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Sex + Relationships

We’re Just Friends: The Boundary Interpreted as a Challenge

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

In light of the revolution that is fourth-wave feminism, more and more women are speaking out against their unjust treatment at the hands of the patriarchy. Unlike third-wave feminism where women were arming themselves with defenses against how they’ve been treated for centuries, fourth-wave feminists are calling for a toppling of the system altogether.

We will no longer stand for “boys will be boys” or shelter ourselves in order to circumvent male attention. However, it’s clear that most boys are not completely up to date about this generational shift.

I’m always bitterly laughing at how quickly one of my male friends will give an indication of romantic feelings for me. Somehow, being friendly and connecting to my male friends the same way I would a female friend translates to “please find me attractive and use our friendship as the basis for the eventual argument of how I have led you on.”

Despite years of awkward conversations and ended friendships, I absolutely refuse to change the way I treat others. Without a confirmation of my own feelings, I take no responsibility for men viewing my courteous actions as flirtation.

Of course, whenever I tell my mother this, she tells me it’s my responsibility for giving them the wrong idea. As if it’s my fault that men lack so much emotional connectivity in their lives that it’s assumed that anything close to it is romantic.

Now, having been in a heterosexual relationship for two years, many of the boys I interact with know I have no interest in them romantically. To them, two years in a teenage relationship is as good as being married. This means that I talk to boys a lot more, forming solid friendships with my partner’s friends. Of course this has its pros and cons. I get to engage in meaningful friendships with men without worrying about a declaration of love, but it also means listening to their complaints about how much “women suck.”

As always, I try to be empathetic and listen to their stories without rolling my eyes, which, at this point, has become an art. The common reoccurring theme is that men really do, whether they admit it or not, think they are somehow owed the romantic affections of women. This is obviously not entirely their fault. This was how they were raised. The small “comical” remarks of being a “ladies’ man” when simply being surrounded by women, gives the idea that any slight proximity to a woman must culminate in romance.

The media is no help, of course. With movies like “When Harry Met Sally,” where the inability for men and women to maintain a platonic friendship is the whole premise, it’s no surprise that the societal view of male and female relationships is what it is.

The case of many of our interactions with men is that even if we make it clear that the relationship is strictly platonic, men will always assume romance is possible. Being “friend zoned” is not a boundary being set, but a challenge to accomplish. Getting out of the friend zone then becomes a great prize, something that is encouraged rather than warned against.

The sad reality is that the patriarchy does not only harm the women it oppresses, but the men who are given immoral and harmful expectations. Hopefully, as our generation transitions into adulthood and positions of power, we will engage in productive conversations from all sides of the table so that we can all reach a point where male/female friendships aren’t looked upon like a romantic ticking bomb. Until then, I’ll make sure that my own boundaries are set very clearly and interject in any conversation where “we’re just friends” is relayed like a personal challenge.

Katie is a psychology student who is very passionate about social justice and child development. In her free time she loves journaling, making to-do lists, sewing, embroidering, and of course, watching murder mystery videos. You might find her around drinking tea (specifically earl grey) or using her iPad, which is usually attached to her hip.
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