The friendzone embodies male entitlement

“Fiona ‘loves you … like a brother,’ ‘totally wants you … to meet the right girl someday,’ and ‘invites you over … to fix her computer.’”

The concept of the friendzone, and the internet memes created to sustain the phrase, have consistently gained and maintained attention on the internet, from Twitter to Tumblr, since it first became pervasive in 2012. Though the meme made its first appearance years ago in a Friends episode, the slang term has somehow managed to stay relevant, evolving with the trajectory of pop culture. Though the meme seems like a harmless and funny way to laugh at rejection, it has dangerous misogynistic implications that encourage men to believe in the false idea that they are entitled to romantic affection simply for being polite.

The friendzone is a term that describes a one-sided interest that is not returned, usually of men to women. Someone stuck in “the friendzone” considers being just friends with their crush an unjust and dreaded situation — making it much more than simply unrequited love. It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase casually tossed around conversations on campus like, “I’m in the friendzone right now and it’s hell. I mean, I bought her dinner and drinks and everything and she still didn’t let me come home with her.”

It is this type of male entitlement that led to individuals like Elliot Rodger, the teen who killed six and injured 14 before killing himself in Isla Vista, the college town of UC Santa Barbara in 2014, because he was furious for being rejected by girls that he found attractive. In his manifesto, “My Twisted World,” Rodger justifies his horrendous act of vengeance on his unhappy childhood, difficulties in obtaining a girlfriend and strong contempt for women. Resorting to violence after a woman refuses a man’s advances not only propagates a man’s sense of entitlement, but also adds to the fear of being hurt or murdered for not reciprocating affection.

More recently, in conjunction with the popular term “Netflix and chill,” memes like “When you’re so friendzoned that she actually wants to watch a movie when you say ‘Netflix and chill’” accompanied with a photo of a guy jumping off a cliff were created, further perpetuating the idea that men deserve attention and affection simply for being nice. The addition of an already misogynistic meme to another one adds fuel to the fire, making it apparent that the meme has the ability to cyclically assimilate to society. The inherent angst and feelings of self-proclaimed worthlessness that manifest when the reality doesn’t meet the expectations of romantic reciprocation are feelings that are universally felt by both men and women, but most exposure in media and culture that offers validation for that is gendered. “Netflix and chill,” which originated from Black Twitter to describe a code phrase for hooking-up, only subliminally validates and supports men to feel this sense of entitlement.

The idea of being friendzoned is commonly associated with nice guy syndrome, the concept that men “view kindness as currency that can be directly exchanged for sexual gratification,” according to Jezebel writer Erin Ryan. Both nice-guy syndrome and the friendzone suggest that if he does decide to treat a woman politely, then it is the woman’s obligation to return the favor.

Consequently, women grow up cautious about being too nice to men — if they’re too friendly it might be mistaken as interest, but if they’re not nice enough they may be seen as rude or cruel. If they communicate that they are disinterested, then they are exacting a so-called injustice by trapping their friend in the friendzone. Encouraging the friendzone only weakens the establishment of consent and diminishes respect that women deserve for saying “no.” It also implies that a friendship with a woman of interest is not valuable and is viewed as just a rung on the ladder to something more or a punishment for not getting something in return.

The friendzone may appear as innocuous slang on the surface but is a derogatory term deeply rooted in rape culture. It inflicts guilt on women for not returning feelings when they have every right to set boundaries. It encourages the false idea that men are robbed of something by being rejected and that they were owed something from a woman — when in reality, they were owed nothing at all. Instead of telling women not to friendzone men, men should recondition their mindsets and consciously take the time to unlearn what society has conditioned them to learn about entitlement.

6 replies
  1. Sometimesikeepmywordstomyself
    Sometimesikeepmywordstomyself says:

    You make many strong points with which I agree. When a person believes that the other party is obligated to reciprocate affection in return for an act of kindness, that is unjustified entitlement. When men treat women like prizes to feed their egos or rewards for their simple existence and the rejection to claim said bounty threatens male privilege or superiority, then the use of “friendzoning” as a word to describe the extremity if their injustice is disgusting. I also support your view on the necessity of acknowledging the female voice. Women are to be seen and heard and listened to in the face of major social problems, one being the still-existent and oppressive patriarchy. This is a conditioned mindset that needs to see change.

    However, I disagree with much of this very well-written article. I believe the “friendzone” holds much more meaning than just the small range you’ve described here, but your definition of “friendzone” is very much arguably as true, as is your opinion. It is a place where emotions are unreciprocated, yes; it is also a place where friendships that hold more than the superficial value you’ve described in your article hang in balance. The friendzone can be a place where cruel sacrifices are made and life-changing realizations occur– of course, with my definition of friendzone, and not yours. So, yes, the term can hold the mysogynistic weight you’ve described or the quick fix of cheap self-gratification that arrogant, entitled men can cash at a whim. The word can mean either, and it can mean both. In any case, the weight a word holds is only by the definition one gives it, which is much like the weight one would give the stereotype of an arrogant, entitled man who walks around and demands reciprocation for his mere existence. That is something we should all reconsider along with our own definitions.

    Thank you for this article. It is a beautiful piece and I greatly enjoyed reading it.

  2. Lil Gochu
    Lil Gochu says:

    Weeell, that’s why you don’t accept every “friend request” on Facebook. You tactfully decline when the guy says, “Hey, I ‘friended’ you. Didn’t you get my request?” Then you say, “Sorry, I’m real busy these days. I don’t even go on Facebook that much anymore.” He says, “Well, hey, how about we grab something to eat?” Then you say, “Not hungry….I gotta go.” (while you grimace)

    The problem with our culture, is that everyone feels like they have to “be nice” to each other. Certainly, don’t be rude; be tactful and firm instead.

    • qw
      qw says:

      Did you even read the article? It doesn’t matter whether or not the woman politely declines or rudely declines — it’s the idea that even if she does, the male shouldn’t view it as something that is derogatory and shouldn’t view affection as something he is entitled to.

    • disqus_k5lnyEE4jv
      disqus_k5lnyEE4jv says:

      as a guy who’s read messages between guys and my female friends, i can say that some of our gender just can’t take no for an answer regardless of how the girl rejects them. It’s disgusting, ridiculous, and creepy

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