The “Trouble” With Feminism: On Friendzones, Frustrations, and Robin Thicke

It’s 2014 and there are still women on Twitter creating bizarre anti-Feminist trending topics. It’s 2014 and there are still men out there who refuse to take no for an answer when a woman declines their advances. It’s 2014 and a woman’s sexual agency is still deemed a crime and she remains subject to gender-specific criticism and condemnation. It’s 2014, and there are still men out there who go to great lengths to exercise their supposed authority over women and humiliate them should this supposed authority be challenged. It’s 2014 and unfortunately we *still* have to remind the masses of the importance of Feminism in a world of Patriarchy. It’s 2014 and we must *still* defend our belief that Feminism is an important and fundamental movement in our long crawl towards equality for all. Well in this post, Naomi Maxwell – No Fly on the WALL’s Assistant Editor, an original Fly Girl, and one of our original line-up of writers – returns with a much-needed piece on privilege, frustration, ‘The Friend Zone’, and that awful, awful man… Robin Thicke. 

A lot of people still haven’t made their minds up on feminism. They’ll whisper feminist sounding ideals in convert voices, whilst stating time and time again, that they are NOT a feminist; lest they be lumped in with hairy, bra-burning caricatures of women. Because apparently men aren’t feminists(!) Whilst a great deal of this is of course down to ignorance, I can’t help but wonder if people also fear this almost conspiracy-theory-like gravity of a doctrine that rests on the premise that universally, society is ruled by a set of hegemonic masculine rules, norms and power. So essentially, the male who best fits this model is the only one who stands to benefit or be in a position of privilege. For those of us who who didn’t do AS/BA/MA Social Sciences, the term “hegemonic masculinity” coined by Connell, derived from Gramsci, alludes to characteristics, cycles of power, socialisation and numerous other ways by which women appear to be greatly disadvantaged in all areas of society, solely, because of their gender.

Feminism will

“A lot of people still haven’t made their minds up on feminism. They’ll whisper feminist sounding ideals in convert voices, whilst stating time and time again, that they are NOT a feminist.” – Naomi Maxwell. 


The scariest thing about feminism, is that it is right.

It is harrowing to explore the realities with which women are harassed, persecuted and ignored. It is disturbing to observe how young girls are undermined by their teachers as being “too bossy” and “too much of a know-it-all”, how they are denied, or seen as possessing a lesser right to education in poorer parts of the world. Gender inequality filters down to every level, to every subculture, to every ethnic group. And as with much of society’s problem, if we’re honest, it is much easier to turn a blind eye to it or shrug it off as misandrist spiel.

I find myself writing this piece, as I often do, because I find myself increasingly frustrated with the stack of cards I’ve been dealt. My life is great, don’t get me wrong, but the frustration is a just reaction to what I see more and more in my own age group as gender inequality.

I have a boyfriend. I’m quite fond of him. I should not have however have to invoke his existence because some guy refuses to take my ‘no’ as enough of an answer when I don’t want to give him my number. I find it utterly deplorable, that for you to leave me alone, because by now you have crossed every boundary that there is to cross, I have to call on a male saviour. The fact that more often than not, this still doesn’t work, is not the point. The point is – why is my voice, my lack of consent, my autonomy NOT ENOUGH?

Every Bigot Shutup 1

Some people may mock this as not a real problem when across the globe girls are subjected to FGM and forced marriage. A lesser evil, is still very much an evil. Some would put this down to male immaturity or the sub cultures that I interact with. But I don’t buy it. You see twenty-somethings on nights out shouting swear words after women who’ve rejected them, drunk or sober. You hear jokes ridiculing the middle aged man in a long-term relationship who’s going through a sexual dry spell, reeking strongly of that ever-present male assumption. There are expectations and generalised thought patterns that run deep in the male psyche, rather than understanding individual relationships with women, and it is these issues with which I hold my qualms.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s put aside wage inequality, employment discrimination, and increased likelihood of poverty and look at something many of us come into in the everyday. If you’re between ten and sixty, the chances are that you’ve come across the formidable term that is “the friend zone”. For those of you who still live in a wonderful world outside of childish labels I shall only too happily burst your bubble. “The friend zone” is the term applied to a male or female being “relegated” to being friends with a person. For some reason people appear to use it a lot more with “nice” males being thanked for being such good friends, or never quite seeming to “score” with females. The blatant linguistic issue there of “scoring” comes fit with wailing sirens and flashing red lights, but I can only touch on it because that would be an entire series of articles – suffice to say gaining my attention, affection and openness is not a game, it is not a competition, it is not yours to win. When you look at the more sinister background of this term. *ducks feminist killjoy jibe* and read between the lines, the assertion is ‘I’m a nice guy, how could you not sleep with me?’ For anyone to feel affronted that they are “nice”, but being called a friend, places us right back at this disturbing position of entitlement. As if your kindness means I should sleep with you, ‘oh you sat with me through a film?’ I’m now normatively required to hook up with you(!)

I am tired 3 - sassey gif

No one sums it up quite so well as Mr. Robin Thicke. I’m getting awfully tired of Robin. Whilst I’m sure his face is on the dartboard of many a feminist, I don’t follow showbiz news, I have no interest in the lives of the celebrity, I couldn’t care less. And somehow Mr. Thicke has got onto my radar, which is quite an impressive feat.

So here’s my thing – he released a song containing lyrics so insulting that I almost hurled my laptop onto the floor in reaction, if you somehow missed the gift that keeps on giving “Blurred Lines”.

every bigot shutup 3

Purportedly since then he has been unfaithful to his wife; she has chosen to separate from him and they’ve not seen each other in five months. His wife did not leave him for another man, she did not walk out one day, but in reaction, at the very least, to increasing displays of a disrespect to the female gender, herself included, she got tired of his blatant disregard. How did Mr. Thicke respond? He named an album after her, released songs detailing their private conversations, accompanied by a video to “Get Her Back” with their personal texts in it !

I mean if you’re repairing a damaged relationship that’s exactly how you go about it…

He publicly humiliated his wife, purportedly engaging in public and private lewd displays, hardly acting like the man you’d want go home to and cuddle up in bed. So then he took it upon himself to ignore those messages which she sent to him detailing her distrust, her need for space and her hurt, sharing it on a platform that has now been viewed over five million times. Let’s not forget singing about how it’s “so hard, but it doesn’t have to be” – Nothing quite says “I understand the depth of distress I’ve caused you”, as trivialising your partner’s hurt. Reading through the lyrics of this song, you have to wonder if he even knows why she’s upset. I mean this so sincerely, you’ve got to question it, because had my partner been unfaithful to me, like heck would “I should have kissed you longer” soothed that wound.

It would be both incredulous and amusing if this didn’t put a face to the symptomatic attitude of a number of men towards women. She has said give me space, he has ignored it. She has said I am hurt, he keeps on attracting PUBLIC attention. It’s just a larger platform for the same narrative to play out on, and I’m getting more than a little bit tired of it.

Young woman rolling her eyes

One thought on “The “Trouble” With Feminism: On Friendzones, Frustrations, and Robin Thicke

  1. Thank you for a well written and well thought out article. Here are some of my thoughts on the piece.

    Although, it is increasingly unpopular or suspicion-rendering to add disclaimers and caveats, I think it is worth and important to say that the overarching point made by this piece is spot-on. There is a real problem with the nature of male advances to women within society. Just last night, my sister told me (all too casually) of a guy who stalked her in France. The guy followed her, snatched her phone, took her number and was a bother for most of a day. Luckily, it did not develop beyond that, but I (ironically, like almost all men) am wary of other men and the nature of their approaches to women I know and do not know.

    Yet, my disagreement is rooted in a couple of the examples used to display the broken nature of aspects of male/female interaction. I am not sure whether the ‘friendzone’ works as an example of male desert. In this, I mean to say that the friendzone, although sounding like it reduces things to sex, is rarely the case in my experience from the male perspective. I have definitely described myself as being in the friendzone before and generally (I have a wide pool of men who I know personally and with whom I have had this discussion with) it is used when men genuinely like a woman.

    The reaction of rejection that you describe is a much better example of the faults described within the piece. None of those lads are interested in a friendzone, again by my experience (though a criticism of wanting ‘just sex’ is something we should also be careful about as it is the prerogative of both males and females, the objectivity of this is another debate). The OTT reaction is a real problem and is a tool used to both bolster a hurt male self-esteem and harm the female’s.

    Blurred Lines…this is quietly becoming a controversial stance, but I never once got the hubbub. To double check whether I was being insensitive I did pull up the lyrics again today, now by my reckoning, the video aside, here is what I understand is being construed as offensive:

    Firstly, let’s try the title, “blurred lines”. Considering the lyrics and the context, I am fairly certain he is not describing the blurred line between rape and regular advances. From how I read it, he’s talking about the blur of, ‘is she/isn’t she down, I can’t tell. We’ve been smiling faintly at eachother for half of tonight…I think…’, which I think most men and women who are out in the club regularly can attest to. It does not necessarily include the lads who think every women are or should be attracted to them thus they, as you note, never take no for an answer, invading the integrity of women.

    “And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl,
    I know you want it”

    I think this is the most contentious line. This could be construed independently as implying rape. But context changes matters, I would say it’s more creepy than rapey. The reason being two-fold, when out in a club (or out of tbh), ‘I know you want it’ is thought of or said on the proviso that the woman is in fact interested. Secondly, later on in the same verse, the following is said:

    “But you’re a good girl
    The way you grab me
    Must wanna get nasty
    Go ahead, get at me”

    This clearly implies that the one who Thicke says “wants it”, is someone who has already grabbed him and is thus interested. Aside from this scrutiny, it’s what I always got from the song as a whole.

    I think more problematic than the song itself is Thicke’s behaviour (with this song taken into account) following the song and culminating in that album. Dude’s a creep! The serious aspect is that he is an emblem of bad communication. That being said, he is nothing compared to someone enabled to the point that someone like Floyd Mayweather has been This article is the kind of thing that reaaaally makes me worry. All swept on the rug like there has been no progress in the last century.

    I will be honest and say that for most, if not all men, the ‘scoring’ aspect does exist (to varying extents), but a cursory glance in my age group does show that the majority of men want the same thing women want (or at least a similar thing).

    Anywho, cheers for the article.

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