The Real Truth About The Friend Zone

It may have been called "The One with the Blackout," but fans of Friends will likely remember season 1, episode 7 as "The One When Joey Tells Ross About the Friend Zone." Did Joey Tribbiani invent the friend zone? Cosmopolitan thinks he did — it credits him with coming up with the term in 1994, when he told Ross he waited too long to ask Rachel out.

But it seems it may be time to rethink the friend zone, because as some folks see it, the term has been mostly used by men who start off as friends with women, and while the men develop feelings, the women don't, and that's when the trouble begins.

The friend zone is a derogatory construct

When taken in the context of gender relationships, the term "friend zone" can be considered sexist and offensive, because it's mostly used by men who are unable to catch the romantic attention of a woman they might have been interested in. One woman who asked to remain anonymous, tells Mic that the term itself even takes the element of choice away from women.

"The implication of the friend zone is that I'm this b**** that has unfairly placed this guy in this place where he doesn't belong, when the reality is I'm not interested," she explains. "Zoning is this arbitrary invention to make me seem like a fool who can't see clearly, when in reality I just don't want to date you. It's not because you're in the friend zone, it's because I said no. Is it so unfathomable that I don't want to date you?" She also says: "There's no female equivalent. If a guy is not interested, he's just not that into you. If woman is not interested, she's crazy."

The friend zone is a face-saving mechanism

Michael Kimmel, the director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, calls the concept of a friend zone a face-saving one. "If you grow up learning that sex is adversarial — he chases, she is pursued; he gets, she gives — then how do you deal with what amounts to relegation to the losers' bracket?" he says.

Most women's sites say if a person, regardless of what gender they happen to be, feel they have been "relegated to the friend zone," then they probably were never a friend to begin with, because as The Every Girl puts it, you can have friends you might be attracted to or interested in, and the relationship shouldn't turn problematic just because the opposite party doesn't feel the same way.