Most of us are at some point in our lives & # 39; zoned as friends & # 39; where the object of our affection is only interested as our partner.
Usually when we think of the term, it is a space that is usually reserved for men in love: those & # 39; nice guys & # 39; those attractive women want them to imagine themselves but unfortunately only see them in a platonic light – which makes them inevitably feel guilty.
But according to Texas author Amy Gentry, it's just as common – and often more painful – for women to be banished to the friends zone.
She points out that images of the female exiled to the friends' zone are rare, especially when it comes to how it is portrayed in literature and films – but that should not be because women everywhere have unrequited affection for their male friends.
Amy claims that reserving the friends zone for guys is a reflection of the fact that female desire is less & # 39; visible & # 39; is and is appreciated in our society than male desire, and can have serious implications – especially given the association with dangerous online cultures.
Her latest novel, Last Woman Standing, contains a female protagonist with an eye on her childhood friend – who takes full advantage of her feelings to get what he wants from her.
Here she tells FEMAIL why we should completely remove the focus from the experience of men in the friends zone, and again focus on the female version – both to train boys and women like those who ended up there, to be recognized and validated to feel.
According to Texas author Amy Gentry, it is just as common for women – and often more painful – for women than for men to be banished to the friends zone.
When Rob * asked me about the Ozu movie, I thought: & # 39; finally & # 39 ;.
So it had not been in my imagination; all that flirty arm touch, the dazzling smile of Paul Newman, the compliments and confidentiality and whispered aside during group meeting places.
Sitting side by side in the dark, we watched a movie about unspoken passions and then he insisted that I sit on the handlebars of his bike for a dangerously fast drive home through the snow.
Smiling and screaming as the bike rocked beneath me, I felt like a character in a romantic comedy. I finally knew we were more than just friends.
He had a girlfriend on Monday. She was younger than me (and much younger than him). All the while I thought we were friends on the way to more, I was wrong. My rom-com had changed to the friends zone before my eyes.
Amy claims that reserving the friends zone for guys is a reflection of the fact that female desire is less & # 39; visible & # 39; is and is appreciated in our society than male desire, and can have serious implications – especially given the association with dangerous online cultures
Not that I would have called it that way at the time. Although the term & # 39; friends zone & # 39; first conceived in the Blackout episode of Friends from 1994, it won the money through the male culture of pick-up artistry (PUA), which peaked with the 2005 publication of Neil Strauss & The Game.
By that time, it was completely associated with loving men, not with lusty women, defined as a kind of special prison where beautiful, desirable women put men in lower status that they didn't want to date, but wanted to stay as friends and confidants.
Of course, heterosexual women are always in love with their friends, but female desire does not have the visibility that male desire has in our culture.
Moreover, the women who experience the friends zone may not fit the cultural ideals of beauty, body type, age, etc. And as such they are already largely invisible to men.
Like my friend-zoner Rob, who was then in his late thirties, told me lightly about coffee one day: & # 39; I finished dating women after 30. They are too needy. & # 39; He knew my age – three times guessing how old I was that year! – but I don't think it was meant to be personal.
For him, the explanation was not about his fear of going out with a woman in her sexual environment who would rather know what she was looking for than her younger peers – and therefore more inclined to ask what she wanted.
Amy, pictured with her son, says we need to take the focus away from the masculine experience of the friends zone, and re-focus on the feminine version – both to train boys and to help women like those who have landed there recognized and validated
It wasn't about him at all! It was just a factual statement, pointing to a clear error in women who happened to be my exact age. He looked straight at me and told me why he couldn't see me.
Compare this with my experience on the other side of the friends zone, which was characterized by endless guilt. Why couldn't I feel attracted to the man I liked hanging out with and watching Buffy?
We shared tastes in everything from TV shows to cult sci-fi writers to critical theory. We talked for hours and laughed. He was funny! He was sweet! What was wrong with me?
The male gender definition of the friends zone not only undermines our own sense of our right to choose our partners, it also has more serious implications. The term assumes that a man has a right to sex and love from the woman he is attracted to, and that if he doesn't understand, it's because he hasn't been powerful enough to bend her will to himself.
A blog post about PUA Lingo lists reasons why men are placed in the friends zone with one being: & You acted like a wimp around her, and didn't have the courage to be the man for fear of how she would react … You did not man-up and have the courage to physically escalate. & # 39;
& # 39; Physical escalation & # 39; is a chilling, combative way of describing sexual behavior that you can easily imagine turning into sexual abuse.
The & # 39; friends zone & # 39; has since acquired an even meaner set of associations as part of the toxic & # 39; red pill & # 39; – and & # 39; incel & # 39; cultures online.
& # 39; Perhaps the most important difference is that for women the friends zone is often more like the mama zone & # 39 ;, Amy notes
After the deadly shots of Isla Vista in 2014, the incel culture brought the attention of the American mainstream, Amanda Marcotte wrote about the relationship between the term & # 39; friends zone & # 39; and violent hatred of women, finding and exposing memes with the text: & # 39; She has placed you in the friends zone. . . put her in the rape zone. & # 39;
These are naturally frightening extremes. But it seems just as true that the Friends Zone as a concept does not leave quickly. It's just too universal of an experience and a catchy term – and it doesn't mean you have to spell the word unanswered.
I would like to think that one way to combat these toxic associations is to keep the focus away from the experience of men in the friends zone and to focus on the feminine version of the experience.
Not only could it educate men who seem to regard women as sex machines, but perhaps just as important it can make women like me who have had the experience feel recognized and validated – and perhaps less guilty for not wanting to date any friend who is crazy about us.
Amy & # 39; s book Last Woman Standing shows a female protagonist with an eye on her childhood friend
Images of the area for female friends as such are so rare that it is hard to remember, even in genres that are explicitly written to women and marketed. The exception is probably young adult fiction, whose vulnerable storytellers often struggle with the problem of inequalities regardless of gender.
Even in fiction with a broad female readership, such as Meg Wolitzer & # 39; s critically acclaimed 2013 The Interestings, it is more common to see the pop culture standard of a nerdy, unattractive guy craving his beautiful girlfriend than the other way around.
When I started writing Last Woman Standing, I had no intention of depicting the female friends zone. But the more time I spent with my main character, Dana, and her writing partner, Jason, the more I could see how their relationship matched the classic definition.
I began to remember details that girlfriends had shared with me about their crush on male friends: taking her home-made chicken soup when he was sick, doing his laundry, learning to share his interest in World Wide Wrestling, and, of course, listening to him endlessly about being in love with younger, paler, thinner girls.
Perhaps the most important difference is that for women, the friends zone is often more like the mama zone.
Nonetheless, I would argue that while these complicated relationships can be heartbreaking and sometimes exploitative, they are not inherently toxic and can even satisfy both parties for a while.
They are the inevitable result of asymmetrical attraction and ambiguous chemistry – a shared love of Ozu or Buffy or wrestling that sometimes turns into something more, and sometimes slips and falls like a bike that goes too fast in the snow.
* Names have been changed.
Last Woman Standing (published by HQ in paperback, eBook and Audio) is now out.
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