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Sunday, November 25, 2007
Identity, Gender, and Dear Abby
So I generally don't read Dear Abby, but I caught this letter yesterday. The question and her response betrays the messages that continue to be sent to girls about fitting into expected gender stereotypes.
DEAR ABBY: I haven't had a boyfriend for a while now, and I'm not sure why. Everyone says I'm cool, funny and outgoing. I play video games, sports, and do things that boys think girls would never do (like paintballing in the woods or bungee jumping over and over again).

All my guy friends think I'm awesome, and I do get compliments on my looks as well. I'm not a tomboy, I wear nice clothes and some makeup, but for some reason, whenever I get a crush on a guy, he says it would be "weird" because I'm a "really good friend."

What am I doing wrong? I love who I am and so do boys. So why don't they think I could be "girlfriend material"? -- BOYFRIENDLESS IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR BOYFRIENDLESS: It may be that "guys" see you as one of them. And because of it, they don't consider you in a romantic way. Therefore, it's time to emphasize your feminine side and present yourself in a different light. This may mean temporarily downplaying your involvement in boys' sports and paintball games, and amping up your "girlishness." Give it a try and see what happens.

To insist that girls deny who they are in order to get a guy is just sick. How many women over time have buried their personalities and pretended to a role that is a lie in order to fit in or be accepted? Why do girls (or guys for that matter) have to squeeze themselves into molds of what others think they should be like in order to attain "a happy and fulfilling life"? And why are freaking advice columnists spreading such nonsense instead of working to help people accept each other for who they are and encouraging confused young teens to pursue their passions instead of pushing cultural straitjackets upon them?


posted by Julie at 4:16 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/25/2007 04:50:00 PM, Blogger CB

    When girls follow this line of logic - change so guys will like you - they don't realize what a recipe for disaster this is. Sure, if you pretend to be someone you are not, you may get a boyfriend. But that boy isn't interested in you, he is interested in the person you are pretending to be. If you want the relationship to continue, you will have to keep living the lie. If you act like the real you, you will run into trouble when he starts to wonder what happened to the girl that he fell for.

    In the end, changing who you are to get a date will only cause pain for both of you. You won't be able to maintain your relationship and your identity, and he will feel deceived. If you are feeling lonely, it may seem like a good idea, but it is just a recipe for heartache.

  • At 11/25/2007 05:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I am both sad and shocked at Abby's terrible advice to this young girl. It sounds like the guys are saying this girl is not "girlfriend" material because they see her as a true "friend" that they enjoy being with. Someone needs to tell these guys that the best girl for them is someone they enjoy being with and have things in common with. The best relationships are founded on friendship. Or, perhaps they know that but are not really looking for a serious relationship but just a short term fling. If this were my daughter I'd tell her: "There's nothing wrong with you. Be who you are and be confident in who you are. If a guy doesn't recognize and accept you for who you are then he really is not worth it."

  • At 11/26/2007 08:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    cb, you should write a letter to DA. your response is perfect. ( in fact, others should write her as well and let her know how inadequate, and perhaps damaging, her advice was)

  • At 11/26/2007 09:45:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    Well, at least Abby didn't tell her that she must be a lesbian because she likes "guy" stuff - i.e. sports and video games. ;)

    Is there any chance that this letter is a reprint from years ago?

  • At 11/26/2007 10:49:00 AM, Blogger Trish Ryan

    I don't know...as tempting as it is to critique Dear Abby's advice, the fact is that this girl is unhappy with her situation, and asked for advice. It's not like DA posted a column of "General advice for all teen girls without boyfriends."

    DA didn't tell her to lie. She suggested that if this girl wants to change the terms of her relationship with a guy, she may have to tweak some things to help him see her in a new light. That doesn't mean she'll never play paintball again.

  • At 11/26/2007 01:31:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I also wonder how old this girl is -- I imagine you will be more likely to find guys (even men?) who think her true qualities are sexy when she is at the career age, as opposed to high school or college.

  • At 11/26/2007 05:05:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Trish - I didn't say that DA advice wouldn't work. Girls have been taking advice like that for years to get the guy so that "they could be happy." I just think its sad that DA would perpetuate the lie that having a guy would make one happy and exacerbate it telling the girl to stop being herself in order to do so. There is a whole system of false messages at play that need to be destroyed and not continued to be spread as advice.

  • At 11/27/2007 12:13:00 AM, Blogger Benjamin Ady

    I wish DA had invited her to sit with her struggle, acknowledging it's difficulty, and neither having to fix it nor flee it. Of course that's a *really* difficult invitation to pull off, especially in a short written format like this type of advice column.

  • At 11/29/2007 01:10:00 PM, Anonymous Ada

    Hi. I think Abby's response was practical in a way. Sometimes we may not appreciate the way other people see us. I think this girl needs to have a look at herself to see if there are some things she can modify without losing who she is. If having a boyfriend were less important to her, then she could stick to her guns and pray hard that a guy will come along who will love her just the way she is. It is rather unfortunate that she is so desperate about the issue.

  • At 11/29/2007 07:01:00 PM, Blogger Heather W. Reichgott

    Interesting that she doesn't actually say she wants a boyfriend, but that she perceives being "boyfriendless" as a problem. She mentions crushes almost as a sidebar... like it's more important to have some boyfriend, any boyfriend, than to court some particular person she's interested in. Then Abby responds as if boyfriendlessness is indeed the real problem. What's the problem with being boyfriendless?


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