In Lies Peddled To Teenage Girls

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”.

  1. “boyfriends” – heteronormative
  2. “come and go” – probably true, but dismisses the value of young romantic/ sexual relationships
  3. “friendships” – although not explicitly stated, refers to female friendships; everybody knows boys are only after one thing (eleventy!)
  4. “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.


3 Comments on “In Lies Peddled To Teenage Girls”

  1. Sajib says:

    This is why I hate to term my girl as my girlfriend. I always say “the girl I love” instead of “my girlfriend”. In today’s age. girlfriend-boyfriend is a game which I hate so much. Since I truly love her, I want to spend my whole life with her, I take things seriously about her.

    Wish me all the best? 🙂

  2. Quercki says:

    There must be a whole series of “can’t win” messages for teenage girls. I got the “ditch your plans with your girlfriends if you get a date” one, which seems to be the opposite of this. Which meant that I was unsurprised to be left off the guest list for my girlfriend’s wedding. Actually, she had the wrong address for me and her parents failed to tell her when my invitation was returned.

  3. Rachel says:

    Sajib: good luck. In the nicest possible way, I have the feeling you’ll need it. I’m glad you’ve found somebody that you can share these feelings with; just so long as you can both deal with the idea that it doesn’t have to last forever, and if it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world. (And I see from your blog that that’s a thing you’ve already been talking about!)

    Quercki – I got that one too! I suspect this might turn into a bit of an epic series 🙂

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