The rise and rise of the ‘cool girl’

She’s the person everyone wants to be


She’s the enigmatic girl of the moment. Gets on well with all the boys. Well dressed but doesn’t spend ages getting ready. Fit but down to earth. Eats. Enjoys boys’ hobbies. Tells jokes. The girl you either want to be, or the girl you want to get with. 

But does she actually exist?

The rise of the “cool girl” trope is exemplified in celebs like Cara Delevingne and Jennifer Lawrence and it’s seeped into our consciousness. It’s our friends, it’s the clothes we wear, it’s what we drink and how we talk. Supposedly it’s pretty awful and false and damaging.

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Cara, Kate, bacon: Cool girl goals

That film Gone Girl sums the phenomenon up pretty well. In a rambling quote the murderous (sorry, spoiler) spurned Amy describes her as: “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 gangbang while somehow maintaining a size two”. 

Amy hates the cool girl, but still pretends to be her, to be “hot and understanding” and never get angry. It’s men’s defining compliment, “yeah, she’s cool”. She doesn’t think the cool girl really exists, she thinks they’re pathetic, something made up by people who have watched too many movies and someone men think really exists. To be fair, she is a bit mental so it’s not exactly a fair assessment, but the point still stands. 

Because actually, yeah the cool girl does exist. It’s not just a made up thing by seething columnists or fiction writers, it’s a proper phase. You see her in girls around you. You’ll hear her in things your friends say, loudly, and in groups: “I just get on better with boys, girls cause too much drama” or “Actually, I just really enjoy being spit roasted”.

Not every girl is the cool girl. Either because they don’t buy into it, or because they simply aren’t interested in putting the time and effort into discovering the entire Smiths back catalogue after watching 500 Days of Summer. Or because people don’t think they’re funny enough. Or because really, they can’t actually be bothered maintaining the charade of enjoying UFC PPV’s.

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This is the thing though: Every paint-by-numbers feminist reads that Gone Girl quote, or an angry Guardian column, and thinks “fuck that, that’s awful”. You’re supposed to hate and feel sorry for girls who want to be the cool girl. You’re supposed to talk about how damaging it is for women. You’re supposed to tell every guy you know that she doesn’t really exist. But that doesn’t stop me, and everyone else, from wanting to be her. 

I want to be the cool girl. Though I feel a bit bad about it, I still consider it a defining compliment if someone calls me “a cool girl”. Nobody in their right mind would say they don’t, not even a little part of them, want to be like Cara or Zooey or whoever is the archetype for them. There are plenty of people who point to the idea of the cool girl as another boring and unrealistic standard for young women, and how it’s another desperate attempt for validation. They’re quick to point out how offensive it is to be told “you’re not like other girls”, because there’s nothing really wrong with other girls. 

They’re right. Being the cool girl gives you a brief rush of validation, but if it’s not your real personality, it leaves you feeling empty. If you’re actually similar on the other hand — if really, you enjoy eating shit greasy hot dogs and being the only girl in a room and anal sex and football — then you shouldn’t feel bad for it. Nobody hates on Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods for being the epitome of girlishness: because she believes it, and she’s got more behind it, she’s a feminist icon. Why should it be any different for the girls who, under all the bullshit, are actually pretty cool?