14 Jun Pick Me!
Content warning: The following may be disturbing to some readers.
Should we be using the term ‘pick me girl’?
A 20-something guy huddles under his navy-blue sheets, knit brows illuminated by his phone screen. He chuckles at a sexist joke on social media, and heads straight to the comment section to see what the ‘snowflakes’ have to say. After a painstakingly long scroll through angry paragraphs containing valid points he will never read, there is finally a shining beacon of hope— “I’m a girl and I didn’t find this offensive!”
The hashtag ‘pickme’ has over 2 billion views on TikTok. #Pickmegirl is the runner up, raking in almost 500 million views. Evidently, this term has made an impact.
So what is a pick-me girl? Comment sections under the aforementioned hashtags are filled with discourse as to what constitutes ‘pick me’ behaviour, and here’s my take.
Being a ‘pick me’ involves working against the advancement of the oppressed group you’re part of in order to gain the favor of the oppressor. If someone is benefiting from an unequal system, it is in their best interest to maintain that system. As someone who is oppressed by that same system, abolition is in your best interest. Instead, some people choose the strategy of gaining the oppressor’s favour through supporting their cause, in an attempt to align themselves with that power. For example, responding to sexist remarks with statements like “I’m a girl and I didn’t find this offensive.” The sentence in itself implies a contradiction— It implies that despite being part of a social cohort who would presumably dislike the content in question, this person is different. ‘Not like the other girls,’ if you will. ‘Pick me’ people choose the counterintuitive strategy of prioritizing the oppressor’s comfort over their needs.
Negating the legitimacy of women’s issues to make men feel more comfortable is another ‘pick me’ behaviour. This is because downplaying the reality of patriarchy involves denying one’s own lived experience. ‘Pick me’ girls deny their own marginalization (i.e. “Women aren’t oppressed!”— a woman, who has almost certainly experienced gender-based oppression at some point in her life) in hopes of relieving guys of the earth-shaking realization that they may contribute to misogyny.
Essentially, to be a ‘pick me girl’ is to put down other women in the impossible pursuit of equality under the pretence of inequality. Rather than adopting the mentality of abolishing patriarchy, or even the flawed strategy of reforming the status quo under patriarchy—‘Pick me’ behaviour is about creating a false sense of individual ease. It’s like looking ahead at a minefield and telling yourself it’s just a field, refusing to acknowledge the hidden dangers. You might get through it just fine in blissful ignorance, but the people walking with you may not be so lucky.
Beyond this, ‘pick me’ girls’ negative impact disproportionately affects marginalized groups of women. For privileged women, who are oppressed solely on the basis of womanhood, it may be possible to be ignorant toward their own oppression. By no means is this to say that if they ignore or deny their oppression, it ceases to exist— but it is to say that these women may not realize the full extent to which gender impacts their lived experience. Because of this, privileged women may genuinely believe the ‘pick me’ ideas they indoctrinate. In contrast, it is far less likely that a woman who possesses multiple marginalized identities would be oblivious to her own oppression. These women are likely to experience heightened forms of misogyny— such as orientalist misogyny, misogynoir, transphobia, or heterosexism (to name a few). For many women who face these intersecting forms of oppression, it would be impossible to pretend their everyday barriers do not exist, or to project that falsified reality as a means of gaining power. We have established that pick me behaviour is counterproductive to feminism, but I would argue that it harms marginalized groups of women to a heightened degree. To misogynists, it gives the impression that any woman who does not simply ‘opt out’ of being offended is hypersensitive. Therefore when women who face intersecting forms of oppression speak out about their heightened experiences of misogyny, their responses are held against those of women who were able to ‘opt out’. This can result in women who speak up about issues that affect them being labeled as ‘dramatic’ or ‘overly sensitive.’
‘Pick me’ originated as a word to express the idea of women setting back women’s issues for male approval. Unfortunately, some people have missed the first and crucial half of that definition and instead use the term as a scapegoat to express blatant misogyny. These misguided people use ‘pick me’ to mock women for doing anything that they think is for male approval. This wrongful use of the term includes criticizing girls for wearing makeup to school (assuming it’s for male attention), or even making fun of girls who wear crop tops.
The problem I have with the term ‘pick me’ is that it is deeply ironic in where it places the blame. ‘Pick me’ aims to place the onus of the problem that is patriarchy on the women who show symptoms of internalized misogyny. ‘Pick me’ girls have internalized the notion that in order to gain social capital you must be likeable and agreeable to men. We see this in the way they regurgitate misogynists’ dogma with such conviction, you’d think it was their own. It is not only the ‘pick me’ girls who are choked by the grasp of hegemony, but also those who responded to this societal sickness by blaming women. Punishing pick-me girls is addressing the drip rather than the leaky tap. This is not to say anyone misogyny-affected should be absolved of their responsibility to counteract the issue– but we should focus on calling other women in, rather than calling them out. These women have already demonstrated that they are either unaware of gender-based inequalities, or do not care to resolve them. If we hope to change their perspectives, further alienating them from feminism through name-calling is not the answer.
The bottom line is that I won’t be using the term ‘pick me’ in the future because I know there are more effective ways of addressing internalized misogyny. While it’s important to address behaviour that impedes the progression of feminism, the creation of a new term to ridicule women is inherently counterproductive. I’m not going to conclude with some sugary sentiment like ‘girls should support girls!’ because I believe that accountability is necessary to make change. We should approach instances where people say counterproductive things as opportunities to enlighten rather than to label— imagine the ripple effect your knowledge could have.
If you had never heard of a ‘pick me girl’ before reading this, I’m glad. The origin story of this phrase points us to big-picture problems that require major solutions. Ideally, #pickme ‘s impact has not extended as far as the 2 billion+ view count infers. Though the implications of the term are striking, it is just a trend after all— an ephemeral piece of slang that will one day collect dust in the archives of Urban Dictionary.