Picture this: The year is 2009. I just turned 10 years old, and I also just purchased a T-shirt with my favorite band on it. This band, of course, is the Jonas Brothers. The iconic Disney Channel boy band who I had been obsessed with for several years by this point.
That particular summer, the Jonas Brothers headlined The Stadium of Fire at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The shirt was one I bought at a merchandise table at the concert. When I wore it to my school, however, I was met with taunts from my peers.
It’s not like this was surprising. Boys at my school always made fun of girls for liking “girly stuff.” This included things like Hannah Montana, Disney princesses and, of course, bands like the Jonas Brothers. I came to school prepared for mockery from boys, but what I wasn’t expecting was mockery from other girls.
Most of us have heard the phrase “I’m not like other girls” before. It can be used in a plethora of ways; in my experience, I have heard it used to describe how a girl sees herself as being more mature than other women, or how she is more of a tomboy than traditionally preppy girls.
For years, the phrase came out of my mouth too. I wasn’t “like other girls” because I liked the “Star Wars” movies. I was different than my female peers in some way or another, or at least I thought I was.
Because for some reason at that time, being like other girls seemed like something horrible to be.
Objectification theory is an idea coined by Barbara L. Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts, and it posits that “Girls and women are typically acculturated to internalize an observer’s perspective as a primary view of their physical selves.”
In other words, it means the way women view themselves is often heavily influenced by how others perceive them. Fredrickson and Roberts used this theory to explain how the perspectives of other people may impact women’s self-esteem.
I have seen this phenomenon in my own life. As I grew older, many of my interests beyond the Jonas Brothers became the subject of mockery. I loved One Direction in middle school, which also invited bullying. I have loved Taylor Swift since I was a child, but I also noticed another girl in my class being mocked for liking her.
Eventually, these interests became things I enjoyed in private. I never missed the release of a Taylor Swift album, but you’d hardly hear me talk about her with anyone but close friends out of fear of being mocked. I stopped allowing myself to enjoy things that were traditionally girly because I didn’t want to be “like other girls.”
In a thesis published by Brilynn Janckila titled “Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Not Like Other Girls: A Symbolic Convergence Theory Examination of ‘Other Girls,’” she explains interests associated with teenage girls have typically been a result of ridicule in larger society. “Twilight,” pumpkin spice flavoring and even “The Beatles” have all been the subject of mockery since teenage girls are associated with those interests.
Janckila went on to say, “This idea of ‘basic’ reinforces the idea that in order to perform femininity correctly, girls should be unlike other girls without being drastically different. In fact, the phrase ‘that’s for teenage girls’ is a common insult.”
I’ve used the words myself. I avoided things like “Twilight” because I waved them off to be stupid and immature. As I’ve gotten older and exited the phase of my life where I was an insecure high school student, the question began to bubble in the back of my mind: Why is it an insult to be like other girls?
I liked to pretend I wasn’t like my female peers by liking more “serious” music. I found myself at concerts all across town for local indie bands, which I genuinely enjoyed. However, I still listened to my favorite “generic” artists. The difference between these two activities, though, was I was only comfortable telling others about the former.
Once I graduated high school and started college, I began to feel more comfortable liking cheesy movies, popular music and romance novels. As I did, I found more and more of my female peers were doing the same.
Having something in common with a large number of other women had once been something I was embarrassed about. It made me feel like I wasn’t unique or special. The only way I knew how to prove I was worthy of respect was by outwardly showing how unique I was.
In reality, I came to realize the things that make me unique belong to me alone. I don’t have to prove I am drastically different than other women in order to be taken seriously. In fact, I am just as worthy of being loved and respected as the girls who are laughed at for being “basic.”
The Jonas Brothers broke up in 2013. However, in 2019, they got back together and went on a reunion tour. When I was younger, nearly everyone I went to school with seemed to dislike them. I felt like the only fan, although I knew it wasn’t true.
When I went to buy tickets for the Salt Lake City show in 2019, the tickets sold out within a day. Thousands of men and women were interested in attending to sing along with throwback hits and new songs alike.
All I could think was how beautiful it was I could share this thing I loved with so many other people. I didn’t feel stupid for being at the concert. I realized that was the best part about having a shared interest with others: You feel connected.
So yes, I am like other girls. And I am very happy about that.