The Friend Zone: Misogyny for Nice Guys

Though the term “unrequited love” already exists, a more popular phrase floating around these days for the phenomena of one member of a relationship wishing for a romantic connection while the other prefers to remain platonic is “the friend zone”/”being friendzoned.” At first blush, the change in terminology doesn’t seem all that problematic. It is a common human experience to be rejected or disappointed by romantic pursuits – and it is, of course, acceptable to express that angst and hurt when this happens.

It’s important to clarify that the problem here lies not in the term “friend zone” itself, but in the gendered expectations and poorly veiled misogyny that have developed surrounding it. To best illustrate what I am describing, I will point you to this image, one of the first that came up when I did an internet search on “the friend zone.”

problems-with-the-friend-zone._1

There are many men who have the attitude seen above, that a male/female relationship only exists because the man finds her sexually or romantically attractive, and therefore a woman should act accordingly, i.e. behave as if she is being courted. This not only implies that men should only take interest in or provide kindness to a woman if she will provide sexual favors in return, but also vilifies women who exercise their right to reject a sexual advance or to maintain a personal relationship with a man in which they feel safe. Almost any man who complains about the friend zone will describe himself as a “nice guy” in the same breath as his vitriolic diatribe about about how stupid the women in his life are for not appreciating him in the way he would like, which says to me that simply being nice to women is something, in his mind, that should be rewarded and applauded.

Instead of advocating for “nice guys” who offer their friendship in return for sex and spew hate at the “friends” who don’t oblige, let’s encourage a shift in communication – one that is rooted in honesty, listening, and valuing one another. I shudder to think of the truly amazing and beneficial friendships that have been destroyed by this sense of entitlement – because, yes, as amazing as women’s bodies are, there is in fact more to them. As long as there is this stringent belief that men and women can only interact positively while one is pursuing the other, women will continue to be reduced to vending machines that deliver sex in exchange for compliments and support while men are wolves in sheep’s clothing whose motives must always be questioned. I think we can all do much better than that.

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How is Gender Communicated?: An on-campus art project

Communication & Gender students have created art that represents their rhetorical analyses of gendered texts.  The art will be on display beginning Wednesday at 2 until Friday at 2 in both the Great Hall and in the Student Center (outside the bookstore/cafeteria entrance).  The project is called “How is Gender Communicated?” and is meant to be an attention-catching way to get the campus community thinking/talking about how gender is constructed through our daily communication.

Make sure to take a look at these thought-provoking and exciting works of art!

Get Yourself Tested day and Film Screening, Thursday 4/18

Hello All,

Just putting something on your radar that will be happening on Wesleyan’s campus – the Women’s Resource Center will have a Get Yourself Tested booth in the Student Center all day Wednesday and Thursday. The booth will have condoms and information about sexually transmitted infections, as well as emphasis on the importance of getting tested when sexually active.

These two days will culminate in a screening of the Paula England’s lecture “Understanding Hookup Culture: What’s Really Happening on College Campuses” at 7pm on Thursday evening in Olin B. Paula England is Professor of Sociology and an affiliate of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. This lecture is a result of her research on college students regarding modern sexual and dating rituals and how they relate to gendered roles and norms.

We’d love to see you there! Email wrc@nebrwesleyan.edu for more details.