You may not know the whole backstory on the Cool Girl, but you know the first time you came across this unicorn among women. She likes beer and burgers and sports. She isn’t super needy or melodramatic. She curses, burps, and maybe even arm-wrestles. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, but make no mistake — she’s still hot.
While she used to seem like a clearly liberal, left-leaning exception to every old-fashioned rule (see Olivia Wilde in Drinking Buddies, Jennifer Lawrence in everything), she’s begun to look more and more like an alt-right man’s wet dream. In Trump’s America, the cool girl now lives by the kinds of rules for female behavior you’d find in the Red Pill Women forum on Reddit: She’s happy to drastically reshape herself in a man’s image, acknowledging the natural balance of the gendered universe that ordains him as captain to her first mate.
Take a recent essay at Medium called “20 Things I Refuse to Fight About,” by a writer named Kris Gage. Gage, an early-30s woman who says she “loves motorcycles” and is “love avoidant,” calls bullshit on caring too much in a relationship by citing all the things she “omg literally does not give a fuck about.” They include:
- Who pays for the check: She will pay sooner than quibble.
- How often you see her: Every day or a few days a week, she DGAF.
- How often you text: She doesn’t care.
- Compliments: Who needs ‘em?
- Where you go in your free time: Up to you, babe!
- Whether you’re her boyfriend: Labels suck.
- Toothpaste: Toothpaste fights are for idiots.
- Cleaning: Hey, if it’s a clean house or a fight, she’ll clean.
- How much time spent together: You do you.
- Money: Who cares?!
- Sex: She loves it.
- Romance: It’s gross.
- Porn and strip clubs: don’t ask, don’t tell.
Gage—who, it comes as no surprise, also loves beer—thinks not fighting about these “stupid” things frees up mental energy as a couple to “focus on the bigger shit.” But if the “big shit” isn’t money, time spent together, division of domestic labor, sex (quality and frequency), and other kinds of domestic negotiations, what is actually left to focus on — whether the earthquake survival kit is stocked?
To be clear, Gage may be the chillest, coolest, fairest of them all, and may really believe the perfect relationship has no mundane hiccups whatsoever; Unfortunately, that can only be verified by the man she dated for five years and only saw once a week. The point of this piece is not to determine the reality of her assertions, but to understand the context in which women make such claims, and to what end. Why is it so important for Gage to point out that she’s “not like other girls”?
We’ve asked this question before. Gage’s assertions mimic the infamous passage in Gillian Flynn’s bestseller Gone Girl, wherein unreliable narrator Amy lays this type of woman bare:
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.
When the novel came out in 2012, and the film in 2014, the internet spun out doing takes on What It All Meant. Mostly, women took the opportunity to echo the sentiment Amy’s character goes on to express — the bewildering fact that men actually think this girl really exists. And she doesn’t.
“What struck me, and I’m sure many other women, was just how chillingly on the money the passage was,” Helen Coffey wrote at The Telegraph back in 2014. “You see people buying into this nonsense all the time — men chasing a nonexistent dream girl and, worse still, women doing their best to contort themselves into the preposterous mould because they think it’s what men want.”
“Contort” is the operative word here — being the woman a man wants you to be is not just the primary rule of the Cool Girl, it’s also in the playbook of Red Pill Women, who describe themselves in the forum as: “Self-aware women that work to identify their weaknesses, stifle their inner Bitch, and increase their female sexual value as much as possible in order to attract (or keep) a good RP man.” They accept the natural differences between men and women; they understand that women want to breed, and they want a good mate, and it’s on women to cultivate maximum femininity and deference to attract one. Problem is, they’re women, so most of the guides involve how to stop complaining, be more pleasant, and use other strategies to get a guy. They diligently work on avoiding commentary that could ever resemble nagging.
One woman writes that various behavior changes in these arenas have paid huge dividends in keeping her Red Pill man happy. “Made sure that before my SO gets home I’ve made our bed, had dinner ready, and the house was cleaned, just so that when we’re together we can relax and that this would also stop the bigger fights from bubbling up,” she enthuses.
Almost as troubling is that Red Pill Women are the ones who love Red Pill Men, whom you might describe as a mix between men’s rights activists and pickup artists; men who feel that they’ve lost everything at the expense of feminism; men who are looking for a deferential right-hand gal who knows how to hold down the fort while they go out hunting.
The women who actually want to date these men push the 1950s narrative of what is correct female behavior — the only difference being that they have jobs and shit — but the subtext is clear. Being a great catch means shrinking yourself to unbelievably tinier and tinier dimensions of not caring and not complaining — combined with maximum sexual availability — so that the man you’re with doesn’t have to be hassled.
Red Pill rules include no complaining about your significant other, forgoing an equal relationship (you don’t really want one, they insist), always being positive, and constantly working on yourself to be more pleasing to a man.
These men seek the “unicorn,” the ultimate woman to a Red Pill Man:
A “unicorn” is a highly desirable and extraordinarily rare woman. She surpasses all other women in personality, looks, and behavior. Some men on TRP don’t believe that unicorns exist. There’s also a lot of debate over what exactly makes a woman a “unicorn.” Some of the evidence is contradictory and ambiguous.
What is typically agreed upon is that unicorns are incredibly eager to please and perennially pleasant; their lives and personalities are entirely ordered around having the preferences of a potato.
This ideal is indistinguishable from Gage’s manifesto.
Former Cool Girls have written about the dark side of such contortions. One woman, Avery Jane Spencer, wrote in 2014 about a life growing up with all brothers and misogynistic parents who overpraised them and overvalued male accomplishment. To her, becoming a Cool Girl was an act of “survival and acceptance,” so she happily played the part until she realized it wasn’t a winning strategy.
As for dating, my romantic life panned out the same way this article said it would. I never “got the guy” because as soon as I got his attention, he’d get bored and move onto the next Cool Girl. A compliant, submissive, agreeable, and constantly flexible partner is a boring one. There’s no healthy debate, independent interests, self-examination or risk. Although I hated myself, I honestly thought that was the only path to love because that’s all I’d ever seen at that point in my life.
Alana Massey’s essay “Against Chill” carefully teases out the difference between cool and chill:
Excessive Chill is “You do you” taken to its most extreme conclusion, giving everyone’s opinions and interests equal value so long as they’re authentically ours.
The “Cool Girl” is, of course, remarkably dull in her interests because they center almost exclusively on the man with whom she is so inexplicably enraptured. But the “Cool Girl” has no Chill. She likes him far too much and lets it show. Chill is different — it is agreeable because it is emotionally vacant. Chill is what Cool would look like with a lobotomy and no hobbies. And for a large subset of the population, Chill is one of the most desirable qualities in a romantic prospect.
Either way, these women ultimately come off the same: too eager to seem like nothing gets to them, insisting that they are endless reservoirs of good times and sexual pleasure, yet devoid of the ability to get too worked up over the wrong thing. (The wrong thing is anything a man doesn’t think you should care about.)
The problem is, we eventually all get pissed about something, and no adult relationship is immune from bare minimum, idiosyncrasies or disputes about who will pick up the groceries. We all start to realize we do, after all, have a few terms of agreement. I’ve written about Cool Girls before, and in response to the notion that they are pure fiction, I countered that they are actually a phase — something younger women are more inclined to do out of insecurity or the need for male approval. But typically, as they grow into adulthood and careers, they can start to shed the immense social pressure that dictates this sort of pretense.
There is, of course, an alternative: being yourself. But that sort of misses the point of what Cool Girls want, which is to be adored for being so unique. Being real, having needs, and expecting them to be met won’t inspire entire Reddit subforums, nor will it compel men, like some guy named Anthony who swooned on Gage’s Medium post, to say, “This is fucking awesome! Do you have a sister? Lol!”
Sorry, guy, but even you should know Cool Girls don’t come around that often.