Who is the Pick-Me Girl?
The Pick-Me Girl is not like other girls. She’s cool, chill - ‘one of the guys’. She condemns make-up and dresses, and only surrounds herself with boys because, for her, girls are just ‘too much drama’. The Pick-Me Girl rolls her eyes when the ‘Feminazis’ drone on and on about gender equality - we can vote now, what more do they want? The Pick-Me Girl skates, or surfs, or plays football and video games; she exists beyond the futile ‘girl stuff’ that most women so naively value.
At heart, the Pick-Me Girl denounces femininity, claiming to be intrinsically different to other women in order to gain respect from men.
The Pick-Me Girl archetype originates from an online social media trend, highly popularised by TikTok, where clips with the hashtag #PickMeGirl have generated over 1.6 billion views. Ultimately, the trend satirises girls who put down other women in order to appear more desirable to men. The Pick-Me Girl can be seen as a manifestation of the catchphrase ‘I’m not like other girls’ (Rosenbluth, 2021), which is used by the Pick-Me Girl to differentiate herself from the stereotypical female. Common traits of the Pick-Me Girl may include denouncing feminine fashion as ‘basic’ or ‘girly’, invalidating female-dominated hobbies in favour of more masculine ones, and criticising feminist movements which aim to hold men to account. In essence, the Pick-Me Girl exists within a patriarchal and misogynistic framework, and projects this onto other women in order to be accepted by men.
While this satirical character is used for comedic purposes online, I aim to explore the fundamental basis of the Pick-Me Girl, and how she has been shaped by the patriarchal environment in which she operates. By drawing on contemporary examples, both in real-life and the media, I convey how the Pick-Me Girl trend is indicative of deep-rooted discrimination in our society. I further discuss the notion of internalised misogyny, and how this is crucial to the construction of the Pick-Me Girl character. Finally, I explore the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism, and how the Pick-Me Girl highlights the inequality in our economic system.
The Pick-Me Girl in Practice
Though the Pick-Me Girl consistently undermines other women in order to appease men, she can exist in many different forms. I attempt to distinguish this variation into three key categories: the Antifeminist, the One of the Guys Girl and the Professional Pick-Me Girl.
The Antifeminist is perhaps the most overt and harmful manifestation of the Pick-Me Girl. She is so disillusioned by patriarchal norms that she explicitly aids in holding up sexist structures. The Antifeminist will deny accusations made against men, in the name of gender equality, instead asserting that ‘we’re all equal’ and that men ‘mean no harm’. This could also include ‘slut shaming’, where women are attacked or shamed for expressing their sexuality and opposing traditional gender norms which depict women as ‘pure' or ‘submissive’ (Poole, 2013). Such a sentiment can further lean into the silencing of sexual assault victims, where the Antifeminist may immediately blame the woman victim for her choice of outfit, or promiscuous
behaviour, rather than the actions of the man. Andrews (2002) draws on the notion of ‘epistemological privilege’, which can be used to further explore the Antifeminist through the lens of intersectionality. Typically a white, upper-class, able-bodied woman, the Antifeminists' oppression under gender inequality may be lessened due to economic or racial privilege. This ultimately depicts how the Antifeminist is ignorant to the extent of women’s oppression, and instead works within a patriarchal framework to assert sexist gender norms, and dismiss feminist movements towards gender equality.
The One of the Guys Girl has been particularly mocked on social media. She rejects typically feminine characteristics, and attempts to gain validation from men by exhibiting her interest in perceived masculine activities - such as sports, video games, drinking beer and wearing men’s clothes. While doing this, she further mocks girls who exhibit feminine traits, dismissing them as basic, ‘girly’, or fake. Though less explicit than the Antifeminist, the One of the Guys Girl still perpetuates harmful patriarchal gender norms by presenting femininity as undesirable, feeding into the notion of masculine superiority by criticising women who embrace their feminine attributes (Glick et Al., 2015). This variation of the Pick-Me Girl archetype has been expressed countless times in pop culture - particularly in romantic movies which involve a shy, tom-boy protagonist who defeats the evil ‘girly girl’ in gaining the affection of the male love interest. Such a trope was highly popularised in early 2000s high-school romantic comedies, and praises girls who reject femininity, while villainizing those who embrace it. A striking example can be seen in the 2004 hit film ‘Mean Girls’, which contrasts the innocent, casually dressed, mathematical tom-boy Cady, with the evil, ignorant and overtly-feminine member of the ‘Plastics’, Regina George (Kaplan, 2019). Both fight for the affection of the male love interest, Aaron Samuels, of which Cady eventually wins, though only after rejecting the femininity of the Plastics and returning to ‘who she really is’ at the end of the plot. While this common film trope may aim to dismantle gender norms by showing that women do not need to be ‘girly’, it ultimately employs the Pick-Me Girl sentiment that femininity entails ignorance or nastiness. This villainizes feminine qualities, further suggesting that women who embrace these traits are falsely betraying their ‘true’ identity. The One of the Guys Girl is highly indicative of this, as she feels she must reject femininity in order to be seen as valuable in a patriarchal structure that places immense value on masculinity.
The Professional Pick-Me Girl bears many similarities with the One of the Guys Girl, though expressed in an occupational environment. She is a stone-cold CEO, or a fearless politician, or a ruthless manager that will do anything to succeed. Like the One of the Guys Girl, the Professional Pick-Me Girl will not conform to gendered notions of femininity, and instead intentionally opposes them, in order to ‘make it’ in a male-dominated world of work. This characterises the Professional Pick-Me Girl as masculine, both in her personality and appearance, and though she believes she is radically breaking gender norms, she is in fact encouraging the stereotype that femininity is incompatible with intelligence or success. A key example can be seen in the UK’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’ for her uncompromising and ruthless leadership style. Thatcher has been described as an enigma by many feminists (Pilcher, 1995), as her radical success in becoming the first female to lead the UK was heavily contradicted by her rejection of feminine qualities, and establishment of policies that ultimately disadvantaged women. Pilcher (1995) points to Thatcher’s dismantling of the welfare system, including her failure to improve child benefits and the conditions of nurseries and childcare. Her masculinised character and appearance is further representative of the patriarchal nature of political leadership - as seen in recent female politicians such as Hilary Clinton or Theresa May, who must also subvert feminine gender roles in order to succeed (Bauer and Santia, 2021). This ultimately exposes how the Professional Pick-Me Girl operates in a patriarchal system, and in an attempt to be successful, supports the same structures which oppress women.
Where to Place the Blame.
Evidently, then, the Pick-Me Girl, in all her forms, perpetuates negative gender stereotypes, and essentially disadvantages other women in order to appeal to the expectations of men. The online trend has highlighted this, placing the Pick-Me Girl in a distinctly bad light. However, we must ask why the Pick-Me Girl behaves as she does - is it individual, as the satirical online messages suggest, or are there institutional issues at play here? Is it valid to place the blame on the Pick-Me Girl herself, or is this ultimately distracting us from solving the deep-rooted causes to gender inequality?
To answer these questions, I now draw on Ambivalent Sexism Theory, and internalised misogyny. Ambivalent Sexism Theory (Glick and Fiske, 1997) proposes a theoretical framework that depicts sexism as containing two sub-components: hostile sexism and benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism seeks to justify male domination and superiority through ‘derogatory characterisations of women’ (Glick and Fiske, 1977, pp.121). This essentially portrays women as inferior, perpetuating the assumption that women are ignorant, weak, and subordinate to men. Contrastingly, benevolent sexism is more subtle, and seemingly positive, emphasising men’s needs to protect and provide for women (Glick and Fiske, 1997). Though this form of sexism appears kinder, it is still rooted in the assumption that women are inferior to men, and therefore must be taken care of. Because of its often implicitness, benevolent sexism is far more accepted in society, which in turn can be more dangerous, as it is subtly ingrained in our attitudes towards gender.
Ambivalent Sexism Theory can effectively explain the origins of the Pick-Me Girl, particularly when understood through the lens of internalised misogyny. Internalised misogyny refers to the notion that gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our assumptions, that women, either knowingly or unknowingly, internalise prejudiced beliefs and project them onto other women (Wang, 2020). This can cause women to support patriarchal structures and ideas, even though such structures ultimately put them at a disadvantage.
The Antifeminist, the One of the Guys Girl and the Professional Pick-Me Girl are textbook examples of internalised misogyny. All three archetypes are explicitly limited by their internalised patriarchal assumptions, requiring the validation of men, and putting down other women who try to defy gender norms. The Antifeminist can be seen as a byproduct of benevolent sexism, as she internalises the idea that women must be protected by men, and therefore rejects movements towards women’s liberation and independence. Furthermore, the Antifeminist internalises hostile sexism, by suggesting that women are at fault for their experiences of sexual assault, or domestic violence, due to their inherent inferiority. The One of the Guys Girl also internalises hostile sexism, due to her negative perceptions of femininity that are perpetuated by patriarchal assumptions. In an attempt to differentiate herself from the inferiority constructed by hostile sexism, the One of the Guys Girl embraces the masculine qualities that are respected by men. Similarly, the Professional Pick-Me Girl endorses the gender norms asserted by hostile sexism, that perceive femininity as weak and restricting. If the Professional Pick-Me Girl has any chance of succeeding in her male-dominated environment, she must abandon any trace of femininity and instead embrace typically masculine qualities - such as coldness, severity and assertiveness.
While the online trend has been an important step in addressing internalised misogyny, the extent to which it has actually improved such gender inequality is significantly limited. Amidst the mockery, satirisation and, often, cruel bullying of women who possess any Pick-Me Girl traits, the trend itself has become a mechanism for patriarchal domination. For example, the act of labelling someone a Pick-Me Girl has been utilised to delegitimise and disempower women who do not ascribe to traditional gender roles, or who genuinely hold more masculine traits. In this sense, women cannot win - we are criticised for either qualities - suggesting that the Pick-Me Girl phenomenon is ultimately a double-edged sword that seeks to divide and subjugate all women.
As such, we can understand the Pick-Me Girl through the lens of structural gender inequality. Rooted in her annoying yet satirised behaviours is a sad conformity to the patriarchal system by which she is confined. However, the online trend fails to assert this, instead encouraging women to blame each other for their oppression, and therefore allowing the intrinsic issues to remain hidden. The question I would now like to explore, then, is where do these patriarchal assumptions originate from? And what structures are ensuring that gender inequality persists?
The Inextricable Link Between Sexism and Capitalism: Dipping into a Marxist Critique
In an interview with Glamour Magazine, Florence Given connects internalised misogyny with the insecurities forced upon us by capitalism (Given in London, 2020). This is due to the prioritisation of profit within a capitalist economic system, in which employers must use their workers to create wealth at the lowest possible cost. Marxists highlight that such profit is therefore acquired through exploitation and thus relies on insecurity and inequality to survive (Holmstrom, 1997). In other words, capitalism both creates and maintains gendered difference, as a means of generating profit.
The relevance of this to the origins of the Pick-Me Girl is crucial, because the sexism rooted in her behaviour arguably derives from the economic system in which she operates. Capitalism relies on hostile sexism - and its insinuation that women are intrinsically inferior to men - as a means of justifying women in lower-paid, precarious jobs, so that companies can generate maximum wealth (Albelda et Al., 2020). For example, transnational corporations, particularly within the garment industry, use workforces that are dominated by women, relying on the exploitation of female labour to create a competitive profit (Hale and Wills, 2007). This is evident in even the most progressive, ‘developed’ countries, as seen in the exposure of BooHoo factories in the UK, which were criticised in 2020 for paying their women-dominated workforce illegally low wages (Winterstein, 2020).
Simultaneously, capitalism exploits the gender norms perpetuated by benevolent sexism, depicting women as maternal and stay-at-home, while their husbands go out to work. Marxists highlight how this is related to the role of the nuclear family, where women are socialised to be mothers and wives that nurture male workers, in order to ensure that a workforce can go out and generate profit in the economy (Holmstrom, 1981). If women were given the same opportunities to work as men, then there would be no-one at home to reproduce and care for effective workers, causing the workforce and thus the capitalist system to collapse. This essentially places the burden of care on to women, and away from the state, further allowing the capitalist system to generate more profit by privatising care industries, and cutting public spending in the health and social care sectors (Stevano et Al., 2021).
Furthermore, women are targeted as consumers, where marketing companies create an entirely unrealistic female beauty standard, imposing insecurities onto women so that they buy products and generate profit (Given in London, 2020). This is directly linked to internalised misogyny, drawing again on Florence Given who suggests that some women find comfort in tearing down those who reflect their insecurities back to them, as a result of the rigorous beauty standards established by capitalism (Given in London, 2020). Perhaps this is a diversion, a means of pitting women against each other in order to distract from the institutional inequality that capitalism is exploiting.
This leads me back, then, to the fundamental causes of the Pick-Me Girl. I argue that a Marxist critique of capitalism is crucial to her origin. The Antifeminist must be unaware of gender inequality, in order to accept the economic injustice that capitalism relies on to maximise profit. Because of her ‘epistemological privilege’ (Andrews, 2002), the Antifeminist suffers less than other marginalised women, and thus is used by capitalists to deny their exploitation of gender inequality. This intersection of gender, race and class often means that it is women from the global south who are oppressed by a profit-driven, globalised system, while the comparatively privileged Antifeminist denies such structural inequality in order to hinder change. The One of the Guys Girls internalises the view that women are weak and inferior, used by capitalism to justify cheap labour and feminise care, and therefore condemns feminine qualities in order to feel valued by men. The Professional Pick-Me Girl endorses the same gender stereotype, and therefore understands that, in order to be valued in the work-place, she must avoid any association to feminine work. The Pick-Me Girl, overall, reflects an internalisation of the gender norms perpetuated by capitalism, as a means of maximising profit.
It has been interesting to uncover how the satirical and entertaining Pick-Me Girl trend can represent such structural inequalities. Inherently, the Pick-Me Girl is characterised by her need to put down other women, in order to appease men, and I have argued that this behaviour is indicative of the misogyny that she has internalised from her patriarchal environment. Such misogyny, I claim, is rooted in the capitalist economic model, which seeks to assert gendered difference, as a means of sourcing cheap labour and care, and thus maximising profit. Undoubtedly, then, a shift towards an economic model that does not rely on such exploitation is imperative. While I struggle to explore such an important though complex requisite in the short remainder of this article, I will conclude by suggesting an immediate change to the Pick-Me Girl trend trajectory. Rather than placing the blame on the Pick-Me Girl herself, perhaps it is time to acknowledge these institutional factors at play. We must attempt to reject the patriarchal and capitalist structures that are so desperate to make women feel unworthy, and instead look for ways in which we can redefine our own worth.
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