We all remember that scene from Friends, don’t we?
The one where Joey used the phrase ‘friend zone’ to describe Ross and Rachel’s painful situation where Rachel had allegedly chucked Ross straight in the friend zone because he took too long to make his move.
Or at least that’s how Joey described it.
Ever since that episode, we’ve been hearing the phrase being used so much amongst ourselves and the media; so much so, that we’ve failed to realize the underlying sexism that the phrase was created on. It’s a phrase that’s used to make men search for excuses and come to terms with the fact that a woman simply doesn’t like them in a sexual or romantic way (although mostly sexual). In Ross and Rachel’s case, Ross used the friend zone as a way to dismiss his own awkward and undesirable characteristics instead of acknowledging the fact that maybe Rachel just wasn’t that into him.
Is it beginning to make sense, now?
Don’t feel guilty for not seeing it at first because it truly is hidden in the depths of internalized sexism and misogyny.
By Ross refusing to see that he and Rachel maybe just didn’t have that much in common at the time (accompanied by Joey being a terrible friend in my opinion), he turned to his good old friend misogyny to villainize Rachel for not being interested in him romantically. This is hidden in Ross being incapable of understanding that perhaps all Rachel truly desired was a friend, therefore making his and Rachel’s relationship purely transactional.
Transactional relationships are founded on the basis of giving to receive; in the case of a friend zone relationship, if a man is nice to a woman then that is the bare minimum required to be able to have sex with her. Therefore, it essentially eradicates the friend zone as a gender-inclusive term because this is a far more common occurrence with men when it comes to complaining about the friend zone.
Basically, the friend zone was created in order to lessen the damage to men’s egos when a woman rejects them.
Unfortunately, the birth of the friend zone has had a negative impact on the relationships between many men and women due to women’s anxieties focusing on whether or not a man is using her for sexual advances. These anxieties have caused a multitude of relationships to be questioned because of the uncertainty surrounding male intentions when it comes to what a woman assumes to be a platonic relationship.
It’s the neverending question of ‘is this person trying to gain something sexual from me or are they being genuine?’
It makes an actual friendship between the two sexes impossible due to the uncertainty surrounding intentions; therefore, this leads to a woman being villanized for simply saying no to advances that are unwarranted and unreciprocated.
To put it into perspective, imagine there’s a circle of friends and it’s an unequal playing field of three boys and one girl; this girl is simply a part of the friendship group because she gets along well with all of the boys, however, there’s stigmatization automatically there that she’s ‘playing’ them all and they’re all in the friend zone.
Notice how there’s no negative stigma surrounding the men being friends with the girl though?
Negative stigma ends up being connotated with women who enjoy male company because of this term that’s arisen from internalized sexism and misogyny, resulting in an evident villain narrative being pinned on the woman for not wanting to pursue the relationship further.
To conclude this question on whether or not the friend zone exists; it exists as a sexist idea to soften the blow of rejection on the male ego. The friend zone should not be synonymous with rejection; you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you’re not reciprocating feelings, nor does that warrant a villain narrative being pinned to you.
Basically, rejection exists.