In May of 2014, a 22-year-old man decided to kill 6 people in Isla Vista, California and cited women’s lack of interest in him as a big part of the blame. And enough people found reason to pity him for being in the “friend zone,” that it started a pretty important conversation.
When it takes a tragic shooting to start a conversation about male privilege, you hope for change. When that conversation shifts towards the “it’s not all men who are the problem” argument, you shake your head. When the #yesallwomen trending topic meets criticism like this because there are worse problems in the world, you want to fucking scream.
Flash forward more than 2 years, and some guys are STILL talking about this place called the “friend zone.” For those who are unfamiliar, the “friend zone” is a place that some men made up. It’s a place where they can retreat to when they begin to realize that they are not entitled to anything, particularly a woman’s body. Something is still missing from the conversation, and that missing piece allows men to overlook the core problem: that women are given the responsibility of men’s feelings.
I hear my friends talking about it all the time– they feel bad when a friend asks them out and they have to say no. They are so careful with their words, so careful to “let them down easy.” And even then, they feel guilty.
Here is the situation I’ve seen far too many times: Cisgender straight boy asks out cisgender straight girl. Girl, for whatever reason not owed to anyone, wants to say no. When a simple “no” should be enough, here is what she says instead- “I’m really sorry, I’m still working on getting over someone and I really can’t put myself in this kind of situation just yet. It’s just bad timing on my part.”
What she’s done here is made up excuses as to why he shouldn’t feel bad for her saying no. She’s taken responsibility of keeping his feelings unharmed. The problem here is that she never should’ve felt that responsibility in the first place.
Women who aren’t interested are not the problem. Men who think they get to blame women for lack of romantic interest are the problem.
So, to the men who place themselves in the “friend zone” because they think that they are owed something: Take a harder look at yourself than you are used to having to. It might take unlearning some of the things you’ve internalized over time, but try to understand the roots of this “friend zone.” There’s a reason why women do not have an equivalent.
If you’re interested in hearing from someone else on the subject, check out this slam poem by Dylan Garity.