Cool girls. Gillian Flynn summed them up in the novel Gone Girl, perhaps the strongest bit of the book for me: “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.”
You would think a person in their thirties, a person almost thirty five, in fact, would not be obsessed with these kinds of things. You would think the same person, appearing to have their whole life together, would reject the 'cool girl' concept as the anti-feminist schlock it really is. Because we are women now, women, not girls, and as adults, as grown ups, as women-not-girls, we are supposed to be comfortable with our life choices, not have odd moments of dreamy despair when we wonder if we're cool now, if we've ever been cool, if being cool is something one can aspire to or is it just something you're born with like straight hair and fast metabolism?
Definitions of the cool girl change depending on which group of people you're hanging out with. Drink smoothies with the health nuts, and the cool girl is the one commanding the room with her talk of advanced yoga, her tank top falling oh-so-casually off one emaciated shoulder, her recommendations of super foods, her month at a fancy health retreat.
Move one group over to the intellectuals, and your cool girl is wearing a sari, telling a group of people about the other intellectuals she was just hanging out with last week, she will have her shoulder touched by a million people all wanting to stop and say hi, when she declaims an opinion, the whole room will be filled with the hushed silence of people leaning in to listen. You can feel her rolling her eyes at you if you say something she disagrees with.
Over on the opposite end of the spectrum, there's the cool girl who is drinking a beer, leaning back in her chair and laughing really hard at a story about some adventure she's just had, or she's informing you that of all the music festivals in the world, the one she went for last week was really the best one, and you believe her, because she's so cool, her phone never stops buzzing, and she never stops looking at it, except when the other cool girls walk in, then she puts it down and doesn't pick it up all evening.
There's a great article in The New Statesman by Sarah Ditum called Against Cool Girl Feminism. Cool Girl Feminists, she argues, look at feminism from the point of view of men, and they do the things they do, not because they enjoy them, but because they want approval from the gender they aspire to be. “Being a Cool Girl can be liberating,” she says, “There's something splendidly freeing about announcing that you are not as other women are, and refusing to see yourself as victimised simply because you belong to the inferior class. It is, to use a despised word, empowering. But understanding how power works and using it to your own advantage is not the same thing as feminism.”
Simply put, to declare yourself “not like other girls”, “oh, I'm just one of the boys” or most troubling, “I don't get other women, I only get on with men” is a disservice to the entire feminist movement. But that's how cool girls operate, they need to be distinct, different, in order to stand out, how can they be cool girls, if everyone else is also cool?
You learn to recognise them for what they are. Sometimes you're a bit of a Cool Girl yourself, faking it till you make it, glancing in the ladies room mirror at someone who has just come in behind you, and appraising them in an instant of eye contact. You're a Cool Girl when you don't smile at the most reticent person in the room, you're a Cool Girl when you deliberately let your expressions mock someone else's life experience and they grow silent under your oh-so-amused smirk.
Cool Girls bully. Cool Girls light up when they feel like they are hitting all the right buttons from which they are seen to the best effect on the stage they have constructed for themselves. Cool Girls allow you to admire, and their worlds are a constant reflection of this, online and offline. Cool Girls make statements like, “I'm not a feminist, but.” Cool Girls sometimes reconsider their positions on feminism depending on the audience they're in front of.
Cool Girls are, in short, not Cool Women.