As a woman, being told you are like a man is meant to be either a great compliment or a grave insult depending on whether it is aimed at your personality or your body. Being called like a guy when it refers to your personality is akin to being called a “good immigrant”, it implies you are exceptional – not like all the other women – and is therefore a status to be coveted. In general this implies you do not have the common character traits assigned to women, i.e. being bitchy, not saying what you mean, and an interest in fashion and clothes that is stupid and frivolous.
When I was a child (before my parents sent me to an all girls school) I sought this kind of approval, claiming that most of my friends were boys, that girls were too bitchy for me and I just didn’t understand them. This was a strategy to put myself into the special snowflake category of girl that was not like all the other girls.
It’s easy to fall into this trap. Everyday as a girl growing up you are told that being a girl is totes the worst thing ever, (as I have discussed here and here), so after a while for some people the response is to try and become as un-girly as possible.
Now that I am older, I value my female friendships. I value being a woman and what that means to me. Being a woman is different for everyone who identifies as one and I have no desire to get into a gender essentialist pile of horse-shit about what being a woman “really means”. Bitchyness, complexity and interest in appearance is not determined by whether you have one X or two.
What I do know is that I no longer take being called “like a guy” or anything similar when said about my personality as compliment. The parts I like about myself are just as much a part of my womanhood as the parts I like less. There is nothing inherently masculine about them.
The way female friendships are often portrayed in the media, especially teenagers, as being competitive rather than supportive and rife with bullying and emotional abuse is not something I have ever experienced with my female friends. This is not to say that it does not happen, but this oh so prevalent narrative is not necessarily the dominant experience of female friendship, even for teenagers. It is a trope. Simple uncomplicated friendships are not something that is the exclusive provence of males, and many males have experienced the kind of friendships that are normally thought of as only belonging to females. At the end of the day it is probably just luck of the draw.
I no longer feel the need to sell out my sex/gender for the illusory power/privilege that can come with being seen as “just one of the guys”. Accepting this status means accepting all the inferences about women that come with it. That is something I am certainly not comfortable with.