Fellas, The ‘Cool Girl’ Expectation Needs To Stop With Us


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Even if you haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s fantastic book, Gone Girl, you’ve probably heard about “the cool girl” trope; a set of behaviours outlined by one of the characters. And chances are, you’ve probably met a cool girl in real life.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, I won’t summarise because Flynn nails it:

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.

Unfortunately, this trope exists not only in countless works of fiction, but in real life, too.

How I Met Your (Extremely Chill) Mother

Photo: How I Met Your Mother/CBS

Take the eponymous mother – Tracy – in How I Met Your Mother. Fans of the show will recall how much hype there was around this character, and when she was finally revealed she was… A female Ted. Yep, Ted’s ideal woman turned out to be himself, with breasts.

From having similar neuroses and quirks to automatically understanding all of his friends’ in-jokes (because of course) and, creepily, even looking a bit like Ted, the thrust of the character is that she’s perfect for Ted because she fucking is Ted. So realistic!

And then there’s the one that started it all – the character that Gillian Flynn has cited as inspiring her now-infamous passage – Cameron Diaz as Mary in There’s Something About Mary. To quote the lady herself, “I want a guy who can play 36 holes of golf and still have enough energy to take Warren and me to a baseball game, and eat sausages, and beer—not light beer, but beer.”

Yep, the woman with perfect skin and a physique that looks almost terminally excused from the effects of carbohydrates can think of nothing more romantic than washing down a hotdog with a few brewskies. Sounds legit.

She Woke Up Like That

But then, effortless beauty is a key part of the cool girl’s mystique. Just like Mary, Tracy from HIMYM (and, it needs to be said, Robin Scherbatsky) is a beer chugging, burger-loving good timer who happens to be a size six.

We are never shown these women going to the gym or calculating their macronutrient intake, because obsessing about your looks is girly, and girly isn’t cool. You should just be sexy, not worry about being sexy!

Worryingly, I’ve encountered more than a few real-life ladies who’ve actually tried to live by this credo. The myth of the cool girl has become so prevalent that some women are willing to contort themselves to fit this ultimately destructive model of womanhood.

The Doctrine Of Dudeship

Photo: She’s All That/FilmColony

Of course, the cool girl and her relatives are not the sole invention of women. They’re a response to male ideals. And male ideals have a better chance of being echoed in and perpetuated by popular culture than female ideals. It’s just part of the wider problem of male privilege.

I think the central issue here is male gender stereotypes. Though gender roles are becoming increasingly fluid, men and boys are still routinely encouraged to be nothing more than hard-drinking, video gaming, meat-eating larrikins whose emotions are confined to amusement and “fuck she’s alright”.

The men who cling to such a narrow and fragile model of manhood are left feeling incredibly insecure, and they resent their masculinity being challenged. This is why boys’ clubs exist; they’re an environment where men can flex and pander and reinforce each other’s adherence to the doctrine of dudeship without being called on their bullshit. It’s the ultimate safe-space for fragile masculinity.

It’s Time We Grew Out Of This Shit

Photo: 500 Days Of Summer/Fox Searchlight

Cool girls are simply women who know the rules of the boys’ club so well that they’re permitted to participate in it. They’re everything the insecure man wants: female sexuality wrapped up in a fun, non-challenging, boys-club-friendly package that’s easy on the eye and the ego.

“Guys… We need to realise how destructive our expectations can be.”

The cool girl trope is a rejection of femininity. It’s a coded way of saying that everything about women is lame except for the T’n’A. It encourages self-denial in women while pandering to male entitlement.

Guys, it’s about time we grew out of this shit. Placing cool girl expectations on women is like women expecting us to be uniformly tall, muscular, sensitive lotharios who can change a flat while quoting Austen – it’s not going to happen, and nor should it.

We need to realise how destructive our expectations can be, and stop selectively rejecting the elements of womanhood that threaten our privilege.

It’s just not cool.

(Lead image: How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days/Paramount Pictures)

Joel Svensson is a Canberra-based writer originally from Melbourne. He’s written more latté-fuelled stories about first-world problems than he cares to admit, and can be found coping with misleading hashtags at @le0jay.