I’ll try to accurately recall the situation as best as I can: It was the end of lunch, and my friend told me about her crush at the time. I happened to be somewhat good friends with this said crush (I’ll refer to him as Bob), and so after my friend and I parted ways to head off to our respective classes, I caught up with Bob, who was a few steps ahead, to strike up a conversation, as I always did, since our classes were in the same general direction.
Originally I planned for this to be part laundry list of my arguments against Girl Code, part exploration of where it all came from. That was, until I realized how futile my attempt to try to pinpoint The Very Moment Girl Code Came to Be after trawling through multiple pages of Google search results of websites about the MTV show, Girl Code. Looking for further inspiration, I was reviewed old conversations with my friend regarding Bob. That being said, she asked what I would do in a theoretical situation where we both liked the same person and the person ended up liking one of us back. Long story short, she would consider me deciding to date this person despite knowing she liked him as well as a form of backstabbing. In her eyes, it would be like me, “mocking [her]” as if I were to say to her through my actions “I got the guy and you didn’t.” As if the entire ordeal was a competitive game.
And that, my friends, is the jumping-off point from which the rest of this article is based upon.
Exposure to Media
In somewhat recent events, you’ve probably heard of, even unluckily watched the infamous “WHAT GUYS LOOK FOR IN GIRLS” video by Nash Grier (though let’s be honest, we’d all much rather watch this gem of a response video by youtuber SimplyShip). “If you play too hard to get, then it’s just like, ‘oh, she doesn’t even like me,’ but if you play easy, then it’s just like, oh, she’s a whore,” Grier states. “Find a balance.” This is just one of the many insensitive comments made in the video, which varies between slut-shaming, body shaming, as well as sending across the general message that girls should cater to the preferences of others in order to be likeable. Before the video was taken down, other popular Youtubers were able to comment on it, most notably, Hank Green.
It’s frustrating when Grier and his friends state they like “natural” hair but then prefer “brunettes,” demonstrating the impossible standards of beauty females are all too familiar with (which isn’t to say males aren’t immune to these beauty standards either, but that’s another post for another day). Despite the fact that the video was taken down, there are many, many, many more similar videos out there.
But it doesn’t just end at videos; the bombarding continues with self righteously written articles，sexist advertisements, along with other forms of exposure included in the Dove film, “Beauty Pressure.” Like the girl featured in the video, younger children are impressionable and more susceptible to be influenced by media exposure. According to HealthyPlace.com, “ 50% of advertisements in teen girl magazines and 56% of television commercials aimed at female viewers used beauty as a product appeal,” which consequently leads to self esteem issues directly relating to unrealistic beauty ideals seen in these advertisements.
On a happier note, Aerie’s #realAerie campaign is a refreshing change, featuring completely unphotoshopped models (who look absolutely radiant, by the way) and definitely a step in the right direction in terms of promoting love, or at the very least, acceptance of bodies, imperfections and all.
Which leads me to my next point.
“I’m Not Like Other Girls”/Girl Hate
Girls who declare, “I’m not like other girls,” “Girls are so fake,” or even better, “I hang out with guys because they don’t cause drama!” need to stop and have a reality check. You’re not special or quirky or any better that anyone else for essentially, internalizing the belief that females are inferior and then generalizing as well as hating on an entire gender in order to validate yourself. You’re associating being gossipy, petty, and shallow, among other disfavorable qualities, as inherent qualities of the female. In fact, to feel the need to differentiate yourself from other girls in such a dismissive manner “boils down to is that you’re one of those chicks who just wants dudes to like her.”
Even more, you’re imposing a double standard by stereotyping other females, but hypocritically expecting everyone else to not apply that stereotype to you because you’re “not like other girls.” When girls resort to the concept of the “other girl” it shows they believe that the existence of the stereotypical female to be true. Why would they defend themselves against something if it didn’t hurt? Inadvertently, they’re establishing a vicious cycle that is terribly harmful in the long run, pitting females against one another as they all try to prove their non-inferiorness to one another. They view one another as competitors and gain a false sense of superiority derived from feeling disdain towards other females they’ve generalized and stereotyped. Unfriendly isolation between one another breeds Girl Hate.
That terrible nagging feeling, annoyance, jealousy, even spite, towards other girls for purely being confident, for doin’ their thaaang, is Girl Hate, as coined by Tavi Gevinson of RookieMag. Another gender stereotype is that the sole purpose of a females’s existence is to attain a mate; for as long as we’re single, we’re in perpetual competition with one another to be the prettiest, the smartest, the most athletic, and so on. This further fuels animosity between females. I guess this casual offhand mindset of “wow-you’re-so-pretty-I-hate-you” or “dang-they’re-so-talented-cue-self-esteem-drop” seems like a normal and perfectly acceptable mindset to have, but in the long run I truly believe it to be extremely insidious. At the root of it all is insecurity, inferiority internalized from the negative messages sent across in the aforementioned videos, advertisements, articles, etc. which you channel into feeling distaste towards someone who you view as competition. It’s hard to shake that nagging feeling, but remind yourself: you’re judging someone because you don’t like them for being SEEMINGLY CONFIDENT AND HAPPY with whatever they’re doing!
Doesn’t that sound pretty petty/ridiculous/unfair/etc when you say it outloud? I add “seemingly” because this girl, like anyone else, probably has her own set of insecurities. This Rookie article is able to reassuringly explain it so much better than I ever could: “You’re not a sexist pig, you’ve just been raised around a bunch of them in the form of some awful magazines and movies and stuff, where women are always competing for the same man, the same title, where the main character looks over at the other girl with her shiny hair, socializing smilingly with a boy, and feels nothing but resentment.”
Now, going back to the story I started with!
I didn’t think much of the situation until my friend explained to me how upset it made her seeing me talk to Bob. And why? Because, in her own words, “Girl Code,” which, for those of you who don’t know, is the supposedly unspoken rule that girls are not supposed to date their friends’ exes. As an extension of Girl Code imposed by her, I wasn’t supposed to talk to him either. I can go on and on about how possessiveness of others is a pet peeve of mine, how I’m not cool with adhering to rules others follow without question, how it should be totally okay to date a friend’s ex/crush (or if you’re on the other end of things, to have mixed initially-jealous-but-in-the-long-run happy feelings for them) and so on. But I’m not here to dole out relationship advice.
Girl Code is ambiguous in that there’s no “official” set of rules, just multiple versions floating around the internet. The problem with the “don’t date your friend’s crush/ex” part of Girl Code is that, to me, it encourages a kind of frenzied, territorial, even competitive “he’s mine and mine alone” mindset that breeds despite the fact that either he does not feel the same way towards you, or the two of you not dating anymore. Why deny your friend of potential happiness? Wendy Atterbury wisely explained to an anonymous “Girl Code Believer” that “relationships are not about marking your territory for life. They are about finding someone you click with and can learn from — and if you are lucky, create a life with.”
ANY LIZZIE MCGUIRE FANS OUT THERE?
Lizzie: Ronnie broke up with me.
Gordo: He’s a loser.
Lizzie: No, Gordo. I’m the loser. Okay? He likes another girl. She’s probably prettier than me, she’s probably smarter than me, and she’s probably a lot more fun than I am.
Gordo: No, she’s not.
Lizzie: How do you know?
Gordo: Because there’s nobody prettier than you, or more fun to be with.
Lizzie: You forgot smarter.
Gordo: Yeah, well, I was including myself in that one.
-Scene from the Lizzie McGuire episode, “First Kiss.”
Sleep, eat soul food, use up excessive amounts of tissue paper, or anything else when things don’t work out between you and your would-be guy. But don’t get so down on yourself! Everyone deserves a Gordo in their life to tell you that you truly are the best you can be. As cheesy as it’s going to sound, you are your own being, and you’re great. Things suck at the moment, but in the end, you’ll be happy. In the meantime, you have to live (getting philosophical on you in 3, 2, 1…), which does not include letting your life and happiness center around the affections of a (probably really cute) boy.
If anything, you need to find your own strength, your own source of happiness and validation, rather than what you are told to believe. It’s my personal belief that life is far too short to go out of your way looking for a significant other; people will inevitably enter and exit your life, and through this continuous process you are bound to find someone willing to stay. Just do your own thing! For example, I do the things that make ME happy, which as of lately, have been prolific list making, obsessing over how great honey cream cheese and anchovies are, and jamming out on my baby blue uke.
“What about the rest of Girl Code, Jessica?” you ask. While I’m sure some rules have some good intentions, promoting well being betweem fellow females, as Sabina Trojanova was able to elegantly sum up at GalaDarling, “I don’t think we have a special obligation toward women, as women, just by virtue of our shared gender. In my opinion, saying we do would further perpetuate the sexism we are constantly confronted with. In other words, just don’t be an asshole to anyone, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation or any other inherent characteristics – as long as we stick to that, we should be fine.” Simply put, Girl Code is trivial and outdated. It promotes Mean Girls-esque behavior that really, should not exist outside the realm of Mean Girls.
Now what was the point of all this?
Misogyny, gender stereotyping, and sexism are all very real issues. At an early age, young impressionable children are often taught what is “right” and “wrong” in terms of gender identity, appearance, and behavior, among other societal expectations. I used to think that being a feminist meant you had to be fiercely outspoken about women’s rights; all it truly takes is an open mind and willingness to learn. For me, it began with what I thought to be a trivial disagreement over a boy. When something seems off to you, ask: “Why?” When the answers aren’t readily available, it’s up to you to educate yourself through further research. Knowledge trumps ignorance any day. Change begins with thinking for yourself, empowering yourself, and finally, learning how to stand for yourself.