DrThe only way to not hear anything about Sophie Passman today is to hide under a stone, as the twenty-nine-year-old has long been one of the most prominent faces of her generation. She maintains hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and Tiktok. You can recognize her as a presenter, actress, podcaster, and author in the features section of “Zeit.” She also publishes highly successful books. Her most recent work is titled “Pick Me Girls.”
The term of the same name has recently become an online profession. Not particularly glamorous. Because the phrase “pick me girls” refers to women who do everything in their power to set themselves apart from their peers in order to gain male recognition. “Pick me a girl” shows clear disdain for vulgar women’s interests (shopping, wearing make-up, obsessing over weight loss), is extremely unsophisticated in every situation and says sentences like: “I just feel more comfortable in men’s circles” all day long and Bassman expands on his diagnosis “Pick me Girl” to the tragedy of female existence: “I think all women who grow up under patriarchy choose me, girl.” sometimes. Or earlier. Between them.” The exceptions are unthinkable. The ultimate “Pick me a girl”, according to this logic, is the woman who claims she will never be a “Pick me a girl.” Because this automatically meets the “Pick me a girl” criterion: the desire to be Different from other women.
Adapts unconditionally to the partner
To illustrate this claim, Passman draws on bits and pieces of her autobiography, full of “pick me girl” phases, and combines this with a meandering foray through pop culture and the Internet. It’s about eating disorders, failed relationships, sexual harassment, Botox, sitcoms, and shitstorms. The entire tune is aimed at entertainment and outright, word-laden cruelty to self and the world. In places, it’s definitely worth reading, such as when Passman looks at her teenage self and describes a specifically female version of the inevitable coming-of-age passion story, those years between the longing to belong, the need for differentiation and nagging feelings of embarrassment.
But above all, the author does one thing: unobstructedly entrench gender stereotypes, even if she sometimes pretends to dismantle them. She does not criticize the dominance of the male gaze so much as invokes it. She describes the fact that women are “absolutely and constantly focused on men” as an almost law of nature. So the goal cannot be to free yourself from it, but to come to terms with it. It seems that Basman only knows women who abandon themselves in relationships and adapt unconditionally to their partner, while the latter seeks to practice his hobbies and callings as a matter of course. This observation leads to another. “Women today are not as interesting as young men,” Passman discovered. Is this still a post-ironic critique of patriarchy or is it a blatant expression of internalized misogyny?
A hymn to quiet female self-confidence
Now these quotes have been taken out of context. That’s what quotes are. But even if we reproduced half of Passman’s book at this point, it would help no one. Because there is a semblance of mental connection or coherence to it, it usually lasts only one paragraph. It is full of contradictions and half-baked things. Trivialities, such as the call to dare to be more rebellious in femininity, also increase. A sentence like “I think women should be ruder, tougher, more brutal, more indifferent” seems today as poignant as the annoying saying “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”
Aside from that: weren’t the rude, cruel women he suddenly longed for here just a few pages ago “picking girls for me” who were only imitating “male” characteristics? The term, which was initially defined arbitrarily by Passman, has long since turned into complete arbitrariness. Every now and then, a thoughtful everyday observation or clever, well-crafted thought flashes through, and as a reader you become more and more disturbed because it’s clear what potential is being squandered here.
At one point Passman sings the praises of quiet female self-confidence. She’s clearly decided in the last few pages that she thinks it’s great if women constantly stop wanting to learn about males. Perhaps a large part of her self-confidence comes from knowing that she can publish books that are automatically purchased by legions of fans, no matter how superficial, twisted, and pseudo-feminist the content.
Sophie Passman: “Choose me girls.” Kiepenheuer & Witsch Verlag, Cologne 2023. 224 pages, hardback, €22.
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