Is ‘Girl code’ dead?

7 Mins read

The code, which emphasises friendship, support, and empowerment among women, seems to have taken a back seat. 

When a friend is going through a break-up or a bad day, girl code dictates that you’re there with a tub of ice cream and a blanket or a listening ear.

This isn’t just being nice; it’s about understanding and responding to each other’s emotional needs. It’s the secret ingredient that makes female friendships feel like a cosy, haven. All of this is grounded in mutual understanding.

Girl code isn’t just about what you do, it’s about why you do it. It’s an unspoken agreement that says, ‘I get you, and I’ve got your back’.

This understanding is what turns a group of friends into a tight-knit sisterhood. Each nod to the girl code strengthens these bonds, weaving a tapestry of trust and support.

group of girls laughing
Best friends are the best therapy [Unsplash: Joel Muniz]

“The concept of girl code is as simple as respecting one another’s feelings. if you can’t understand that or even comprehend what the bare minimum is, why are you friends?”, says Eman, a 21 year-old.

The girl code is an unspoken set of rules that encourage friendship, loyalty, and empowerment among girls. It goes beyond the stereotypical image of going for your best friend’s ex and envisions a world where women stand together for each other’s success without any feelings of jealousy or competitiveness.

“Being an adolescence and having girl code can be confusing for some young girls. I think this is because a lot of the time at a young age girls can be very fiery and insecure so they turn ON each other instead of TO each other, this can be seen through things like jealousy etc. However, as we get older, we realise that girlhood is such a beautiful thing and it’s important to support one another because we all go through so much and we just all go through very similar life experiences”, said Vanessa, a 20 year-old undergraduate student.

“The biggest limitations of ‘girl code’ its inflexibility and the misinterpretations can arise due to the unspoken nature of these rules, causing unnecessary arguments. This concept is often misused to manipulate or guilt others into following these rules against their personal beliefs,” said Kashish, 23 year-old working girl.

“It may lead to lack of open or heart-to-heart discussions and mere assumptions about these rules can lead to resentment. Nonetheless, this concept largely creates a support system where women look out for each other, especially in challenging situations, and encourages respect for each others personal boundaries.”

The rise of toxic narratives plays a significant role in undermining girl code. Girls nowadays have created a hostile environment where they feel compelled to tear each other down to secure their own positions.

The rise in insecurities about ones’ own worth and achievement can lead to fear and jealousy, fuelling toxic behaviour causing division among women, which puts a strain on the definition of girl code.

Instead of celebrating each other’s success or taking part in their happiness some girls resort to competition, belittling, or seeking validation through tearing others down.

“Girl code or more like sisterhood culture is becoming so toxic that a space once created to bring peace and comfort has now transformed into an emotionally draining environment,” says Laiba, a 27 year-old fashion columnist. 

“Girl code is having each other’s backs. Simple things like checking each other when we stand up on our period, saying we have lipstick on our teeth, suggesting any big opportunities because of the lack of female representation in certain industries, it honestly changes so much”, says Vanessa.

Supporting other girls in their dreams, endeavours, and career aspirations is as vital. Cheering on our girlfriends as they pursue their passions, breaking class ceilings, and are on their way to achieve girls, create a space where women can thrive and succeeded without negativity coming from the same gender as they deal with enough from opposite gender. 

It is unfortunate to see that one of the most complex and debated aspects of girl code is the question of whether it is acceptable to date a friend’s ex-partner.

While it is a given rule of girl code to have respect and loyalty towards your girlfriends and should not be open to debate, however here we are doing so in the 21st century.

If you’ve been friends for many years and have seen your best/close friend, go through a bad breakup or even if they have ended it on good terms, why would you put them in the same situation again in the form of a friendship? 

two girls sitting together
Communication is key to all problems (Unsplash: Briana Tozour]

Care and concern do not leave immediately and it’s not unusual for them to have some unresolved feeling for their exes.

“Absolutely bloody not in my opinion! They are automatically out of the option list the moment your friend say they like them, even if it doesn’t go further,” says Vanessa.

“No. It is absolutely not okay to go for your friends ex, let alone best friend. While many may think that it is completely normal and out of your control to develop feelings for someone, it is the choices you make post that urge,” Kashish agreed.

“A best friend to me is my sister, mother, my unpaid therapist and the list can go to express what I feel for her, so to lay even a look on something important to her is an unforgiven sin. It is always the person who was with you through thick and thin that matters, not the one who gives you butterflies, because butterflies do flutter away, but she will remain.”

“If you’re no longer best friends then yes i think it’s okay BUT if you’re best friends and he cheats with you on your best friend, then come on? Did your parents not teach you anything?” Eman, a 22 year-old arts student, asks.

“Sometimes it can be difficult when two girls end up falling for the same guy without knowing (or knowingly) and then the guy goes for one of them. then the decision is between the two girls, which can be made in many ways; one ‘will you go for him? he likes you back and isn’t meant for me, he’s yours let’s not ruin our friendship over it’ or two ‘how can you even think of going for him? like sure he likes you back whatever but I like him too so no you can’t go for him’ or three ‘he can fuck off we’ll find someone better’,” states Eman.

“This is a cardinal rule in the girl code. It’s about respecting your friend’s past and present feelings. Doing otherwise can lead to unnecessary heartache and potentially ruin a friendship or leave a strong mark on the person’s emotions,” states Alisa, a university student.

In such sticky circumstances, communication is key. Talk openly and honestly about your feelings, as thats something not in your control.

Be prepared for a range of reactions, as your girl may feel hurt, betrayed or uncomfortable with the idea. Respect their perspective and allow them to express their emotions without judgment. But the idea behind is to not stab your girls in back which unfortunately seems to be the case today with many.

There are factors that maybe involved in determining whether potentially dating a friend’s ex would still be “okay” in their books.

group of women holding hands
Build each other up, not tear each other down [Unsplash: Sierra Koder)

Whether they just broke up months ago or years ago? Are the wounds still fresh or they have completely healed? Has enough time passed by even contemplate or think to fathom about it? Did they ex cheat on her? But even then don’t keep your girl in the dark. COMMUNICATE.

“As women transition from adolescence to adulthood, the approach to girl code evolves. In adolescence, these rules tend to be more rigid, such as a strict rule against dating friend’s exes. In early adulthood, there is more flexibility, with emphasis on open and honest communication,” Kashish tells us.

“By later adulthood, women usually focus more on supporting each other’s choices, with less emphasis on specific rules. In my opinion, instead of being too rigid,, it’s now more about having meaningful conversations, supporting each other’s choices, and promoting healthy relationships, rather than being stuck on teen ideologies and evolving with the world.”

Beyond this debate of girlhood, is being there for each other in times of need is another critical component of girl code. whether it’s offering a listening ear, lending a helping hand or being a shoulder to cry on we must show empathy and provide support when a fellow girl is going through a tough time, as girls we tend to share similar experiences, challenges, and emotions.

By leaning on each other for almost everything and being able to without any hesitance, creating a strong network of support that strengthens our bond and helps us navigate life’s ups and down. 

The lack of respect among females in this rapidly changing society is a growing concern. Respecting boundaries and trust is a fundamental part of girl code, which seems to be knowingly violated in recent times where some girls are no longer good at keeping their friends secret or personal information, quick to spread false information.

Instead, we should maintain confidentiality and honour the trust they place us in. Respecting boundaries also means refraining from prying into private matters or even asking invasive questions which your girlfriends might not be comforting share with you at that moment.

Everyone deserves their privacy and understanding and accepting that can helps us foster trust and open communication among girls.

Just like personal space is a no-fly zone, emotional boundaries are sacred. Respecting these means understanding that no means no, and ‘I’m not comfortable’ isn’t an invitation for a debate.

girls together
You glow different when you’re actually happy [Unsplash: Levi Guzman)

One unfortunate reality that persists among girls is the tendency to degrade and criticise each other’s appearances. This behaviour tends to perpetuate harmful beauty standards and also undermines the supportive sisterhood that should exists among women.

Rise of compassion among females and feelings of insecurity can drive some women to criticise others to evaluate their own self-worth. By putting others down, they falsely believe it will make them feel better about themselves. WHY?

Why can’t we celebrate and embrace different body types, shapes and appearances and challenge those who possess this mindset? Promote images and messages that highlight a range of beauty so that women feel valued regardless of how they fit into societal experience. Why does this seem harder than it looks in the end?

While girl code often revolves around the rule of not dating your friends ex, it encompasses so much more.

“Girl code for me is the ideas of every girl looking out for one another the idea of ‘sisters before misters. it’s where we take care of each other and make sure we honest and respectful. it’s a big factor in female friendships as it’s what most are based upon. it’s about loyalty to one another,” says Ceyda, 20 year-old student.

It embodies supporting and uplifting one another, respecting boundaries, trust and promoting and breaking stereotypes, encouraging inner beauty and self-confidence. 

If the male community can strongly worship “bros before hoes”, why can’t we be the “girl bros before the man hoes”? Why constantly stab each other in the back and constantly project our insecurities onto one another?

The world is enough of a challenge to deal with. 

Featured image by Gayatri Malhotra via Unsplash.

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