Even if you have not read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or seen the recent film adaptation, you are probably familiar with the term “cool girl.” Since Flynn’s description of a Cool Girl as narrated by the main character Amy is perfection, I will repost it below:
Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? 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.
Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, co-workers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.
Many articles have surfaced up since the advent of the book/movie (BuzzFeed, Telegraph, Jezebel) discussing whether the cool girl is a mythical male fantasy, a real personality, or just a phase. A few of the BuzzFeed comments vehemently expressed their dislike for the concept, stating that they like doing all the above mentioned activities and that does not make them a bad person. Unfortunately, these individuals have missed the point. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having “non-feminine” hobbies, activities, or qualities. Actually, that is pretty cool (pun intended). The crowning quality of a Cool Girl is “never, ever getting pissed off ” (Telegraph).
A Cool Girl is the ultimate low-maintenance female with a complete lack of expression and emotional need. As the writer from the Telegraph relates, “It makes her two-dimensional and subservient … Pretty soon I felt like a very understanding doormat.” The Cool Girl creates a constant aura of indifference and feigned nonchalance and ultimate submission to the men she entertains. All energy is invested in obtaining this Cool Girl Status and attention. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being cool; there is an absence of self worth and independence that surrounds the Cool Girl. As a former-Cool-Girl shares, “When you are chasing after qualities that you do not possess (but qualities you think a guy would want), you have decided on some level that you just don’t cut it. You feel a need to put on this song and dance, because you feel like the Real You doesn’t deserve love.”
The Jezebel exploration of the Cool Girl poses her as a phase in the development of a woman.
I think she’s a perfect role to inhabit in your twenties when you’re unsure of yourself (and who isn’t?), trying on identities for size still, still working out your needs and how to get them met, and likely running with a pack of dudes who value such hedonistic detachment. I think a Cool Girl offers a way of moving through the world with protective armor over the girl you still are and the woman you’re yet to become, while still courting all the adoration and fawning we’re taught to hold so dear.
I take issue with this point of view. First, it legitimizes the Cool Girl as a necessary fact of life. A Cool Girl is unrealistic, unbalanced, unhealthy… she is not a persona to try on and have fun. Being a Cool Girl is an awful experience, meeting almost none of your actual needs and erasing your personality. It also legitimizes and emphasizes the pursuit of superficial, meaningless lust and desire. Women want appreciation and sincere attention way more than a “pack of dudes.” Furthermore, the author implies that a Cool Girl is the one and only way to receive attention and desire. This is the exact irony of the Cool Girl persona and her portrayal in the media. Personally, I have always found successful, passionate, expressive people who enjoy life quite desirable. Understanding doormats? Not so much. The article concludes saying that women tend to grow up and “mellow” out as time goes on. They suppose that no Cool Girls exist beyond the age of 30. I also tend to disagree with that; the tendency to mimic the Cool Girl and her nonchalance in the pursuit of approval spans all age groups.
Additionally, why is the foil of the Cool Girl someone who is “mellow” and “settled?” I would propose that escaping the Cool Girl is actually the opposite: the growth of personality, desire, and expression. How much more mellow can you become while attempting to be the ultimate low-maintenance girlfriend? I have no intention of mellowing into another stereotype as I grow older.
Ultimately, I have not been able to truly identify whether the Cool Girl exists, is a phase, or a trope. However, I absolutely agree with the Hello Giggles definition of the Cool Girl as a trap:
And the concept of the Cool Girl is so pervasive that sometimes you don’t even realize you’re doing it. You grow up watching movie after movie, TV show after TV show, where female characters are essentially props to further the guys’ story. You are told in not-so-subtle terms that this is what guys find attractive, and you hear the men around you when they wholeheartedly agree. So you go into the dating world hoping to be the Manic Pixie Dream Girl or the Hot Girl from Afar, the Cool Girl, but never, ever, You.
Instead, we need to recognize just how easy it is to fall into the Cool Girl trap, and what it says about our culture that this archetype is so prevalent and so powerful. Perhaps it’s time to call out writers who veer back to this overused trope. Perhaps we can focus all that energy we once used to be the Cool Girl – or to hate her – and channel it towards a new definition of “cool,” one that is synonymous with being yourself.
I know I stray into the Cool Girl trap, searching for instantaneous attention and affection. Sometimes I believe that she is the only way to warrant attention and desire. Sometimes I am an understanding doormat. Not surprisingly, it is quite ineffective in fulfilling my emotional needs. Throughout all these articles, it is unclear if the Cool Girl is really what men want… Are attractive men really interested in long term relationships with understanding doormats with the right list of superficial characteristics? I think attractive men are most attracted to you. Let us put the Cool Girl in box of mystical creatures with the unicorns (and not narwhals) and spend more time demanding what we deserve from life.