BFFs & Mean Girls: Why Best Friends Forever Can Be Harmful to Girls
Up until recently, I didn’t pay much attention to the term “BFF” or Best Friend Forever. I’ve seen the term used on mom blogs and elsewhere, but the few times I’ve paid attention to it, I assumed it was a harmless, trendy term for friendship. That was until my 11 year-old daughter started coming home from school mocking the term and saying other girls use it to exclude classmates and form cliques.
A great piece last week called “The Myth of 'Real' Female Friendships” in the New York Times resonated deeply with me. Judith Warner, the writer, is troubled by the term BFF. As the mom of two girls (ages 11 and 14), Ms. Warner says she has long been concerned about the new BFF culture for girls. She thinks it’s “not just cheaply commercial (those necklaces!) but also kind of oppressive.” She goes on to write that the BFF culture seems “compulsory” and somehow feels like a woman can only realize her full human potential if she’s “plugged in” constantly to her girlfriends.
Reading this excellent piece confirmed what I had begun to suspect: namely that some young girls use the BFF term to control friendships and contribute to the mean girl culture that our daughters must contend with. That’s not to say it’s wrong or mean to have a best friend and be to proud of that friendship. But, when BFFs change weekly and feelings are hurt because a BFF has just dumped her supposed BFF, is that really a positive, self-esteem boosting idea for a young girl to embrace?
BFF, it appears, is making it easy for girls to latch onto the concept to further create insecurities, rather than embrace the idea of a true best friend. A true best friend, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is wonderful. Of course, best friends have ups and downs, but no 11 year-old girl should feel forced to have a BFF due to peer pressure. This is especially true when the BFF trend is complete with a heart-shaped necklace, which splits into two pieces, ostensibly symbolizing two best friends.
Many of us don’t have one best friend. Some are friends with a few (or a lot) of women whose friendship we treasure. I’m always taken aback when I hear a grown woman refer to her “best friend” because it seems like such a juvenile concept that she should have outgrown many years ago.
I’m elated that my daughter mocks the BFF culture, rather than becoming obsessed with it. She has a great group of friends, but doesn’t refer to any of them as BFFs, nor does she have one of those necklaces. Now that she’s talking about BFF and mean girl in the same sentence, I’m glad to know there’s at least one other mom who feels the same way I do.
Christina Simon is the co-author of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider's Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. She also blogs at BeyondTheBrochure
Photo Credit: Alex Garcia.