(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Responding to The Good Men Project and the Friend-Zone

I was recently reading a post by the Good Men Project that basically said the Friend Zone exists for both men and women and sucks to be on the receiving end.

Only somewhat respectfully, I disagree. The Friend Zone should not exist (though, as I'm about to explain, not for the reasons usually cited). Looks like, I'm on blogger now, and I'm still going to talk about this with fairly heteronormative language. I apologize, but it's also a far more prevalent problem in the straight community than the LGB and I'm mostly addressing men.

“The Friend Zone” creates an ontological state (way of being) that completely ignores the wants and needs of other person. “I am/have been Friend-zoned” vs. (as one of the top comments puts it) “He’s just not into you” or “He’s only using you for ______ (usually sex)” for the woman’s counterpart. I want to point out the imbalance in agency implied by this linguistic difference. In both instances, it’s about the man and his feelings, and I think this is a dangerous double standard for the socialization of youth (especially young men). The reason many feminists and those against the concept of a “Friend Zone” react so strongly is that it ignores and marginalizes (most often) what the woman involved wants. It’s not even an option to be talked about, and that’s a problem.

I also don’t like this article because it doesn't propose any kind of solution beyond an overly simplistic “give the friends a chance.” Why not teach young men how and why they should overcome their fear of rejection in talking to women? Why not teach young women to recognize when their friends are interested in them and make themselves abundantly clear that they aren't interested and have no interest in being pursued? Why not set an example by moving ourselves and our discourse to more productive line of thought? Like I’ve said in other posts, let’s use our influence as supposed adults to teach the next generation good communication rather than quibbling amongst ourselves over something that is clearly becoming damaging for both sides.

In other posts, I've talked about how the concept of the Friend Zone comes about because of a sense of entitlement caused by our societal impulse to tell men that if you work hard you can achieve anything. Apply that logic to objects of desire (women) who have autonomous desires that may not include you as the desirer, and we run into problems. If you apply yourself and pursue a friend with no success, it leaves you feeling weak and hurt and powerless and frustrated. Rather than letting this fester, we need to teach our youth to deal with that reality in healthy ways rather than continuing to project their desires on someone who is (at least currently) not interested. Respect that, especially when you interact with them. Or, and especially if they're using you, you need to get out of that situation.

I also don't like Friend Zone because it implicitly makes being a friend a bad thing. I understand that it doesn't feel like a good thing if it's not what you want, but to make it a bad thing devalues the meaning of friendship in general. This is unhealthy. 

Stop it with the Friend Zone shit already. And if you're so stuck on keeping the concept, at least redefine your language to be less damaging.