Writer: Maddie Dinowitz
You may be familiar with the “Cool Girl,” the classic movie character who loves burgers and sports, can chug a beer, and is effortlessly hot. While this carefree and raunchy femme might be intriguing to watch on the silver screen, the “Cool Girl Trope” can be quite damaging to females. The “Cool Girl” is an archetype that feeds into males’ fantasies, promoting the idea that in order for a woman to be attractive, she must act like a man. Because seriously, what’s sexier than football and Budlight?! Megan Fox’s portrayal of Mikaela in Transformers encapsulates the idea of the “Cool Girl,” who loves cars almost as much as she loves being one of the guys, not to mention she’s constantly decked out in tight-fitting clothes that reveal her size 0 waist and supermodel physique. Films and television shows use the “Cool Girl” to degrade the concept of femininity, as it synchronously frowns upon women who are overly emotional, too uptight, and don’t have the same interests as their male counterparts.
Thus, the “Cool Girl Trope” faces females and those who are gender non-conforming with an unrealistic pressure to adhere to the fantasies of the patriarchal structure of power they live in.
While many females are truly passionate about stereotypical male activities and pursue them out of genuine interest--not out of a desire to appease men--the “Cool Girl” is problematic because she’s set up to promote the idea of the superior male complex. Basically, what this means is that ~we live in a society~ where gender ranks men above women regardless of their race or class, which is kind of the worst. In a gender-stratified world, the male gender has been deemed as the touchstone or dominant and the female as passive and subordinate. Thus, the “Cool Girl” reestablishes the idea of heteropatriarchy, where cisgender males have authority over females and basically we have to do what they say. Sounds fun, right? The issue with the “Cool Girl Trope” is that it tells females that they can’t enjoy both shopping and videogames, and this one dimensional trope is often set as a foil against the “Girly Girl,” who is clingy and wears “too much pink.” A perfect example of this can be seen in That Seventies Show, as dramatic and girlish character Jackie Burkhart is constantly pitted against the athletic, sexy, and laid back Donna Pinciotti. Negative connotations associated with femininity ultimately stimulates misogyny, which is detrimental when striving to achieve gender equality. Ultimately, men dictate the “Cool Girl’s” behavior, appearance, and common interests, aligning them with the male gaze.
Furthermore, the “Cool Girl Trope” addresses problems with how as a society, we have created a social construction of gender and sex and how this negatively affects those who are gender non-conforming. I want to bring forward the court case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, where we see the instance of Ann Hopkins, a senior manager at an accounting firm who faced sex discrimination in the workplace. Her partners claimed she was “macho” and should walk, talk, and dress more femininely. This case serves to show that when we create instances of gender stereotyping such as the “Cool Girl Trope” and staunch ideals of how females should appear, we are creating an unsafe space for not only women, but men, transgender people, and those who are non-conforming. Those who do not match male or female gender norms are forced to adhere to specific gendered standards, as a consequence of unattainable tropes they see on screen such as the “Cool Girl.” This trope encourages females to act more masculine, ultimately implying that their femininity is seen as unattractive. Yet, in the case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, Ann was shamed for non-conforming to her own feminity. Males find it acceptable when women mirror their masculinity in certain situations, yet disregard those who do so in away that minimizes their sex appeal. Essentially, you can only like sports if you’re smoking hot, or else you’ll be viewed as a--dare I say it--tomboy...
By rejecting “typical” female behavior, the “Cool Girl” encourages women to disregard their own interests for those seen as acceptable by men while concurrently pushing their breasts up. The “coolness” trope is gendered in favor of males, which leads to the belittlement of stereotypically female traits. By altering the “Cool Girl Trope,” we can create a more gender equal agenda in which women don’t feel the need to conform to masculine ideals to gain power and can rather express their gender identity in an empowering and honest way.
Look up “The Cool Girl Monologue” from the film Gone Girl if you want to see lead female Amy Dunne absolutely DEMOLISH the idea of being a “Cool Girl.” It’s dope.
Flynn, Taylor. “TRANSforming the Debate: Why We Need to Include Transgender Rights in the Struggles for Sex and Sexual Orientation Equality.” Columbia Law Review 101, no. 2 (2001): 392. https://doi.org/10.2307/1123803.
Ore, Tracy E., and Judith Lorber. “‘Night to His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender.” Essay. In The Social Construction of Difference and Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality, 60. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019.