embrace who they are, are absolutely worth the challenge.

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