Am I a ‘Cool Girl’?

By now you may be familiar with the ‘Cool Girl’ speech from the hit book and Hollywood Blockbuster, Gone Girl:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”

When I first read this speech I both violently hated it and passionately loved it. I am a feminist and a tomboy, and at the time my own personal brand of feminism had always been ‘I can do anything boys can do, but probably better’.

Most of my closest friends were male, I mountain bike, drink pints and have a bet that I can eat 4 pizzas in one sitting (yet to be proved). I lift heavy things with ease and make it a point to beat any of my sexist male friends at table tennis/ pool/ bowling/ whatever sport is available at the time. In my mind, this made me the perfect feminist.

This wasn’t a new development. When I was two I used to run around saying ‘I wish if I was a boy’ and when I was 5 I asked my older sister to cut my hair like Brian from the Backstreet Boys.

I wasn’t, like the speech suggests, acting like the woman a man wants me to be. But equally, reading it made me admit that perhaps I wasn’t acting like the woman I wanted to be.

So why did I do these things? Acting like a boy you get to run around the playground scraping your knees and laughing at stupid jokes. Acting like an older boy you get to race around the mountain bike trails scraping your knees and laughing at dirty jokes. Basically, it’s fun!

Hanging out with a group of guys is light-hearted and easy and you don’t have to talk about anything difficult like emotions, which for me was both its charm and its eventual downfall. I had become shallow and rejected parts of myself that needed a bit of nurturing. My moment of realisation came for me when I went through a particularly tough time. Turns out all those friendships based on avoiding talking about feelings, were not very robust when I really needed to talk about my feelings.

I’m still figuring feminism out. A large part of it for me is still being able to do things that are typically ‘male’. I strongly believe that if girls weren’t told they are worse than boys at maths or that physical attractiveness is the most important trait or that they need help lifting anything that weighs more than a handbag, the world would be a better place and women would be a lot happier. But I have realised that feminism is also appreciating things that are typically feminine. Supporting and nurturing others, being able to talk openly and honestly about feelings and finding the beautiful things in life (including in your appearance), are a few of my favourite traits that I’d been missing out on with my sausage-fest of a friendship group.

But this wasn’t the only thing that bothered me about the speech. Bitchiness is a typically feminine trait, that I deplore in myself and others and I found this attack on other women who were just having fun and trying to fit in uncomfortable. But I finally found my peace with ‘cool girl’ when I read an interview with the writer. When asked about this speech and the fact that the main character, who was a psycho bitch, was perceived by some as misogynist, Gillian Flynn wrote on her website that, ‘she mourns the lack of female villains’.

My conclusion? Women are just as capable as men in life, including being just as capable at evil, and there is a very feminine brand of bringing value or bringing destruction to the world, both of which are often under-appreciated and underestimated.