When we think about love, we think about romantic love, oftentimes between two people, oftentimes monogamous, when both people feel the same way about each other. But, as many of us who live in the real world know, this is not often the case. A lot of love (or at least intense like) in our lives is one-sided, with one person being absolutely head over heels while the other does not see the other “that way.” This results a lot of time in hurt feelings, bruised egos, the end of friendships and being placed in the dreaded friend zone.
If you haven’t heard of the friend zone, then I hope you’re keeping warm at night in the crevice under a rock you currently live in. When we speak about the friend zone, we’re a lot of times speaking about the theoretical place that a person who pines over another person lives where they will never been seen as an object of romantic or physical desire by the other person. It’s also a really cool name for a bar and seems like a place that should have margaritas and laser tag, as my friend loves to point out.
The problem about the friend zone happens when we try to talk about it in regards to gender. It’s no secret that when we do try and discuss the friend zone, it’s mainly a male-female issue wherein the man is friend zoned. (Sorry for the crazy amount of heteronormativity about to come your way!)
When I’ve talked to my male friends about this topic, they are quick to point out that men do indeed friend zone women as well, but, thanks to the patriarchy, that’s not what we hear about.
There’s no denying that unrequited love sucks big time. When we care about someone so much, it’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves and feel like we deserve love and to wonder why this other person doesn’t feel the same way. I would never try to deny that men should have the right to be sad, disappointed and hurt that a woman does not love them in a romantic way. What I do have a problem with is how gendered this issue is.
I find it so ridiculous to believe that people still feel like men and women can operate the same in these relationships. Men are socialized to operate on a system of checks and balances; put in some coins (niceness, friendships, etc.) and your prize will come out (sex, a relationship).
When men are “friend zoned,” many of them don’t just go cry and watch Notting Hill — which they should try, by the way — but a certain subset of men have created an entire gendered issue about it. From memes, to conversations on MRA websites, to casual articles, to talking to their friends about how girls “only like jerks,” we’ve all seen the horror of when a poor lil’ man is forced to “settle” for friendship with a woman. But, what we’ve seen recently is men fighting back violently after women reject them. And that’s where the frustrating difference lies.
You see, as someone who identifies as a woman, who considers herself a professional at getting rejected, something very different happens when a woman is friend zoned by a man. She is told that the problem lies in her. She’s not sexy, she’s one of the guys, she’s not his type, she’s too good of a friend. Some of these are valid, some of these are just plain wrong, but they all have one thing in common — when a man is rejected, it’s the woman’s fault, and when a woman is rejected… well, that’s her fault, too.
It has a lot do with us viewing women as gatekeepers of their sexuality and only that. It has a lot to do with us constantly blaming, critiquing and silencing women. It has a lot to do with some men not seeing women as equals and therefore seeing friendship as a second prize. It also has a lot do with how we promise men through media that they will be promised a beautiful girl.
It’s important to remember that no one owes you anything. If you’re rejected, before you make a meme about a woman or find yourself calling her a bitch, understand where she’s coming from and maybe, just maybe it’s not you or her… it’s just the way it goes. And onto the next.
Originally posted on Literally, Darling an online magazine by and for twenty-something women, which features the personal, provocative, awkward, pop-filled and pressing issues of our gender and generation. This is an exact representation of our exaggerated selves.