Letter from a Former Cool Girl™
This author has chosen to remain anonymous as the goal of this article is to point out a systemic issue, rather than relating a personal experience. The author hopes to strike a chord with multiple women, and in doing so believes that the author could be anyone really.
“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”.
The words of Gillian Flynn often disturbed me. Maybe because it was the most blunt, honest characterization of millions of women, echoed by a psychotic yet genius woman (watch Gone Girl). Primarily because to my absolute horror, it was like a checklist I had ticked several points off for a couple of years after coming to NLS.
It’s difficult to clarify these things in your head. To my mind, I had always been a feminist. There was no question that I was not okay with sandwich jokes, but maybe I didn’t have to make a big deal out of it every time and give everyone “BT”. Maybe it was fine for me to simply give a small smile, but no encouragement. After all, these were my friends and I knew they weren’t sexist. What’s the harm?
The harm is what the Cool Girl does to you, internally and outwardly. Outwardly, you take convenient stances when it comes to your friends. You emphasize on context and shift focus from the issue to technicalities. Which is the problem in the way that so many of us reacted to the Vedica controversy last year – we caught up on the technicalities on how they had gone wrong, ignoring the subtle but important point that AoW tried to make. The Cool Girl unquestionably takes away from the fight that needs to be fought.
But the internal cost of being a Cool Girl at NLS is so much more. It is constantly second guessing yourself, and how interesting you are. It’s telling yourself that you must adopt the loud Delhi boy humour, as opposed to the quiet sardonic humour you possess right now. It is nudging yourself into situations and interests and activities that are not you, but they’re the understanding of cool.
It is circumventing your feelings and wishes in any relationship, tailoring your interests to the boy-man so that he likes you and enjoys spending time with you – after all, he has to if you’re one of the boys right? His friends MUST think you’re cool, never mind the personal discomfort you’re in by stifling your opinion and reactions. Creating a scene at Chetta, confronting your boyfriend and then becoming the talk of the entire college? Nah, the Cool Girl is a secure, hot woman, who quietly drinks her beer.
So should we stop drinking beer and devouring pizzas and wearing the clothes we think we like? I think it would be trivializing the issue to say that these traits should all be abandoned with immediate gusto. Mainly because they shouldn’t be allowed to be “masculine traits” to begin with. I, along with dozens of women I know, love beer and burping. That’s not something women should be apologizing for.
But then how does one even begin to break out of this trend?
I started by speaking. And speaking unashamedly. Phrases I often found myself adopting before were “I don’t entirely agree with you, but you are entitled to your opinion” or “I don’t think the way to change people’s minds is to shame them”. The latter I’ve found is the key to entrenching sexism in law school. And it’s a statement that every Cool Girl makes, because remember, you cannot be angry — you must smile in a chagrined manner. You will be congratulated for being rational and reasonable and calm. God forbid that you nag or boss or scold or do anything that isn’t chill.
Which brings me to “CHILL”. The eternal comeback given to every woman in law school who raises her voice, especially on matters of equality, but even on anything at all. If you are conscientious about your work, if you don’t want to spend your night lazing with contraband on the field, if you just don’t get Rick and Morty, if you don’t grin at pussy or sandwich jokes – congratulations, you’re no longer chill. This isn’t to say that I have a problem with the women who choose to engage in these things (well, except the last) but the issue is that it has become a way to limit and classify people. And yes, this constrains guys too. But I’ve found it to be a massive driving force in the way that especially women behave on campus. We already function in a competitive environment where the community is so close knit that gossip travels faster than through the Internet. This exacerbates the issues that so many women on campus face in the way they see themselves. You’re a slut, or you’re boring. You’re an irrational Vedica, or you’re an apologist Cool Girl. We’ve devised our own set of stultifying labels and roles for women on campus, and if you leave law school with your self confidence intact after 5 years, it’s a genuine miracle.
The Cool Girl has internalized these labels, adopted them as a part of her personality, thereby creating a vogue of being chill, and ergo, being quiet. In many ways, the Cool Girl is a modern variant of the age-old gender role of requiring women to be meek-mannered and wordless. Today, her voice is constrained not by a requirement to be quiet, but to be chill.
From someone who’s recently started breaking away, to the dozens I know are unsure of themselves. I can give you a sermon like I’ve had an epiphany and could write a self-help book (typical law schoolite obviously). But I’d rather just end by saying that maybe you won’t overhaul the patriarchy in law school, but you’ll definitely end up happier once you dump the Cool Girl.
A Proud Non-Cool Girl™