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“Girl Code”: How We Hide Behind Universalities that are Taking Away from Meaningful Friendships

Throughout your life, no matter what gender you identify with, I can almost guarantee you have heard the term “girl code” at least once. Maybe it came under the form of terms that I vaguely remember from middle school: “the girlble,” and subsequently, “the guyble.” However, I think we can drop the gendered nicknames that make a joke out of the real issue: loyalty within friendships. Most often it is referring to loyalty within friendships regarding romantic relationships, but the principles underlying it relates to all aspects of loyalty and trust. But what are the clear-cut rules of loyalty to your friends when dealing with significant others? Can we put down serious unflinching laws of dating and hooking up? Here’s a list of some of the things my friends and I have understood over the years to be part of this so-called “girl code,” and the problems with them:

1. Friends’ exes are OFF LIMITS

I put this rule first because it is probably the most well known of the universally accepted rules of dealing with friends and dating. I have seen many a friendship end over this exact rule being betrayed. However, it can still be ambiguous even though society, social media, and popular culture make it seem like this idea is grounded in cement. What do we do when dealing with casual exes? A friend with benefits? One-night stand? What if it’s an ex from several years ago? These areas, and I’m sure there are more, are where things get tricky. At least, I know they are for me and the instances I have observed between friends and acquaintances throughout high school, and even in college, where you’d think this kind of thing would go away. My senior year of high school, I considered hooking up with a guy my best friend had hooked up with a couple of times, but never dated. Of course, I asked her first, completely expecting an immediate yes. However, she was shocked that I would even think that was something I could do, and she shut me down hard. I bring this up because you never actually know how much someone meant to your friends until you ask. What you think might be okay, could really not be. 


2. Never fight over a love-interest

This sentiment is one that I think all friends have said to each other at least once. It stems from the original “bros before hoes,” and “sisters before misters” that many have grown up on. It’s a nice thought, but it’s wildly unrealistic. I think everyone has fought with a friend over someone they were interested in at least once. Whether it be in kindergarten or sophomore year of college, people do it all the time. And even when they don’t, resentment is harbored far too often, especially between women who get jealous of other women who get guys they like, or even who get guys in general. If neither of these situations or emotions applies to you, I applaud you. Maybe I’m just problematic, but I know I’ve been in both roles. 


3. Never go after your friend’s crush

Number three here follows similar patterns of ambiguity that number one presents. And far too often, when rule number 2 is broken it is because of this rule right here. After all, what can really happen when two people like the same person? Do both give up the chase? Does whoever “likes the person more” get them? I find that when this situation arises it becomes a weird competition and someone always ends up hurt. The usual proposed solution is that both people give up the quest for their mutual possible lover. However, feelings do not just go away. Do I think if you know that your friend likes someone you can avoid also liking them? Yes. But what if you don’t know? Or if you don’t know the severity of your friend’s feelings? Again, we’re in uncharted waters. 


4. Ask permission before going after a friend’s relative; the same goes for close friends

I like this rule because it is very clear. It emphasizes communication and openness, which I have found to be essential to good friendships. The problem with this rule is that when people do not get the answer they want, they often ignore it. Girls forsake each other for men ALL THE TIME. Why do we do this?!? I don’t know. But we do. 


5. Tell your friend if you think their SO is cheating, or if someone is seen flirting with their SO

Number five here is another rule that I do like, but it runs into issues because it can lead to women hating on other women. Like clockwork, when guys cheat or talk to other girls, the “scorned” woman and her friends always blame the girl in question. No matter if she even knew what was going on, if she was flirting back, or if she knew all of it and just went on ahead. I still see this in college, which I had hoped would have been eradicated by maturity and the social scene of the days we are living in, but I was dead wrong. 

While these “rules” can be difficult to follow because of their circumstantial nature, they all have two underlying commonalities: loyalty and communication. No matter who you are, who you’re friends with, and what romantic entanglements you’re involved in, all anyone wants from you are basic signs of respect and care. No one is going to fault you if you ask to hook up with the person your friend had sex with once in 2017. If they do, you probably do not need to be friends with someone who cannot appreciate the openness and transparency you bring to the friendship. In this day and age, we are scared of interpersonal communication. We communicate so much with each other every second of the day via Instagram and Twitter, that when the time to be direct and communicative in real life we shut down. All friendships need is honesty and mutual respect, and clear signals that you really do care about each other and your differing needs and feelings. “Girl code” needs to be left in the past, but respect and consideration need a revival. We can abolish the guilt and animosity between women through actual conversation and dialogue regarding, yes, sometimes difficult topics. We owe it to each other and we owe it to our friends to at least try to comply with their wishes, and when we do not, to recognize what slipped up. It’s not law, it’s love.


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Casey Leach

Kenyon '22

Casey is a senior English major at Kenyon and is most likely either watching reality tv with her roommates or drinking diet coke at an inappropriate hour. She is also a huge advocate for reading rom-coms on her kindle and making bad jokes.
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