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On the construction and use of the word 'girlfriend'.

When men are friends, they say they are ‘friends’ and other people describe them as ‘friends’. When men and women are friends, they say they are ‘friends’ and other people describe them as ‘friends’. When women are friends, they say they are ‘girlfriends’ and other people describe them as ‘girlfriends’.

This constructs friendship, the state of being a friend, as a male domain. It says that friendship is a relationship that requires at least one man. It says that if a woman is someone’s friend, then she is the friend of a man. If she were friends with a woman, it would be a different kind of relationship, bearing a different name (girlfriend). This marks friendship between women as something abnormal, something not natural to women, but rather something that women do with men, if at all.

If the ‘girlfriend’ of a woman is her female friend, in whom she has no sexual or romantic interest, then what do we call the woman she does have sexual and romantic interest in? This redefinition of ‘girlfriend’ as a platonic noun erases not only the facts of women’s friendships, but the identity of our sexual and romantic relationships with each other.

This makes it harder to tell whose ‘girlfriend’ is actually a girlfriend and whose ‘girlfriend’ is the female friend of a woman. This makes it so queer women everywhere have to be even more explicit about our personal lives than we did previously, something that few of us relish in this male-fantasy oriented culture, and it is the same invisibility that lesbians face with regard to our sex lives; the idea that sex is the insertion of a man’s penis into a woman’s vagina - and this is a deliberate construction of the male as active, female as passive, sex is something that men do to women, not something that men and women do together and certainly not something that women can do to men, - creating everything else, all other 'sex' (including my entire sex life as a lesbian) as ‘not-sex’. This in turn constructs women as less than men, as men’s social inferiors, as incapable of being primary participants in simple but vital life processes, which in turn relegates us to a lower social position - one where we can neither be friends nor fuck, one where we have to rely on men for these things.

Personally, I've always been baffled by the use of the term girlfriend when refering to somebody who was actually just a friend of somebody female, who also happened to be female. The logic thereof escapes me.

Obviously, if somebody is your girlfriend, then there should be something more there than merely "friendship".

Which, in it's own way, likely leads us (as long as we're worrying about semantics) to wonder about the true nature of what differs, truly, between being a friend, and being (to be less technically obfuscating) a significant other.

I think that the usage of the term "girlfriend" to refer to the friend of a girl who is also a girl may be cultural, in the same way that hugging a newly met stranger on one coast is acceptable, whereas on the other it's a good way to get curb hopped.

In Britain, New Zealand and Australia, the word girlfriend is used purely as the female equivalent of boyfriend, ie. a female with whom you have a romantic or sexual link. If you have a friend who happens to be female, she is a friend, irrespective of whether you are male or female.

It's a lot less confusing that way.

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