By Amy Rohn and Gabrielle Rente
Last week, The Elm had an article in Lifestyle discussing whether or not guys and girls can be friends. We found this question poses a lot of problems, and we would like to discuss the reasons that we disagree with the author.
First, this topic is heteronormative and excludes romantic LGBTQ relationships. People who do not identify as “straight” are not able to relate with this article at all, even though friendship and love are things that everyone is capable of having and feeling.
The article then went on to discuss how same-sex relationships are “built upon boys relating through activities and females relating by talking and sharing.” This statement perpetuates toxic gender stereotypes. Even though these instances may be true for some relationships, it is by no means the case for all of them. It also implies that men don’t have feelings and women are gossips.
Next, the article states that society defines the progression of relationships. The idea of following society’s norms in a relationship is actually quite harmful, as each relationship is unique and cannot fit into a single mold. To say that “people do not know how to feel towards the opposite sex unless society defines the relationship for us,” implies that people are incapable of independent thought, and that humans are robots in need of programming in order to feel things.
On the subject of feeling things, if in the case that one does start to develop stronger feelings for a friend, regardless of sexual identity, a true friendship should allow room for honesty. Tell them how you truly feel, and if rejection does occur, then a true friendship should be able to withstand this. If not, then that person wasn’t really your friend. Also, intense feelings do not disappear quickly, and it is not likely that someone’s past romantic inclinations will be brought up as an appropriate conversation topic between two people who are supposedly good friends. A good friend will recognize that someone probably won’t want to bring up their unreciprocated affection in a joking manner.
This biggest issue that we had with this article was the statement “sexual tension is usually present in any male-female relationship whether we want it there or not.” It is damaging to constantly be expecting more from all relationships you have with the opposite sex. To also imply that people are not able to control their sexual desires around others makes us nothing more than animals. It is unfair to insinuate that we are unable to control ourselves around people that we might find attractive, and to believe that sex is the only benefit of any relationship is problematic.
Lastly, the article ends by declaring that female friendships are “emotionally exhausting,” and that male friendships have no room for emotional depth. We are under the belief that all types of relationships, be they familial, platonic, or romantic, require some form of work by both parties, otherwise they wouldn’t be worth having. Saying that all female relationships are exhausting and all male relationships lack depth is misogynistic and supports negative gender roles.
Can guys and girls be friends? We think it truly depends on you and the people you surround yourself with. If you know yourself and the kinds of relationships you want, you won’t be stuck asking this question.