Friend zone part of sexist dating culture
Correction: The online version of this story originally misspelled the names of UA student Caroline Gray and “30 Rock” character Jack Donaghy. The names ran correctly in print. The Daily Wildcat regrets the errors.
It’s a story we know all too well: A guy meets a girl, falls for her and at some point after having befriended her, he asks her on a date. She says no and he gets “friend zoned.”
There’s a problem with that story, though: There is no “friend zone” and pretending it exists perpetuates a sexist subset of dating culture.
Getting rejected by your crush can hurt and be disappointing. Most people have experienced that hurt before and many will feel it again. Why is it then that only men seem to be friend zoned?
The friend zone itself may sound gender-neutral, but in practice, it is almost exclusively used to describe male-female relationships where the man gets the short end of the stick by being friend zoned. Part of this can be explained by the classic “When Harry Met Sally” quote, “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
That’s where sexism really starts to enter the equation. As Salon.com’s EJ Dickson points out, anyone who has watched Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy’s relationship in “30 Rock,” much less had a friend of another gender, should know this is unreasonable and sexist.
Often, being in the “friend zone” actually means ending the friendship, as so succinctly put by tweets like @LiLFridayHOE’s “She put me in Friendzone, I put her In the Endzone.”
Breaking off a friendship generally does not happen purely based on unreciprocated emotions. Friendships get broken because the man did not get what he feels entitled to, like a date.
“It’s sexist and it’s just debilitating for women who have complex lives and complex emotions,” said Caroline Gray, a senior studying English and the student director for Feminists Organized to Resist, Empower and Create.
If a man complains about being friend zoned, he is ignoring a woman’s bodily autonomy and her right to choose who to date. She receives the blame for putting him in the friend zone even though the real blame should go to a culture that teaches men they cannot be friends with women, or possibly even the guy himself for not being up front with his intentions.
One of the clearest indicators of this blaming is the implied movement evident in friend zone related language. The friend zone is not a starting place, men are “put in the friend zone” or “friend zoned.” They started at some other place and were cruelly banished to this far-off world of the friend zone.
Another phrase that is frequently thrown around is “escaping the friend zone.” Yet again, it leads to blaming. Searching “escape friend zone” on Google gets “About 16,000,000 results (0.32 seconds).” There are tutorials on how to do it. If the guy tries to “escape the friend zone,” and is still met with rejection, the woman is keeping him “trapped in the friend zone” or preventing him from “getting out of the friend zone.”
“[A woman] loses her autonomy to express her emotions without being vilified,” Gray said.
Expecting romantic relationships based on a feeling of entitlement is absurd and contributes to a sexist dating culture.
Understanding the problems with the friend zone is the first step to eliminating it, and it’s a responsibility that falls on all of us.
David W. Mariotte is a journalism sophomore. Follow @DW_DavidWallace.