What this is supposed to mean: Other people, usually of a different gender, say this as a way to make you feel special and unique. They use this tagline as a way of differentiating you from a category you belong to, as a way of explaining why they are attracted to you, or why they want to be around you. By saying you’re not like other girls, they put you on a pedestal, and justify their love or appreciation for you. So you’re not like other girls is supposed to be a compliment, and a way to make you feel unique and special.
What it actually means: When someone says ‘you’re not like other girls’, they’re belittling an entire gender. The ‘other girl’ is an amalgamation of all the negative stereotypes society has about girls– they’re petty, cruel, bitchy, weak, bad leaders, overly emotional, passive, etc. By revealing that this is how they view other girls, a person shows you how they truly view females. ‘You’re not like other girls’ is a statement laden with inherent prejudice.
What it leads to: The statement ‘you’re not like other girls’ pits you against your own gender. It reinforces the notion that the only positive traits are the ones associated with masculinity, and feminine traits are bad, and must be discarded. Especially if you hear this statement as a teenager or younger you’re more likely to distance yourself from feminine activities or traits as you grow older. It makes you believe that to be worthy of attention, you must be less of a girl. Less feminine. The phrase makes you put other people down in order to make yourself feel worthwhile. “You’re not like other girls” sows the seeds of hatred in you. There is power in femininity, just as there is in masculinity, and phrases like this seek to undermine that power, and make you believe to do well you must present yourself as a ‘cool girl’– a girl who has traits associated with masculinity and enjoys activities seen as masculine.
How to respond: When someone tells you you’re not like other girls, correct them. Ask them why being like other girls is a bad thing. Tell them that you’re glad they like you, but you’re proud of the gender you belong to and you would rather not belittle all the amazing girls you know by insisting you’re not like them to satisfy a patriarchal stereotype of what girls are. At the end of the day, all girls aren’t the same, just like all boys aren’t, and it’s harmful to assume they are all different versions of the same mold. So, when someone tells you you’re not like other girls, call them out.