To hear some tell it, there is no crueller torture a woman can inflict upon a man than to be his friend. Because, as the saddest sad men of the internet will happily explain to you at length, men and women can’t really be friends. Any woman who think she has male friends is fooling herself; all her supposed male friends have ulterior motives, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
They want to take her to the Bone Zone, in the parlance of our time, but she has put them in the Friend Zone instead, a hellish sexless purgatory that only the exquisitely charming and wholly fictional Jim Halpert on The Office has been able to escape. Such, at least, is the Friend Zone myth.
I’ve read a lot of silly things about the alleged evils of the alleged Friend Zone over the years, mostly in the form of terrible memes or scary rants on some misbegotten misogynist subreddit. But the silliest thing I’ve read on the subject for some time is a post that went up earlier this week on The Federalist, a right-wing media outlet with a heavy Christian bent.
In “Why Men and Women Can Never Be ‘Just Friends,'” Lutheran pastor and “comical video” maker Hans Fiene argues that we need to “tear down the Friend Zone” so American men and women can marry younger and “raise our sagging birth rates” so the world won’t run out of babies.
All of us need to start having more babies or else the upcoming demographic tsunami will consume our nation, cripple our social programs, and leave us with a future so bleak that our only source of joy will be the moment we’re chosen to receive the sweet, fatal kiss of the Obamacare Death Panels, the Trumpcare Firing Squads, or the OprahCare Hemlock Squadrons.
Despite the achingly off-key “humor” at the end there — did I mention that Fiene makes “comical videos” on the side? — this argument, such as it is, is meant in all seriousness. As Fiene sees it, every day America’s hapless males waste in the Friend Zone is a day they could be making babies with a loving wife.
Being caught in the Friend Zone is an inarguable drag on fertility rates, as a man who spends several years pledging his heart to a woman who will never have his children is also a man who most likely won’t procreate with anyone else during that time of incarceration. Free him to find a woman who actually wants to marry him, however, and he’ll have several more years to sire children who will laugh, create, sing, fill the world with love and, most importantly, pay into Social Security.
Quite simply, for the sake of our future, the Friend Zone must be destroyed.
Fiene’s case against the Friend Zone is if anything even sillier than his demographic alarmism. He begins by sketching out the true horror of the purgatory that is the Friend Zone.
Every year, countless young men find themselves trapped in the Friend Zone, a prison where women place any man they deem worthy of their time but not their hearts, men they’d love to have dinner with but, for whatever reason, don’t want to kiss goodnight.
Fiene is apparently baffled and appalled by the notion that any woman might want to have dinner with a man without wanting — literally — to have his babies.
The women of America, he argues, need to accept two harsh truths: “you don’t have any guy friends and, in fact, you can’t have any guy friends” — because any dude who likes to spend time alone with a woman actually just wants to get with her.
Fiene has a rather hackneyed notion of what men are looking for in a friend — basically a dudely dude type
who shares his interest in activities such as watching movies where things explode, playing video games where things explode, or putting fireworks in things so they’ll explode.
And in Fiene’s mind, women just aren’t qualified for that position, which strikes me as a rather strange contention because, well, my best friend IS a woman, and we have spent many hours over many years “watching movies where things explode [and] playing video games where things explode.”
We’ve also spent many hours watching Project Runway, and gleefully mocking the worst dressed at the Academy Awards. Because we’re actual human beings whose interests don’t map directly onto hackneyed stereotypes of what men and women enjoy. (She does have a hard time convincing me to watch Jane Austen movies though.) Oh, and we have no interest in sex or romance with each other; we enjoy those things with other people.
But I guess I’m delusional to think she and I are real friends, because everything she provides, friendship-wise, could apparently be provided much more efficiently by another dude. As Fiene sees it, “the average male coworker, male neighbor, or male Nepalese yak herder is better at producing masculine companionship” than women. Indeed, as Fiene (or his editor) declares in a big bold subhed, “There’s Only One Thing You Can Give His Man Friends Can’t.”
And, no, that isn’t “vagina.” It’s “vagina in the context of a loving marriage,” though Fiene doesn’t put it quite that baldly.
Addressing his female readers directly, Fiene tells them that when a man signs you up as a friend,
It’s not because he wants your friendship. It’s because he wants to convince you to open up the supply chain of a romantic relationship to him, and he foolishly believes he can do so by being a loyal friendship customer. “Pay my dues in the Friend Zone,” he thinks, “and one day she’ll promote me to boyfriend.”
Fiene assures the ladies that
Just because men don’t want to be your friend, however, doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy your company. They most certainly do. They love discovering how you see the world, what you think about life, the universe, and everything. They love your kindness, thoughtfulness, sensitivity, support, and your nurturing heart. They love being in your presence when you display the wonders of the feminine virtues.
At least when those “feminine virtues” come as part of a package deal with vagina — though, again, Fiene puts it a bit more delicately.
[B]ecause God designed these [feminine] virtues to entice men into marriage, the average man will never be content to receive those gifts in a form of companionship that doesn’t lead to marriage. Quite simply, men can’t be at peace being just friends. And there’s nothing you can do to change that. Platonic chilling won’t stop your inner (and outer) beauty from pulling a man towards romantic love.
So what is to be done? The women of America need to clear out their Friend Zones — kicking the guys they don’t find attractive to the curb and marrying up those guys who at least sort of stir their loins a little.
First, he informs the female reader, she needs to address those Friend-Zoned men who don’t
fill you with the biological desire to repopulate the earth? If not, then do your “friend” a solid and let him go. Call him up and tell him, “It’s not my fault that your facial symmetry grosses out my ovaries, but it was my fault that I got your hopes up by putting you in the Friend Zone. As restitution, please accept the phone numbers of five girls I know who find you attractive. Stop wasting your time with me and go hang out with a girl who might one day bear your children.”
Apparently Fiene thinks human beings talk to each other like that.
“Conversely,” Fiene continues,
if you find your guy friend attractive, and if you see him as a man of character and heart, then call him right now and tell him that he was placed in the Friend Zone due to a clerical error. Say to him, “You make me laugh and would be a great husband and father. Clearly, you need to be on the express track to the Marriage Zone.”
How … romantic?
Fiene concludes his strange little anti-Friend Zone manifesto with a stirring paean to the transcendent glories of … increased baby production.
So get brave. Get married. Get pregnant a bunch of times and give birth to a bunch of beautiful little future taxpayers. The time has come to fight for our future. The time has come to rebuild America’s demographic glory atop the rubble of the fertility-killing Friend Zone.
I think I’ll pass, thanks!
So who exactly is this manifesto supposed to inspire? Nothing in it bears much resemblance to the world I live in. Fiene’s resolutely heteronormative, baby-centric utopia offers nothing to the gay, bi, or trans folk I know, nor is it going to appeal to those with no interest in traditional marriage and/or children. Hell, its visions of masculinity and femininity are so constricted they don’t even fit most of the straight, cis people I know.
I certainly wouldn’t want to be trapped in the Fiene Zone, that’s for sure.