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Put this term in a danger zone

OPINION

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March 24, 2013|By Niki Fritz, @fritzfrack | For RedEye

In case you missed the momentous announcement, Oxford's online dictionary has an addition to its digital pages: "friend zone" became an approved word last month.

The "friend zone," or "a situation in which a platonic relationship exists between two people, one of whom has an undeclared romantic or sexual interest in the other," has become a more popular term in recent months thanks to the revolting Friend Zone Fiona meme as well as its real-life antithesis, Nice Guys of OkCupid.

But before we dive down that delicious rabbit hole of misogyny, let's look at the rather innocuous origins of the term "friend zone."

Remember the good ol' days of the mid-'90s? That's when Joey, from a little-known TV show called "Friends," told his buddy Ross that he had waited too long to ask out their mutual friend Rachel; Ross was in the "friend zone." Back during the relative innocence of the '90s, "friend zone" was just the poorly conceived notion that once you became friends with someone, there was no way to transition to lovers.

However in recent years, "friend zone" has made a roaring comeback. According to Google analytics, a paradigm shift happened around the end of 2011, when searches of the term went through the roof. But with the resurgence came a twist; the term was now being used more by supposed "nice guys" who couldn't seem to "score" with their attractive female friends.

It was then that we met Friend Zone Fiona, a smiling blonde with hilariously sexist comments over her face such as "You can hit it ... out of the park as leader on this group project, I know it!" The message was that it was outrageous for a guy to spend so much time actually being NICE to a girl without getting something in return.

The very audible retort was the Nice Guys of OkCupid meme, which displayed the self-identified "nice guy's" profile, usually with some horrible sexist comments. Much of 2012 was then a flurry of back-and-forth argument. One of my personal favorites came from a blogger who sums up the entire debate perfectly: "'Slut' is how we vilify a woman for exercising her right to say 'yes.' 'Friendzone' is how we vilify a woman for exercising her right to say 'no.'"

What is so disturbing about the idea of "friend zone" is that these self-indulgent navel-gazers believe they deserve to be in "sexy zone" just because they were nice to a girl. It is the misogynistic paradigm that exists everywhere from memes to Steubenville, Ohio; some men believe that simply by being "nice guys," they are owed open access to any girl's body.

The term itself has always bugged me, but what is insane to me is that Oxford had to go and make it a "real" word, officially validating the erroneous theory for thousands of whiny (and often misogynist) men.

It's not that I'm against random jargon words entering the hollowed pixels of Oxford. I love that "appletini" is recognized as both a legitimate and delicious word. But dictionaries should stay out of legitimizing the sexist-sad-sack rhetoric of the Internet. Besides, Ross and Rachel's epic love story officially proves "friend zones" don't exist.

Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.

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