Wednesday, March 01, 2017

No Such This as Frenemies

I am particularly disturbed by the term "frenemies".  Apparently these people are friends who are also enemies.  Aside from the fact that this makes absolutely no sense, as you can only be one or the other,  it seems that this contradictory moniker only applies to women and girls.

Girl bullying has always been different from boy bullying.  When boys want to bully one another they mainly use physical violence and intimidation, whereas girls use emotional and mental abuse.  Those of us gals who grew up before bullying became an issue of concern for adults know what it's like to be excluded by the group, called names like "slut" and "whore" behind our backs, and have judgement cast upon us for unfounded reasons.  The boys who grew up with us know what it's like to be slammed into lockers, punched in the face, or thrown down to the ground.

Boy bullying is very clear cut, and seems to have a finite end.  Once the male bully has shown dominance, much like in the animal kingdom, he seems to go away.  Girl bullying can last a lot longer and there may never be a real clear cut end.  This is my guess as to the origin of the term "frenemy".

She hangs around with you, is on your social media friends list, maybe throws a genuine compliment your way once in awhile.  Every time you see her, she seems pleasant enough, but smiles while giving backhanded compliments.  She also talks behind your back, messages your common friends encouraging them to get together without you, and, at worst, will catfish you just for fun.  If you confront her, she will never admit that she hates you or even dislikes you.  She is a "frenemy".

I'm not cool with this, and I'm prepared to call it what it was back when I was growing up; this is a two-faced bitch who hates you.  She is the fox in the henhouse, and her bullshit should not be tolerated.

I'm angry that the whole concept of a "frenemy" exists, because I'm having to deal with it right now with my younger daughter.  We have come to a point in our world where we try to teach children that everyone is their friend.  On paper, this sounds great.  In a perfect world, everyone would be friends with everyone else.  However, this is completely unrealistic.  Human beings have personality differences, they like different things, and forcing children to befriend each other results in bullshit like "frenemies".

When my older daughter was experiencing this, there was no such thing as a "frenemy".  My advice to her was to not put up with bullying and intimidation.  I taught her the incredible power of the bluff, how to violate personal space to catch your enemy off guard, and the spectacular tool of lowering the volume of your voice.  There is nothing more effective than getting 2-3 inches away from someone's face and quietly telling them that you've had enough of their shit.  It lets them know that you are done.

I told my older daughter that she didn't have to be friends with everyone, she just had to be polite and respectful.  If someone did not return the politeness and respect, she was not obligated to give them the time of day.  She didn't have to be mean or give them dirty looks or insult them behind their back, she could just pretend that they didn't exist.  This was such a liberating concept to her.

Last year, we had a similar discussion in relation to social media.  There were three girls from her school always bragging about their "wonderful" friendship, while specifically excluding and taunting others not in their petite circle.  It was making my daughter feel bad, so I told her to "unfriend" them. It was like this had never occurred to her.  I told her she was not obligated to follow people who make others, specifically her, feel like shit.  She didn't need that negativity in her life.  She unfollowed all three, and felt great about it.

Now, I'm trying to coach my little, 7 year old daughter out of the "frenemies" sinkhole.  The first thing I made clear was that there is no such thing as a "frenemy".  "Frenemies" do not exist.  Either someone is your friend, because they are nice and kind, they like to play with you, share your interests, say nice things to you, cooperate when it comes to playing or projects or actives you both like to do, and want to make you as happy as you make them, or they are your enemy, because they make you feel bad, they exclude you, they say nasty things about you behind your back, they try to turn your friends against you.  It doesn't matter if they are smiling while they are doing this, they are not your friend.

This is still a work in progress, and it seems like just one more thing that internalizes the misogyny that women always have to be pitted against one another, as I have never heard the term "frenemy" applied to a male relationship.  I get really sick of watching backbiting women on reality tv smiling with full veneers on display at their so-called friends while in the next scene scheming behind their supposed friend's back.  And I really hate that my girls see this on tv, too.

In the golden age of activism against bullying, we need to include the concept of "frenemy" and confront the misogyny that helped birth this bastard in the first place.  I tell my girls that other girls are not their competition, that they should only compare themselves to themselves and not to their friends, because their friends have different DNA therefore comparisons are ludicrous.

My older daughter tried comparing her body type and weight to one of her classmates the other day.  I listened then asked one simple question, "Who is the classmate?".  Turned out it was a Chinese girl who is a half a foot shorter, and a Size 0.  I explained to my daughter that her comparison was ridiculous, because her friend is of Chinese descent, therefore, she will likely take after her parents and grandparents and always be shorter in stature and never get above a Size 4.  I reminded my daughter that her own family was mostly Russian and Italian, her paternal grandfather was over 6' tall, and both sides of her family were not made up of slight-boned, skinny people.

I extend this philosophy of self-competition to everything from looks to academics to extra curricular activities with both of my girls.  The goal shouldn't be to single out another girl and be better than her, it should be to best whatever you did last time.  I tell my girls that there will always be others that are better than them at everything, and instead of envy, contempt and anger, your goal should be to find out what they do that is better than you and learn from it.

While this is a sensible solution, it is a very uphill battle, because the world wants to pit people, particularly girls, against each other.  They want to have the "frenemy" scenario become that pattern for female friendships, because when women get together, we know they are the most powerful force on Earth, and this threatens the patriarchy.  They know if they can keep girls constantly questioning themselves and never feeling like they are good enough, then girls will hold themselves back.  And the thing that pisses me off the most, is that they disguise this toxicity as a form of friendship, which internalizes the idea that other women cannot be trusted.

Well, there are no "frenemies" on my watch, and try hard as they may, I'm one riotmom who is willing to do the work to keep her daughters "frenemy"-free, and focused on self-improvement rather than petty competition.

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