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Women from a young age are fed unspoken rules, known as ‘Girl Code’, that permeate female friendships. These rules supposedly symbolise loyalty to other women and state that loyalty to other women comes before everything else.

But is it time to rethink girl code?

Yes, I hear your gasps. But hear me out.

Ultimately, Girl Code is a gendered and problematic concept that needs to be discarded. I first learnt about Girl Code in Primary School – age 7. How incredibly toxic and problematic is that? Now, I’m not discouraging telling a guy’s girlfriend that he’s cheated on her, for example. That should be second nature. However, listed below are my reasons for disbanding girl code:

Girl Code is manipulative

One of the many unspoken rules of Girl Code is that you can’t seem to date your friend’s ex or crush. However, I think it’s inherently problematic because this effectively reinforces the idea that people basically have ownership over other people. This essentially removes people’s right to choose who they want to and don’t want to date. Additionally, this is an example of manipulation and therefore demonstrates controlling behaviour. This behaviour occurs because the individual who tells you not to violate Girl Code feels threatened.

Girl code is both heteronormative and cis-normative.

Girl Code as a term basically assumes that the participants of Girl Code are straight, monogamous and understand gender only in terms of being male and female. This then begs the question that what if a friend wants to date an ex, and both individuals in this situation are women – where does your loyalty lie then?

Women are in constant competition

In terms of female friendships, Girl Code focuses on the idea that women are always in constant competition with one another. The only way this competition can be won is if an individual gets their way over the other. It’s completely natural that if your friend dates your ex, that you’re hurt. But you being hurt is more to do with the fact that your anger lies with the breakup, not with your friend who is being honest with you.


What hurts us in complex situations like those that are listed above is the lack of communication in friendships. However, lack of communication should have nothing to do with gender loyalty. The issue that the vast majority of people have is that people think their friend hasn’t accounted for or thought about their feelings. This means they’ll think that you’re just ‘not a girl’s girl’ and then label this as internalised misogyny.

Finally, the Girl Code basically doesn’t leave any space to be honest with your friends about relationships and love. Therefore, I think it’s important to be open and honest, while working out what you want and considering whether a relationship is worth upsetting a friend. Whilst this sounds tough, only you can make this judgement.

I'm the Sex and Relationships Editor for Exeter and a third year student studying Classical Studies and English with a passion for literature, art and film!
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