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Saturday, May 21st, 2011
Someone on reddit posted with the title "I hate my girlfriend"
, and when I clicked I saw a post beginning with:
"So my friend and I were grabbing dinner last night after she had gotten into a tiff with her fiancée. I decided to grab my SO something since I was going to go see him right after. Went something like this."
Of course I originally thought this post was going to be about some problem with someone's relationship partner and had to back up for a moment and reinterpret what I was reading - clearly the poster's only romantic partner being referenced in this story is a man, and the only other woman in the story is not her relationship partner. Yet another of many, many times I've seen and heard this usage of "girlfriend", but this time, I took the time to write out my thoughts about it
Not actually an answer to your question, but a tangential comment since you hit one of my pet peeves: It annoys me greatly when people use "girlfriend" to mean "friend who is female and who I'm obviously not actually in a relationship with because I'm also female".
Partly, it's confusing. It takes extra context to figure out whether someone means it that way, or whether they're using the more usual meaning of "girlfriend" to mean "female dating/relationship partner". You supplied enough context in your post, but people often don't; your headline, though, didn't have enough context, and when I first clicked I thought I was going to read a post about someone's, you know, girlfriend!
But aside from the confusing aspect of it, it also seems to imply a world where women never date other women. It feels heterosexist to me, not in an intentional individual way, but just as a more general artifact of a culture that presumes lgbt people don't exist and so doesn't take account of them in its language. People who say it are generally just saying it out of habit and not thinking of that, but I wish they'd think of that, and help stamp out this term.
Edit: I should add that I'm aware that there's another nuance to this IMO outdated term: it came out of the idea that one's male and female friends play such significantly different roles in one's life that it's worth having another word besides "friend" to communicate which kind of friend you're referring to. Otherwise, why not always just say "friend" instead? Unfortunately, I think that this word usage also helps perpetuate the idea that male and female friends should play such significantly different roles in a woman's life, that the gender distinction becomes almost more significant than the individual differences between the people who happen to be her friends. It reinforces this part of our culture. Fortunately, I think that this part of our culture is on the wane - which is another aspect of gender-role assumptions being on the wane in general. So this is actually another reason why I'd like to see this usage go away, as part of encouraging feminism, gender role freedom, and the idea that friends' individuality matters a lot more than their gender.
If you're interested, it spawned a very large discussion
over on reddit, with some good subthreads.