In something of an “aha!” moment recently, I was chatting to J about the problems he has when women our age bond over things that happened or were fashionable in the ’90s. The main problem, it turns out, is that J is not a woman. And so fashion more or less passed him by. As did a lot of the objectionable messages peddled by girls’ magazines. (There, wasn’t that a neat segue?!)
Top of today’s list: “boyfriends come and go, but friendships last forever”.
- “boyfriends” – heteronormative
- “come and go” – probably true, but dismisses the value of young romantic/ sexual relationships
- “friendships” – although not explicitly stated, refers to female friendships; everybody knows boys are only after one thing (eleventy!)
- “last forever” – utter bullshit
This kind of crap is particularly nasty for anybody who has had a female friend whose friendship soured, or became bullying, or just dwindled into nothing. It becomes just another way in which you, as a teenage girl, are doin it rong. Because clearly, if a friendship fails, it’s a Really Bad Thing, because friendships last forever! And if a friend acts in ways you don’t want them to, you’re less likely to say so – or to extricate yourself from that bad relationship, because, as everybody knows, friendships last forever!
Or perhaps, as a teenage girl, you really will end up in a situation where you feel you have to choose between your boyfriend and your female friend. And that is no fun at all. Because then, by even feeling torn, you’re doin it rong. Because even if your boyfriend is respectful, and kind, and considerate, and all those other reasons you might have for, you know, liking him as a person, well, clearly, boyfriends come and go. He can’t be worth anything to you, because – since boyfriends come and go – you’re pretty much guaranteed to be worth nothing to him anyway. Duh. And even if your friend has long since stopped being even friendly, friendships last forever. And if you can’t save it, that means you were a crap friend. And crap friends have no friends. And you wouldn’t want to be a loner, now would you?
It’s a shame, because the idea that romantic relationships don’t have to last forever’n’ever is a good one, and needs to be said more, especially with all of the stalker=romantic cliches around in the media, and if I were forced to choose between, say, the Twilight series and this message, I’d choose boyfriends come and go like a shot. But there’s no point trying to tell young women that romantic relationships don’t have to last forever, if the way you go about doing that is to say “but this non-romantic relationship totally will last forever, otherwise you fail at life”. Because it’s disingeneous, it doesn’t stop treating young women as failures – just transfers the way in which they’ve failed – and, more to the point, it’s wrong. It’s just wrong.
This weekend, I was out in the pub with a few people from my maths class, including one guy we’ll call Mike, and another we’ll call Steve. Mike is tall, probably 6′ at least, and stocky. Steve’s build isn’t important, but what is important is that Steve is aware – and has been for some time – that I’m deeply feminist. He takes the piss, but never in an offensive way, and since I get the feeling that if he ever actually thought about things for two seconds he’d identify the same way, I don’t get angry with him. There’s better uses of my anger than that. Mike has only become aware of the feminism in the last few days; perhaps it was a mutual friend of ours leaning over to tell me that she’d had an afternoon that had made her want to scream “DAMN YOU, PATRIARCHY!” that did it.
And of course, in the pub, because Steve started it, we got chatting about feminism. And of course, Mike’s reaction was…
Mike: God, I’m gonna be terrified of sitting next to you now!
Mike: Well – you might kick me in the balls…
Mike: … You’re a feminist…
Me: What the hell? What is this – I’m two different people now? I mean, objectively, we know that I’m 5’6″, considerably smaller than you, and if you wanted to beat the shit out of me, you could, but as a feminist, I’m ten foot tall, I’ve got lasers for eyes, I could kill you with my moustache! You know, as a feminist. Because that’s the way we roll.
The conversation moved on to bizarre facial hair after that little rant, so I leave you with Bill Bailey (unfortunately I can’t find a video, but this is the pertinent quote, viaWikiquote, and originally featured in Part Troll):
“There’s this one celebrity, Rosie O’Donnell, a talk show host, and she said this: “I don’t know anything about Afghanistan, but I know it’s full of terrorists, speaking as a mother.” So what is this “speaking as a mother” then? Is that a euphemism for “talking out of my arse”? “Suspending rational thought for a moment”? As a rational human being, Al-Qaeda are a loose association of psychopathic zealots who could be rounded up with a sustained police investigation. But speaking as a parent, they’re all eight foot tall, they’ve got lasers under their moustaches, a huge eye in their foreheads and the only way to kill them is to NUKE every country that hasn’t sent us a Christmas card in the the last 20 years!! Speaking as a mother.”