A guy is taking his girlfriend to prom. He waits in the ticket line for a really long time but gets them. He goes to rent a limo. The rental line is really long but he eventually does it. He goes to buy her flowers. The line at the florist is really long but eventually he gets the flowers. At prom, she asks him to go get punch. He goes to the refreshment table and there’s no punchline.
you’ve got to be kidding me
I am in physical pain
So I have been thinking a lot lately about how women in romantic relationships with each other aren’t taken seriously and how this reflects in casual, everyday language.
Specifically the usage of the word girlfriend by straight women to signify their platonic friends. This one thing bothers me so much and I know that a lot of people don’t understand why it would be more than a minor annoyance. But listen, here’s what it does:
- It establishes men as the default even for women’s friendships (because honestly why would you even need to differentiate?)
- It is at best confusing and at worst erasing for female romantic relationships
- It’s obnoxious as hell.
And here’s something for you to think about! What is your assumption about the relationship involved in the following situations?
- A man saying “my girlfriend”
- A man saying “my boyfriend”
- A woman saying “my boyfriend”
- A woman saying “my girlfriend”
Let me guess, based on predominate social narratives, what your first assumption would be before your conscious mind reminds you there might be other answers to the question:
- Queer romantic
- …Not sure??? Platonic??? Romantic???
And in a world where female romantic relationships are constantly erased and being dismissed as platonic only (which is NOT to say that female friendships are unimportant but when they’re used to obscure queer relationships that’s bad), the fact that this happens ALL THE TIME just reinforces that erasure.
So please, ladies, I beg you: If you consider yourself an ally to queer ladies, consider discontinuing the use of this language. We have enough trouble being recognized in society without having casual erasure reinforced in the mainstream narrative by female friendships, which we also support. So consider just saying friend instead, please. Please. If the fact that they’re women is important to what you’re saying, there are other ways to signify gender in context.
Yeah, this is something that’s always nagged at me as well. I remember always being confused as a kid whenever my aunt referred to her friends as her “girlfriends,” because I’d thought that word was restricted to a female romantic partner, similar to “boyfriend.” I still have a twinge of “wait, do they mean actual girlfriend-girlfriend, or just friend?” whenever it comes up, though fortunately I don’t know many people who use it that way.
If nothing else it’s just a confusing term in general if used outside of romantic context, especially so if you’re talking to someone who speaks English as a second language.