Two illustrators show there is no typical — or right — way to be a girl
Student illustrators Ellie Lee and Tara Anand created “I Am Like Other Girls,” an Instagram project that FOSTERED solidarity amongst young women.
College students Ellie Lee and Tara Anand were tired of hearing their peers tear each other down by asserting: “I’m not like other girls.” I’m not like other girls, they are petty. I’m not like other girls, they don’t like sports. I’m not like other girls, they cause drama. The popular expression perpetuates negative stereotypes about being a girl, generalises an entire gender and does more to set us apart than bring us together.
“The fact is that phrases like this are so normalized in society that we don’t even realize the damage it’s doing,” explains Ellie. “Think about how much hate for your own gender you must have been taught growing up to cast it away like that?”
The two friends are currently studying at the School of Visual Arts in the U.S. They decided to use their talents as illustrators to tackle the issue and show there is no typical — or right — way to be a girl. Ellie and Tara started “I Am Like Other Girls,” an Instagram project that featured illustrations of young women around the world along with a line about themselves: “I don’t like cooking and I am like other girls,” “I like math and I am like other girls” and “I cry a lot and I am like other girls.”
Submissions poured in from around the world, from Pakistan to The Netherlands to Kuwait. The “I Am Like Other Girls” team worked to illustrate and post every submission they received. Tara says they did this to ensure they were “not curating the range of ideas that come to us.” To keep up with the demand, the pair brought on 14 illustrators and began accepting drawings done by other artists. The project ran from November 2017 to January 2019 and amassed 15,000 followers on Instagram. “We were so shocked when we realized how many people felt the same way as we did,” Ellie said of the project’s success.
Tara hoped their work showed “how much diversity exists in women all over the world.” By expanding what is considered typical of being a girl, Ellie and Tara challenged how femininity is defined. “We believe femininity is what you make of it and we want other girls to see that as well,” Tara shares. “Usually girls that do non-traditionally feminine things are seen as outliers and so those things are not brought into the feminine sphere.” Posts on their page like “I like to take the lead and I am like other girls,” “I love my body hair and I am like other girls” and “I like to build muscle and I am like other girls” helped challenge these outdated attitudes.
Ellie and Tara’s advice to girls is simple: celebrate your individuality, but there is no need to distance yourself from your peers. “It’s so much lovelier to be surrounded by amazing, accomplished individuals rather than to try and distance yourself from people who you think are just following the crowd,” says Tara. “The latter is so lonely.”
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about the author
Omolara Uthman is a Malala Fund editorial intern and student at Johns Hopkins University. She loves reading, writing and food photography.