Pick Me Girl discourse is everywhere online. On TikTok alone the hashtag “pick me” has 7.6 billion views and “pick me girl” has another three billion and counting. At its core, the term is a critique of women who seek the attention of men, and always at the expense of other women. A Pick Me might act coy or quirky around men, and subtly or overtly put down the women around her. Other women might, in the eyes of a Pick Me, be too “dramatic” or “girly”—but not her. The Pick Me is the quintessential “not like other girls” trope, a woman who hopes to be seen, and literally picked, by men as different, even exceptional. It sounds exhausting.
To talk about Pick Me behavior, then, is to talk about the subconscious contempt towards women that people of all genders are socialized to believe and act on. “Patriarchal expectations of women teach us that a woman’s value is conferred through her ability to attract a man; she is thus turned into an ‘object’ of male desire. So, many cisgender heterosexual women internalize behaviors or viewpoints that they understand as being ‘attractive’ to men,” says Dr. Christina Riley, professorial lecturer on critical race, gender, and cultural studies at American University. Pick Me characteristics—like “drinking whiskey, obsessing over football, or making fun of ‘girly’ girls,” Riley says—help make this phenomenon visible.
But what started as an earnest critique of power, gender, and identity quickly became a catch-all for any woman or girl deemed too annoying, too attractive, or too friendly. On TikTok, the Pick Me label is applied to almost any type of girl, including those who wear skirts in certain ways or even have a name that starts with the letter M. In fact, the critique has morphed so much that it has led to the strange, meta rise of the anti-Pick Me: a girl who insists she is definitely not like other Pick Mes, but still revels in the same put downs against other women. Except this time, it’s in the name of feminist empowerment rather than male attention.
It’s not hard to identify the anti-Pick Me. It’s not in her dress, her makeup, or her hair style. It’s in her attitude, and the condescension she exhibits through body language, words, and captions. In this skit, a creator mimics a standard Pick Me girl and the men who want her. The caption exudes anti-Pick Me energy: “They are so naive, it’s giving me the ick.” In this video, another creator mocks Pick Me Girls who wear sexy dresses and makeup; instead, the creator brags, she’s the one who can “actually” get men, all while dressed in sweats and playing video games. No matter what she looks like, or the lip syncs and skit formats she chooses, the anti-Pick Me thinks she’s above whatever the Pick Me is doing—even as she craves the same external validation.
Madeline Webster, 29, has seen the anti-Pick Me pile-on happening all over social media. “I’m always suspicious of a trend that blames women for sexism. They’re simply too easy of targets,” she says. “That said, I think all of us have felt what it feels like to be hurt by a woman stepping outside of solidarity, or ‘being a Pick Me.’ And I think that feels more painful than the ways that men hurt us sometimes, because we expect it of men.”
To understand the rise of the anti-Pick Me girl, it’s important to track the term’s origins. Like many far-reaching internet trends, memes, and social justice causes, Pick Me has its roots in Black Twitter. Starting on Twitter in the mid 2010s, the hashtag #TweetLikeAPickMe often satirized what behaviors did and did not make for a good wife. But as Buzzfeed noted in 2021, terms that originate in Black communities, like “cancel” and “woke,” are often “stripped of their original, more nuanced meanings among Black people.” In some ways, Pick Me has gone the route of “Karen”—another gendered critique that went from confronting the ways white women uphold and embrace white supremacy to a catch-all insult describing nearly any middle-aged white woman with a questionable haircut.
And as the term traveled from more intimate Twitter settings to other social media platforms, “suddenly, everyone was weighing in on the ‘Pick Me girl,’ everyone had something to add to the list of grievances pitted against this figure, to the point where literally anything could qualify someone as a ‘Pick Me girl,’” says Riley. “What this does, then, is it broadens the terms for women-bashing.” Young girls suffer from cyberbullying at disproportionate levels, she adds, making an already-vulnerable group a bigger target.
Many people have been Pick Me Girls at one point or another not as a way to feel better about themselves, but to survive bullying, high school, and cultural expectations.
Jade Sky, 27, was pressured into femininity by their family. They were forced to do pageants as a child by their grandmother at their local Filipino cultural society, while at the same time they were being bullied at school for their “floofy dresses and femininity.” Eventually, Jade learned to pride themselves on being a tomboy and flipped the script on their bullies, making fun of them in turn. “I relate to the Pick Me Girl because I did that and kept it up well into high school as a way to stay safe, or at least create a little cadre of other people who were bullied by pretty girls,” Jade says. “But it was like false safety. Those girls weren’t cruel because they were girly. They were mean because they were mean. Those things aren’t synonymous.”
Like Jade, anyone too feminine runs the risk of harassment. Girls who paint their nails and use eyelash curlers are the new Pick Me’s. A Pick Me might also be any woman in public who goes out to a bar and laughs. And it’s in this open season environment where the anti-Pick Me thrives, exhibiting the same basic behaviors as a Pick Me, only with a pseudo-feminist twist: She jealously guards male attention (but deserves the attention because she’s more authentic than other girls), she looks down on femininity (but can opt in and out when it suits her), and separates herself from other women as “better” (but only because she’s, apparently, more well-versed in heteronormativity and sexism).
It’s this recycled misogyny that makes the anti-Pick Me so meta—and so cutting. As the Pick Me Girl falls off, the Don’t Pick Me Girl continues right where she left off, encouraging others to pick apart young women for external validation, attention, and of course, likes.
The anti-Pick Me is not confined to making fun of young women, either. In fact, she trend hops to blast others harmed by a misogynistic world. For example, almond moms—mothers with disordered eating who attempt to control and shame their daughters’ bodies—have not escaped anti-Pick Me (which is to say, pseudo-feminist) ridicule, not even by their own daughters.
Madeline had an almond mom and isn’t looking to “excuse the shitty things women do to each other.” But she also finds compassion for her mother, knowing that “[she] was as much a victim of her upbringing as I became one of mine.” Accountability, for Madeline, must be loving. “If we can recognize girlhood as potentially traumatic under patriarchy, then maybe we can take a trauma-informed approach to one another’s behavior,” she says.
Talking about that behavior means thinking critically about who gets laughed at: the people harmed by heteronormativity or the systems themselves?
It’s not a surprise, says Riley, that digital content meant to criticize the internalized misogyny of the Pick Me Girl ultimately degrades women and upholds masculinized control. “After all, such patriarchal viewpoints are the reflexive, latent beliefs that order much of the world,” she says. And ultimately, critiquing misogyny should mean punching up at that which produces Pick Me Girls, not punching down.
Sara Youngblood Gregory is a lesbian journalist and author of “The Polyamory Workbook.” They cover sex, culture, and identity.