I feel like there comes a time in everyone’s life where they have to feel unique in some way. Me personally, I think I expressed my “uniqueness” by being gay. Yes, I’m being serious. While obviously I didn’t choose to be gay so I could be unique, I did make being gay part of my personality, so it set me apart from my other peers. Nowadays, this isn’t so much the case. I don’t care about being unique anymore, really. I just like being me, and according to my friends, they like that too (though, my anxiety makes me unsure of how much I can trust them lol). Anyway, I say all of this because I think it’s important to note that the phenomenon I’m about to talk about is NOT unique to a group of people; everyone is trying to be unique and set themselves apart. It’s just a manifestation of a struggle that’s been going on since teenage subcultures were a thing. This is not meant to be a judgy article, rather it’s meant to be an understanding one.

Not Like Other Girls

You might’ve heard of this phrase. Basically, it’s associated with girls who separate themselves from what they perceive as the typical “mainstream” girl. For great examples of what I’m talking about, I highly recommend visiting the not like the other girls subreddit. What I especially appreciate about this subreddit is its acknowledgment of the phenomenon as a backlash towards sexist and misogynistic expectations of women. When other girls set themselves aside from what is portrayed as the typical airheaded or ditzy girl, what they’re really doing is trying to show that they aren’t adhering to these negative stereotypes about women.

Now, I think it’s important to clarify this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, there are just girls who want to put down other women, and that’s not cool. They should not be given the benefit of the doubt. They are intentionally reinforcing the sexist and misogynistic norms that are the general driver behind girls saying they’re not like other girls. Belittling women is not poggers (do people still say poggers?).

Anyway, this trend has seemed to die down a lot, and I think it’s because of the acknowledgment of the trend and maybe actual positive societal change?? I know, I didn’t think it was possible, but it seems from my cis male perspective that society is now more respectful of women, thus reducing the need for women to differentiate themselves from the traditional misogynistic stereotypes. We’re seeing a greater diversity of women in media, so maybe these portrayals are working and leading to girls to accept themselves and others for who they are. At least, I hope that’s the case, but again I’m not a woman, so I can’t say for sure.

What’s important to take away from the “not like other girls” trend is that it’s normally a rejection of femininity. The memes that are part of this trend usually set up a dichotomy between a feminine woman and a less feminine woman. The feminine woman may have well-kept hair and makeup, consume media marketed towards women (such as rom-coms and Justin Bieber), and not do traditionally boyish things (such as working on cars). The less feminine woman (who is a stand-in for the creator of the meme), will be the opposite. She may not have the most well-kept hair and makeup, reject the things marketed towards her, and embrace things society considers boyish. The conclusion of the meme is because the less feminine woman is different from the stereotyped feminine woman, she is better and unique. This is because society expects women to be a certain way and enforces negative gender stereotypes. Who wouldn’t want to differentiate themselves if that were the case?

I know I don’t need to say this, but every woman is unique and wonderful no matter how they perform their womanhood. Women can like feminine things and they can like non-feminine things; it doesn’t change who they are as a person. Women, well, scratch that, anyone can be an asshole no matter their adherence to traditional expectations of femininity.

Not Like Other Boys

All of the discourse around the not like the other girls phenomenon led me to wonder, is there a similar phenomenon for boys? Some videos allude to such a thing, but I’ve never seen a piece of critical media dedicated to dissecting the topic. Some will even say that because we live in a patriarchy, the phenomenon can’t exist, but I don’t think that’s exactly right.

From my observations both online and off, I think there is a not like other boys phenomenon. Boys reject traditional masculinity like girls reject traditional femininity. Both also result from a society that has traditionally valued a toxic form of masculinity. Like girls say they don’t have to conform to traditional norms of femininity, boys say they don’t have to conform to traditional norms of masculinity. However, with the not like other boys phenomenon, it’s not like there’s a matriarchy enforcing these norms; the patriarchy enforces both masculine and feminine norms.

Boys may think of themselves as “not like the other boys” because they don’t fit into traditional masculinity. They may like feminine things such as pop music, painting their nails, and taking on tasks such as cooking and cleaning. This is mostly positive. It’s important for guys to embrace more traditionally feminine things (and hopefully it leads to them questioning why the distinctions between masculinity and femininity exist in the first place). I’m not saying we need to reject the concept of masculinity all together (I do think there are some positive aspects to traditional masculinity), but it’s important for men to reject the toxic masculinity expected of them. Also, embracing masculinity isn’t inherently bad, it’s just that embracing masculinity tends to also involve embracing toxic masculinity. In this instance, the not like other boys phenomenon is a positive reaction to society’s expectations of men, but there is a negative aspect to it too.

E-Boys and Queerwashing

If you don’t know what an e-boy is, I genuinely envy you. E-boys, also known as softbois, evolved from skater culture. They also tend to embrace things seen as more feminine: dying their hair, painting their nails, and having an interest in fashion. They portray themselves as not like other guys for this reason, but it’s not because they reject traditional toxic masculinity. Instead, many e-boys hide behind a veneer of embracing androgyny to manipulate viewers.


Lil Peep, a prominent example of an e-boy.

Quick side note: not all e-boys are like the ones I’m discussing here. I’m sure most of them just enjoy the subculture, and that’s ok. Again, rejecting traditional masculine norms is a good thing (as long as we don’t put down people who positively embrace those norms).

Several problematic e-boys use their persona to manipulate. (Kurtis Conner did a great video series on this, and I recommend everyone watch it). Basically, some e-boys use their persona to hide their homophobia and misogyny. “Look at me, I’m rejecting toxic masculinity! Ignore the fact that I’m actually reinforcing toxic masculinity by hating gay people and women. I may be a horrible person, but at least I’m not like other boys!” Unfortunately, e-boys aren’t the only ones who utilize their embrace of androgyny and femininity to cover up their bigotry.

There are some creators on TikTok who will say they’re not like other boys, say bigoted things, and then claim they’re destroying toxic masculinity (*cough cough* Noah Beck *cough cough*). These people are essentially queerwashing their actions. They are appropriating queer culture and using it to pretend they’re an ardent ally to the LGBTQ+ community. No, painting your nails doesn’t make you a queer ally.

I’m not talking about straight men who paint their nails just because they like it. Those guys are fine and cool and good. No, I’m talking about specifically straight guys who use painting their nails or dying their hair or wearing makeup to excuse their homophobia and misogyny, just like e-boys do. Doing stuff like that is literally performative activism. You’re performing being a good ally while doing nothing to make a change. You may not look like the other boys, but you certainly act like them.


The not like other boys phenomenon is real and ongoing. Like the not like other girls phenomenon, it comes from a rejection of society’s expectations. Women who view themselves as “not like other girls” are oftentimes just trying to reject the roles placed on them by a patriarchal society. While they shouldn’t put other women down for conforming to traditional femininity, ultimately, I feel most women come to understand there’s no need to pit themselves against each other when the real enemy is the roles that they thought they had to conform to. The not like the other boys phenomenon is men rejecting the traditional masculinity put on them, and while it can lead to otherizing men who are traditionally masculine, it mostly leads to men rejecting toxic masculinity. Unfortunately, the not like other boys phenomenon has a darker side that can hurt women.

Some men may hide their homophobia and bigotry behind their apparent rejection of toxic masculinity. They use their appearance as a diversion, “Look I’m not toxic! I paint my nails! I do feminine things! Thus, I’m an ally to women and the queer community!” But it doesn’t work like that. While norms of appearance can be toxic (by making people feel as if they must appear a certain way), dressing masculine isn’t automatically an indication of toxicity. This can also lead to appropriation of queer culture so people can queerwash their actions. They’ll just paint their nails instead of doing any real activism. Yes, going on a magazine cover with makeup is definitely breaking down toxic masculinity and it’s definitely not like you can do that because of the thousands of queer people who came before you and brought androgyny into the mainstream.

The upshot of all of this is that masculinity and femininity are both social constructs that need to be done away with, but that is impossible. Because of that impossibility, there will always be guys, gals, and non-binary pals who will feel like they’re not like other boys and girls. What we can do is embrace going against society’s norms while not judging the people who choose to fit into those norms. We’re all unique and societal expectations shouldn’t define any of us. So, let’s stop the judging and just let others live however they want (as long as it isn’t toxic, of course).