Friends are great. The gender binary is not. Sometimes, even though they're amazing, our friendships enforce gender stereotypes in subtle (and maybe not so subtle) ways. Here are a few things you deal with from your friends that you maybe didn't realize were based in gender norms. Or maybe you did realize. Whatever. Let's talk about it, though, because it's worth it to do so.
One of the toughest things to battle when it comes to the gender binary is that constant, nagging voice of internalized misogyny. It always appears at the most inopportunate times, right in the back of your brain, in that spot you can't quite reach. It's that voice that says, "If you only lost five pounds, he'd want to date you." The voice that puts image-based compliments (and "compliments") above other nice things. Sometimes, that voice isn't just in your head; it's coming from your BFF.
If you notice that your group of friends engages in any of these tendencies (or all of them), address it. It doesn't mean they or you are bad people; regardless as to the intention behind the behaviors, it's still some toxic nonsense in both your and their lives. The best kinds of friendships challenge you, support your growth, and push you to be evolving into just like a continually awesome human. They do not enforce the very stereotypes that are holding you back.
A fun note about this article: As with a lot of friendship-based articles, I turned to my real-life friends, who all said, "I can identify some of these behaviors from past relationships, but I want to be very, very clear that this is not us." Hope is out there, dudes.
1. Food Shaming
Ever been snackin' with a group of your lady friends and suddenly realized that you've been engaging in a collective food bashing moment? You know, where one person says "Oh my god, I'm eating so much," and then everyone else feels obligated to join in, and then suddenly you're feeling guilty for enjoying a bag of chips and being "so bad?" News flash: Women are allowed to eat. What we want. As much as we want. Without apologizing. Don't let the patriarchy tell you otherwise.
2. Image-Based Compliments
If you ever feel the urge to give a compliment like, "You look so skinny," do not. Don't. Leave it alone. There are plenty of other ways to boost your friend's self-esteem without bringing size, shape, or looks into it. We get enough sh*t from the rest of society regarding the conflation between how a woman looks and how a woman is valued — we don't need it from friends.
3. Being Asked for "Girl" Advice...
So, OK, here are my thoughts on asking your male friends for "guy" advice and your female friends for "girl" advice: We live in a society that is still governed by the gender binary. Men and women are socialized differently. A lot of generalized tendencies are due to the differences in socialization; they're not inherent qualities. Just, like, be empathetic and not an asshole, generally speaking. That's my advice.
4. ...Unless You're a Gay Male, Because Then You're Asked for Fashion Advice
Because gay men are effeminate. And feminine people (you know, women) love fashion. All of them. They all do. We can't get enough of appearance-based stuff. Please. More more more. All the time. Give it to me good.
Except don't, because this is obviously BS.
5. And the Latest Gossip
Because if there's one thing that women and gay men love more than shopping, it's being petty and spreading rumors. Right?!
Real talk: Don't treat your friends like tokens, and don't reduce yourself to a token, either. Just don't. We are all so much more than that.