Amelia, 15, wants nothing less than to be seen as a “pick-me girl.” Popularized on TikTok, the term is the viral baby of the “cool girl” and the “not like other girls” girl. A pick-me girl sets herself apart from other women by denouncing concepts socially associated with femininity and embracing activities, interests, and habits traditionally enjoyed by straight, cisgender, heterosexual men. Think: preferring to drink beer and watch sports with the guys over marathoning The Bachelor or going to brunch with the girls. “It’s totally transparent and pathetic,” Amelia says. “Pick-me girls see other girls as competition instead of friends.”
Essentially, a pick-me girl’s main goal is to gain the attention of the men in her orbit by pointing out all the ways in which she stands out from other women and “basic” feminine interests. Instead, they focus on stereotypically “masculine” activities and opinions, regardless of whether they truly prefer them. This trope was particularly present in early-2000s rom-coms, where female protagonists would often scoff at their more “girly” or “boy-obsessed” adversaries. In these stories, the love interest typically begins to fall for her because of her obliviousness to her femininity, which makes her “different,” and thus, more attractive.
Think about Amanda Bynes’ performance in She’s The Man, Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story and Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries. Not to rag on our favorite nostalgic movies, but all of these main characters have some very important qualities in common: They’re “not like other girls,” and are almost always presented as opposites to traditionally girlier villains or counterparts.
What Is A Pick-Me Girl?
The term “pick-me” first started on Twitter under the hashtag #TweeLikeAPickMe, which was used to mock women who fall under the “guys’ girl” category, especially those who consider themselves to be “wifey” material. The phrase has experienced a renaissance (pickmeissance?) among Gen Z in 2022, with the hashtag #PickMeGirl garnering 2.2 billion views on TikTok and an infamous 2005 monologue by Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith Grey inspiring a satirical trend on the app.
While not all women who prefer to wear a jersey over a sundress fall under the pick-me girl category, the concept comes from the idea that these women want to be chosen by the men they surround themselves with—badly. They, either consciously or subconsciously, adapt their personalities to appeal to the male gaze. She isn’t just someone with traditionally masculine likes and dislikes—she’s someone whose intentions are to center men in her decision-making process.
How Pick-Me Girls Subconsciously Cater to the Male Gaze
According to certified sex therapist Shadeen Francis, LMFT, the male gaze refers to scenes and social settings that are specifically designed to cater exclusively to heterosexual men, usually for the purpose of sexual pleasure. Think: the way Bond women are written into the movie franchise as these hyper-sexual beings that function as little more than walking props. But Francis reminds us that the male gaze is more than just an interest in arousing men—and isn’t limited to content created by men.
“It’s a lens on the world that prioritizes, centers, and makes ubiquitous a rigid and stereotyped perspective that men’s pleasures and interests are paramount, often at the expense of the needs, wants, or even humanity of others,” Francis says. Although the impulse to behave this way can often be due to issues of low self-esteem caused systematically by the patriarchy, pick-me girls can subconsciously contribute to this system instead of working to dismantle it. For example, this can look like criticizing conventional femininity by calling it cringey or basic. Think: hating on the girlies who love Taylor Swift or Starbucks seasonal drinks (Pumpkin Spice is delicious, let the people like what they like!), or calling themselves “guy’s girls” because women are just “too much drama.” In both scenarios, the pick-me girls may be seeking validation from men in order to feel accepted, rewarded, and desired, while ragging on other women.
But you’d have an easier time getting tickets to the Eras tour than finding an area of social life that hasn’t been touched by the patriarchy, a societal organization system that places men—particularly heterosexual, cis-gender men—at the top. “If men were to abide by the rules of the patriarchy, [relationships rooted in kindness, trust, support, and mutual respect], wouldn’t be possible for heterosexual women,” Francis says. “Women would be expected to participate in the relationships in whichever ways would please him.” By choosing to spend their time supporting belief structures that may not actually serve them, pick-me girls may be unknowingly contributing to upholding the patriarchy.
How Does Internalized Misogyny Play Into This?
Internalized misogyny, or when women subconsciously project sexist ideas onto other women and themselves, can sometimes be difficult to spot in a patriarchal society. In fact, women can even project internalized misogyny while being aware of the male gaze, and one way this plays out today is by picking apart other women.
For the pick-me girl, the internalized misogyny may materialize as a subconscious competitiveness. “When a girl notices there are a plethora of other women for men to choose from, a painful and scary feeling can take root in the brain,” says sex and relationships therapist Tiffany Jones. “To avoid future feelings of rejection, the mentality is born within the girl that if she demeans the concept of a typical woman, most men will pick her out of all the available ones to choose from.” According to Jones, pick-me girls seek out male attention in order to feel safe. But in order to prove that other women are nonthreatening, they must first invalidate them.
By the same token, internalized misogyny can also look like labeling other women as pick-me girls, or choosing to mock them on social media, instead of recognizing the larger social order impacting their behavior: the patriarchy. In some ways, by pointing the finger at pick-me girls, women are also upholding the same oppressive system. Feels a little like a vicious cycle, doesn’t it?
So…How Do We End This Vicious Cycle?
By rejecting labels of what’s traditionally “feminine” or “masculine” altogether and becoming attuned to their own wants, needs, and desires, women can avoid catering to the male gaze and begin dismantling the patriarchy in their everyday lives. Essentially, being true to yourself and your interests no matter what other people might think, and respecting others while they do the same. There is no need to criticize other women for liking what they like. It’s important to notice when men do, and to then decide if a romantic relationship is really something worth pursuing.
“Continue working to support your friends and other women,” Jones says. “When possible, shed gender norms, stereotypes and walls of invalidation. And offer yourself to be a safe space for other women to speak freely and be transparent in your own needs.”
By actively recognizing the patriarchal structures that inherently impact the way we’ve been socialized to make decisions—while taking into account race, class, and other intersectional privileges—women can come together and make intentional decisions that further empower themselves and discover what they enjoy, think, and believe, free from restraint. And instead of waiting to be chosen, we can choose ourselves.
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