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.