Let’s talk about relationships, because an introverted nerd with no social skills is naturally an expert on such matters.
Specifically, let’s talk about the friend zone: A sort of purgatory where the sins of inadequacy are burned away in shame and tequila. The friend zone has earned the ire of probably every man from any culture that doesn’t marry young and coercively.
The Oxford English Dictionary only recently added the definition of friend zone to its pages and defines it as “a situation in which a platonic relationship exists between two people, one of whom has an undeclared romantic or sexual interest in the other.”
Not everyone is happy with the OED’s inclusion of the word, or its definition. A March 20 piece from Slate magazine’s XX Factor columnist Amanda Marcotte is one such example. Marcotte states that the friend zone is “mostly a straight-male phenomenon based on the widespread sexist belief that straight men can never truly be friends with women without having an ulterior motive.”
To this I take great exception. I won’t argue that the term tends to apply to heterosexual relationships where the man is rejected by the woman. But the idea that the definition implies men and women are incapable of maintaining a platonic relationship, as Marcotte points out, is false.
Contrary to Hollywood dogma and the plots of pornography, men are not booze and sex hungry animals without two brain cells to rub together. We are capable of higher brain functions, we just choose not to use them because it’s more fun that way.
Men and women can have friendship. What throws a wrench in the works of this definition is the definition of the friend zone itself. The friend zone states rejection of the male, but it also states that the woman values the man as a friend and wants to maintain the platonic relationship.
So after gently removing the man’s heart and feasting on it while it’s still beating, the woman wants him to stick around so she can savor the pain and misery radiating from his heartless corpse.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Perhaps I’m complicating what some people consider a gentle way to reject a man to avoid inflicting more emotional damage than the rejection itself already has.
Either way, the friend zone is not a sexist term in itself, and the friend zone does not, as the previously mentioned column implies, denote a need for more direct rejection by women. The friend zone is a demonstration of damaged trust and goals, of sundered feelings and lost hope.
Even worse, it implies a continuation of these feelings, as the two involved continue to interact on a regular basis, likely reopening the wounds each time.
Whether or not the term friend zone is sexist, oversimplifying it denies the sorrow the actual experience creates and allows to fester. It’s more than just a term; it’s a symbol of rejection, pain and loss.