Tag Archives: culture

In pop culture, girls who crush hopelessly on guys they can’t have are painted as just that – hopeless. Over and over again, we’re taught that girls who openly express sexual or romantic interest in guys who don’t want them are pitiable, stalkerish, desperate, crazy bitches. More often than not, they’re also portrayed as ugly – whether physically, emotionally or both – in order to further establish their undesirability as an objective fact. Both narratively and, as a consequence, in real life, men are given free reign to snub, abuse, mislead and talk down to such women: we’re raised to believe that female desire is unseemly, so that any consequent shaming is therefore deserved. There is no female-equivalent Friend Zone terminology because, in the language of our culture, a man’s romantic choices are considered sacrosanct and inviolable. If a girl has been told no, then she has only herself to blame for anything that happens next – but if a woman says no, then she must not really mean it. Or, if she does, she shouldn’t: the rejected man is a universally sympathetic figure, and everyone from moviegoers to platonic onlookers will scream at her to just give him a chance, as though her rejection must always be unfounded rather than based on the fact that he had a chance, and blew it. And even then, give him another one! The pathos of Single Nice Guys can only be eased by pity-sex with unwilling women that blossoms into romance!

— Lamenting the Friendzone, or: The Nice Guy Approach to Perpetuating Sexist Bullshit (via ignify)

Part of what I failed to express last time a ‘friend zone’ discussion came up.

BF vs. BFF and Cultural Constructions

When I was on facebook the other day I noticed one of my friends had posted this msn article: 20 Reasons a Best Friend is Better than a Boyfriend. It’s actually an exert from the relationship blog Smitten, written by Erin Meanley. When I read it I was literally surprised by how angry it made me feel. I mean, I enjoyed twilight, I like gossipy magazines, and yet this simple countdown upset me from the very intro. Now that I’ve had a while to cool off I would like to explain why I disagree so strongly with the piece of writing in question.

Let’s look at the intro to start:

Believe it: a true friend is way more valuable than a boyfriend. The same is true when you’re 20 as when you’re 80. So while some of you may be scrambling to meet a guy or working overtime to make a relationship happen, just remember that your best friend is for life. The guys will come and go — and they’ll cause a lot of drama in between. In case you need a reminder, I’ve listed 20 reasons a BFF is more important than a BF!

The first thing that struck me was the statement that guys are more likely to cause drama and girls stay friends for life. I’ve had more than my share of fair weather friends to know that friendships between girls have no magical permanence. I would argue that both girls and boys contribute a fair amount of drama to teenage girls’ lives. The other thing I didn’t like is that friendships and relationships are already becoming polarized. The impression being given off is that girls can only be friends with girls and only have romantic relationships with boys. This simply isn’t true, and the more that media, tv shows, magazines, books, movies and cultural gives off that message the harder it is for girls and boys to remember that they can have fulfilling friendships with one another, and the more judgmental they tend to be of those who don’t follow these stereotypes. The funny thing is that I agree that cultivating friendships is more important than getting the guy. However, I find the reasons argued here appalling. Lets move on to the first point:

1. A best friend doesn’t care if you haven’t shaved your legs or painted your nails today.

Here enters another main issue: reinforcing the idea that most girls, including I, have struggled with, that boys are only interested in girls’ looks. I am sure that there are boys out there like that, and it’s a good idea to avoid them. However, there are many guys who want more than looks out of a relationship. People who only focus on their looks tend not to be very interesting people to be around, and are often quite self absorbed. I’ve also known girls to be quite cruel to girls they don’t think are ‘pretty enough.’ So, summarized, girls can be both superficial and insecure at times and boys can be interested in funny, smart, thoughtful girls who don’t spend excessive amounts of time on their appearance.

2. A best friend doesn’t make you watch boxing on TV.

One of my best friends is a wrestler, and my boyfriend is more likely to make me watch The Little Mermaid than boxing. Furthermore, my friends and I chose what to watch together, and my boyfriend and I take turns. Surprisingly, a large number of my male friends favour animated kids’ movies over all other forms of entertainment. I don’t like the implication of this statement that only guys are interested in sports and that they get to pick what’s on tv. Maybe some relationships are like that, but I have yet to come across one outside a sitcom.

3. A best friend is equally as literate in The Bachelor and DWTS as you are.

Personally I’ve never watched DWTS and have only watched The Bachelor a couple of times. As a rule I don’t like when things, whether tv shows, colours, or career choices, are split in to girl things and boy things. I’m finding that this article is doing that a lot and it bothers me. I think it’s true that best friends often are interested in the same things, and are experts, so to speak, in those areas. However, I don’t think tv is a very interesting thing to have in common. I also disprove of the assumption made throughout this article that that girls best friends must be girls. I prefer a world in which media encourages girls and boys who are interested in robotics to become friends. Or perhaps who share a love of origami and making their own sushi. I mean, is anyone really passionate about reality tv? Once it get’s to that point don’t you think it’s time to rethink your life?

4. A best friend doesn’t booty call you.

So I don’t really have personal experience with this one. However, I was under the impression that booty calls are more random acquaintance territory. I know there are guys who go after girls with the hopes of sleeping with them, but girls can have fishy motives when it comes to friendships as well. People’s intentions are unpleasant sometimes, and it’s something to be aware of. There are guys out there who are respectful to girls and their girlfriends. It irritates me that the ditzy girl and sex crazed boy stereotypes seem to be treated like facct in this article. There are so many people out there, all with individual personalities, so it seems counter productive to swear off boyfriends because boys make booty calls sometimes. After all, girls make booty calls sometimes too, though admittedly, probably less often.

5. A best friend isn’t concerned whether you’re Julia Child or not.

My boyfriend cooks about as much as I do. maybe more. I mean, there are stay at home dads these days. Lots of people share cooking. Plus, who cooks together when they’re teenagers?! It’s not like they’re living together, right? If so that brings up some other concerns, depending on ages, maturity….

(My rant for number 5 before I remembered Julia Child is a cook: Okay, so see my critique of point 1. Looks aren’t everything people. Girls and boys both sometimes fall victim to that belief regardless. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not a one sided thing, or limited to romantic encounters. Kids are often bullied because of their appearance by girls and boys alike. It’s shallow and sad, but not limited by gender. In fact, if I take my viewing of Dating in the Dark (After what I said about reality tv, I know, but it doesn’t rule my world) in to account, boys are much more likely to date a girl they feel an emotional connection with but who doesn’t fit their ‘physical type’ then a girl is (I don’t have any legit proof I know, yadda yadda, but that show is the closest to a scientific study I have.)

6. You won’t have to diet to meet your best friend’s mom.

It is my personal opinion that dieting is a unhealthy way to lose weight, and that it’s more important to eat healthy and exercise. I also know that different people have different body shapes and metabolisms. Being in good shape doesn’t necessarily look the same for different people. All that aside, I’ve never even heard of someone in the movies dieting to meet a boyfriend’s mom. I mean, who does that? I know lots of people try to impress their significant other’s parents, but by dieting, of all things? Really? I know my parents are much more impressed with kindness, intelligence, humour, passion and a good attitude. I think they’re FAR from alone. I know my parents put much more value on having healthy, loving relationships than how ‘hot’ my boyfriend is. Dieting doesn’t even have the merits that come with getting in shape, as it isn’t a particularly healthy way to lose weight in most cases.

7. A best friend doesn’t talk about marriage just because s/he thinks it’s what you want to hear.

I admit that this may be a problem in some relationships, however, so far this article has appeared, to me at least, to be very focused on teens. I doubt this is an issue for them very often. In addition, I believe that the very pillar of a relationship is being comfortable enough with one another that you can talk to each other about just about anything, including marriage. I don’t mean talking about marriage in an empty promise way, but honestly and openly. If it is important to someone in a healthy relationship, male or female, they should be able to discuss it openly with their partner. This all ties in to one of the major points this article and I clash on: Whether or not you can be good friends, or even best friends, with the person you’re dating. I believe this is extremely important, and central to having a healthy relationship. This article, well, seems to disagree.

8. A best friend doesn’t spook at the word “baby.”

I think lots of people, boys and girls alike, have issues with emotional intimacy. The stereotype is that guys have a lot of issues with intimacy. I don’t really buy in. Both girls and boys put up walls to protect themselves. Girls tend to be more comfortable with lovey nicknames within their circle of friends and their relationships. However, I think lots of boys like nicknames as much as girls do. Likewise, some girls are uncomfortable with them. The split is not along the gender line, and acting as if it is is unproductive. Holding that world view can prevent people from reaching out to one another across it. Girls and boys are not inherently different species. Through nurture and nature boys and girls are more commonly inclined to some traits, however, there are lots of people who don’t fit gender roles or stereotypes. Millions of them. Slight tendencies are often exaggerated by the media. It’s safest to work off what you’ve learned about someone firsthand instead of assuming the fit lofty generalizations.

9. A best friend understands your issues about bangs, periods, nasty bosses, push-up bras, straightening irons, and driving in heels, because she has the same issues.

I find this point extremely insulting. I like to think that the biggest issues in my life are much less trivial than whether or not I want bangs. Even putting aside the fact that many girls have best friends who are boys, all these problems are incredibly superficial. Here, let me see if I can solve a few of them right here. I’m not even sure what ‘issues about bangs’ means. Moving on, you’ll just have to live with your period until you reach menopause. If it’s really bad, go to your doctor to see if there’s some sort of medication you can take. I think everyone can relate to nasty bosses. If you find push-up bras uncomfortable, don’t wear them. If you’re wearing them to impress someone, some boy, consider if you really want to be with someone who likes or doesn’t like you depending on whether or not you wear a push-up bra. Straightening irons are a bit of pain, that’s why I only straighten my hair for special occasions, and make sure I have enough time to do it carefully in order to avoid burns. If you don’t want to use hair straighteners, adopt a hairstyle that doesn’t involve hair straighteners. Drive in flats, change in to heels at destination if you really want to wear them. I haven’t encountered many of these issues, and would be seriously annoyed if I had a friend who constantly whined about them. I, like anyone else, have insecurities, face problems at work and school, and experience loss from time to time. These are the things that cause me to seek guidance from friends, family and my romantic partner. I don’t care much for needless whining.

10. A best friend can listen to a complaint because that’s how we communicate.

I don’t care much for needless whining. This is just ridiculous. Complaining is a very poor form of ‘communication’, which is likely just to get on everyone’s nerves. I prefer more intelligent conversation, thank you. I don’t even think there’s anything else to be said about this.

11. When all the men have left, your best friend will still be there.

Where are the men going, may I ask? Friends leave, boyfriends leave, it’s sad and true. However,  I don’t think all the men are going anywhere and I’ve felt abandoned by female and male friends, alike, several times. I think that the best relationships are also strong friendships. I think that it’s important for people who are romantically involved to connect on other levels. That being said, it may be especially painful for a relationship that is a friendship to end. Actually, it is, I’ve experienced it. We’re still friends though, and I can’t really say that for the boys I wasn’t close friends with, even if we made the same ending bargains. I think frienship is another layer of caring about someone which adds a helluvalot to a romantic relationship. That being said, I also think it’s important not to make one person your whole world. A part of having a good relationship is still having other friends too. No matter how in love you are you need space sometimes.

12. If a best friend puts his/her career ahead of you for even one night, you can tell the person to snap out of it, and s/he’ll agree with you.

I don’t agree with the premise here. Demanding to be the centre of someone’s life is greedy and unhealthy. I don’t think good friends try to get in the way of each others career opportunities, but are rather supportive and encouraging. This goes for girls and guys and any friendship combination. Romantic relationships can be a little more complicated, depending on how serious they are. In a serious relationship it may be appropriate to discus career opportunities with your significant other and decide what you want to do together. However, I think it’s unhealthy for someone to strongly pressure their significant other into a certain career path that their significant other is strongly against or uninterested in. I think it’s important to ultimately be supportive of one another’s career choices. Family, friendship and love are all very important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they must override every single work (or volunteer work!) related event or obligation. Balance is important.

13. None of your best friend’s Facebook friends will make you jealous.

I don’t really think this is a strong enough point to convince me that having a best friend is better than having a boyfriend. Jealousy is an unruly beast that everyone encounters from time to time. I think the best advice I can give is to talk about it, with whoever is the source. You’re jealous about a girl who keeps ‘poking your boyfriend on facebook? Then being honest about how you feel about that with him may help you sort it out. I’ve felt those pangs of jealousy before, in exactly this type of situation. I think a part of the jealousy was very irrational, and I was personally responsible to deal with most of it, but talking to my boyfriend helped a lot. It’s very difficult to talk about jealousy, and has made me feel very vulnerable, but it still has always ultimately helped to talk things out and admit how I felt. Reassurance can help a lot. One thing to be aware of, throwing accusations is very different than talking, and a lot less productive, so watch out for that.

14. A best friend always puts the toilet seat down.

I hope this is true whether your best friend is a boy, girl or your boyfriend (though the girl probably wouldn’t raise it in the first place…) At my school there were problems with used tampons and pads being strewn around from time to time (in both the bathroom, and gym, yuck!) Given my pick, I’d take the raised seat. However, if it bugs you a lot, you could, like, ask, or, like, talk about it. Girls and boys can be gross!

15. A best friend will not only wait for you to get ready — she’ll help you get ready.

If your best friend likes help you get ready to go out that’s nice. Not all girls are girly girls though. I loved getting ready for dances with all the girls on my floor in residence last year. I also loved getting ready for plays in high school with guys AND girls. A past boyfriend helped me put on makeup when we got ready for Halloween. I also have friends (girls and boys) who aren’t interested in wearing makeup or getting dressed up fancy in the least. I don’t have a big problem with this point, but I think it’s important to address that not all girls love makeup, and some boys think it’s kind of fun too.

16. You never have to suck in your stomach for a best friend.

17. A best friend is fine with you wearing a dress that looks like a tent.

Look at my commentary for points 1. and 5. (and 6. that stuff doesn’t just apply to parents after all!) Healthy relationships simply don’t revolve all around looks. Most people really aren’t that shallow. If the ones you’re meeting are, I suggest finding some new places to meet people. Join clubs or take workshops or go to conferences, find some place you can meet people who you connect with on some deeper level and see if your luck improves. It’s my challenge to you.

18. A best friend carries spare feminine products on her person at all times.

What about friends who are guys? It appears that has been forgotten once again… This is actually pretty handy at times, when it comes to best friends, or any friends, who are girls. Unless I’m your best friend, in which you’ll be out of luck a lot of the time. Sorry…

19. On vacation, a best friend can work on her tan for nine straight hours, just like you can.

So, speaking of skin cancer… another shallow post (See 1., 5., 6., 16. and 17.) I can’t, nor most of my friends, tan for that long. In fact, I have near to zero interest in tanning. Girls these days sure can have varied interests! I’m too busy studying to suntan most of the time, even if I wanted to. I repeat that friendships can be built on more substantial shared interests, such as a love of poetry, or a shared passion of math jokes. AND, those friendships can be between girls and boys or girls and girls (or boys and boys, or between people who don’t subscribe to typical gender identities.)

20. When you’re in the mood for chocolate, your best friend is also in the mood for chocolate.

My boyfriend is indeed one of my closest friends, and he’s more of a chocoholic than I am (and that’s saying something.) I know women are more likely to be crazy about chocolate blah blah blah, but is that really what we bond about? Well, no, not really. Plus, chocolate is for everyone!

What really bothered me about this article can be broken down in to a few main points which I disagree with:

  1. Girls best friends are girls.
  2. Friendship is not a component of romantic relationships.
  3. Girls’ largest problems are essentially trivial.
  4. Boys are focused primarily on girls looks when choosing a girlfriend.
  5. Girls and boys have distinct interests and traits with little overlap (enforcing gender roles and stereotypes.)
  6. Girls bond over essentially trivial things.
  7. Friendships are always good and relationships are always bad.
  8. Girls always support one another (I wish!)

I think all of these points are strongly emphasized in this article, whether stated outwardly or implied. These are cultural constructions that get a lot of media coverage and yet hold little to no truth. I think it is very unhealthy to push these ideas on young girls, or girls of any age for that matter, or BOYS for that matter. People are individuals, whether girls or boys or nerds or drama geeks or singers or engineers or doctors, and should be treated as such. Stereotyping leads to inherently wrong images of people, and is thus very counter productive.

In conclusion,

What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!

(Image Source: http://xkcd.com/386/)