So-called “pick me” girls have quickly become the internet’s favorite punchline. The subject of countless TikTok parody videos, the now-viral “pick me” girl trend pokes fun at straight women who desperately want men to “pick” them. According to their critics, “pick me” girls allegedly compete for male attention by actively putting down other women. And while this definition is admittedly pretty broad, in practice, the “pick me” girl trend typically calls out two types of stereotypically female behavior.
First, there’s the woman who goes out of her way to embody traditional gender roles. She might even spew blatantly anti-feminist opinions — making “pick me” girl the perfect insult to wield against conservative women like Kaitlin Bennett and Candace Owens. This hyper-feminine “pick me” girl goes back to the trend’s origins: Back in 2016, #TweetLikeAPickMe was used to mock women on Twitter who took pride in fulfilling a domestic role.
Today on TikTok, however, the “pick me” girl label is more often applied to women who actively reject everything “girly” or traditionally feminine. In common internet parodies, this type of “pick me” girl often claims to prefer male friends because girls are “too much drama” or tells guys that she’s just too low maintenance to even bother wearing makeup. In fact, she might even claim to be just “one of the guys.” Or, perhaps even more unlikably, she might even claim that she’s “not like other girls.”
However, as the “pick me” girl trend grew in popularity, the term started to be applied to women more liberally. Suddenly, the “pick me” girl label was being lobbed at women who simply expressed a personal preference or were otherwise engaging in entirely mundane behavior — essentially assuming that most of what women do (even wearing a leg brace) inherently stems from a desire to attract male attention. Ironically, the “pick me” girl trend — which began as an attempt to call out women for propping up sexist stereotypes — has actually created a new, equally harmful trope. The “pick me” girl trend has successfully rebranded female insecurity as yet another excuse for sexist ridicule, further ingraining the very same internalized misogyny that the trend was attempting to call out in the first place.
While some “pick me” girls might wish to separate themselves from stereotypical femininity, they haven’t exactly abandoned female archetypes all together. In fact, “pick me” girls are actively playing into the “cool girl” stereotype that is often depicted in literature, film and TV shows — for example, the laid back girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful or the mysterious “manic pixie dream girl” that a male protagonist can’t help but fall in love with. After all, Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice” and Summer Finn from “(500) Days of Summer” were both desired by their male love interests specifically because they defied traditional femininity in some way or another. The entire “Divergent” series quite literally revolves around the fact that Tris Prior is “not like other girls” — she’s “divergent.”
To be clear, the “not like other girls” trope is reductive — not to mention that it inherently pits women against one another. However, instead of asking why this trope has remained so markedly successful, we’ve opted to blame straight women for conforming to the very templates of female desirability that popular media and culture promised would attract male attention.
While people often attribute “pick me” girl behavior to internalized misogyny, it's reductive to say that “pick me” girls simply hate other women. Rather, they’re attempting to come across as a certain “type of woman” — the type of girl that “isn’t like other girls.” We might dislike the way “pick me” girls put down other women, but we’re also cringing at this perceived inauthenticity. At its worst, the term “pick me” girl is just another way to weaponize women’s sexualities against them. It’s like traditional slut-shaming masquerading as feminist criticism.
While the ways that alleged “pick me” girls antagonize other women is certainly unhelpful, the impulse to view yourself as a character — to understand yourself through the classical tropes of womanhood — is honestly relatable. Girly girls, tom-boys, “bruh” girls, “hii” girls, e-girls, “that girl”, material girls, girlbosses, “cool girls” — it seems that at every turn, we can’t seem to separate the language of female identity from the language of trope, especially on the internet.
And while these modern-day archetypes might be more complex than the classic “girl next door” and other more traditional tropes, the motivation is the same: When you grow up seeing women represented almost solely through reductive archetypes, you can’t help but understand yourself through similar patterns. Not just as a girl, but as a type of girl. I’m not just feeling strong or uber-productive, I'm in my Hermione-Granger–Olivia-Pope–Elle-Woods era. I’m not just a writer, I’m in my Carrie-Bradshaw–Jo-March–Rory-Gilmore era. We’re obsessed with proving our identities to others, distilling our quirks, interests and virtues into marketable, caricatured versions of ourselves. “Pick me” girls are merely acting out this same performative fantasy — the audience that they’re concerned with just happens to be male (or, at least, is assumed to be).
However, instead of liberating women from these reductive (and incredibly nonrepresentative) archetypes as the trend allegedly intended to, “pick me” girl discourse has merely created a new trope to mock and discard. Ironically, weaponizing the “pick me” girl label against other women has become a way to separate ourselves from female behavior that we perceive as somehow cringey or embarrassing — arguably a form of “pick me” behavior in and of itself. I’m not like those other guy-obsessed girls. I’m real. I’m authentic. In our criticism of “pick me” girls, we’re arguably propping up the same woman-on-woman competition that we’re disparaging “pick me” girls for partaking in themselves. Ironically, even our attempts to chastise women for not “supporting women” still, inevitably, put down other women.
The “pick me” girl trend was pointing toward a genuine problem — women are too often forced to cater to the misogynistic expectations of their male peers, whether it be in the search for romantic partners, navigating predominately male work environments or overcoming misogynistic stereotypes while running for political office. However, by mocking “pick me” girls for trying to do just that, we’re arguably placing the blame for these sexist expectations on the very same women struggling to navigate them. Ridiculing girls for their insecurities doesn’t actually empower women to rise above them.
Sarah McGrath ’24 can be reached at email@example.com. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and other op-eds to email@example.com.