There’s a lot of pearl-clutching and scaremongering these days about the shallowness of the social-media-addicted young generation. (O, for the days when the Young Generation was so merrily unpathologised by both itself and its elders that it served as the name of a light-hearted dance troupe performing on TV variety shows!) Thus part of current TV favourite Love Island’s feel-good factor comes from the pleasant surprise of the open-hearted sweetness of the young women involved. Indeed, if I have any criticism of them, it’s that they are a little too nice.
Take this Girl Code they ceaselessly speak of – never go after your friend’s crush, your friend’s friend, your friend’s sibling or, most vitally, your friend’s ex without permission – which basically seems like a recipe for going without, especially if you live in a small community or have a basic distaste for hooking up with strangers. If we stuck to the hands-off rule of refusing what these clean-eating youngsters refer to in ire as *sloppy seconds* we’d all be starving – unless we had a non-stop supply of virgins to hand. No, I definitely prefer the old classics like ‘All’s fair in love and war’ – but I guess a generation which clings onto its virginity until the average age of 26 is going to be a little on the sensitive side and find such fighting talk a little threatening to its Special Snowflake Safe Space.
Maybe, seeing as I’ll be 60 next year, I’m just too old and corrupt to appreciate the Girl Code? Or maybe I’m just tough. When I was breaking up with my second husband I did everything I could to get him together with one of my closest friends – and it eventually worked.
Lisa Armstrong, the estranged wife of Ant McPartlin, is the latest scorned woman to approve citations from strangers of both Girl Code and karma – two examples of ill-sorted sentiment for the price of one – in Twitter attacks on his new girlfriend: ‘So much for the Girl Code!’ and ‘Karma will get them both!’ I can understand girls ‘liking’ these kind of comments, the way I can understand them drawing on themselves or dreaming of The One – but Armstrong is not 12 or even 22 but 42. That her Twitter followers believe – correctly, as it turned out – that one can seek a grown woman’s approval by behaving like teenagers in a school toilet after someone’s sweaty boyfriend has dumped them for a girl who gives better blowjobs is yet further proof that social media – which I very much like in general – has contributed towards the babyfication of women, along with adult colouring books and the use of the word *tummy* by females over the age of eight. The very adult dynamics of adultery have been rendered into one big pink cyber-hug and a whispered ‘U OK, hun?’
Similarly, when it comes to the hot topic of online bullying I believe that our aim should not be to pursue a frantic full-out policy of ridding cyberspace of trolls – it can never be accomplished, and the police have far more important things to do – but to make people in general and young women in particular utterly immune to it. If strong fences make good neighbours then strong defences make good citizens. By placing the emphasis on making bullies stop bullying (obviously I’m talking name-calling here rather than sticks, stones and breaking bones, which are criminal offences of ABH or GBH already covered by law) rather than encouraging the bullied to toughen up to the point where the bullies give up because they’re no longer getting the response – fear, outrage, sorrow – they want – we are still dependent for our happiness on the kindness of strangers.
There seems to be a revived enthusiasm for blubbing amongst female SJWs, which is doubtless why they get accused of being snowflakes. I can’t help thinking that bourgeoise class origins are partly to blame for this; did the women on the Grunwick picket line cry when they had to stand for hours in the freezing cold? Did the suffragettes snivel about being *shamed*? No, they just got on with it. Women have been allowed to have feelings forever; it was our brains we were banned from using until relatively recently, so obviously utilising head over heart is what’s good for us. Which brings us back to Girl Code and why it’s not a type of feminism I will ever understand. How many people could we find as splendid friends in this world? Thousands. How many could we fall in love with? Maybe not even double figures. It just doesn’t make sense to put friendship first.
Perhaps it’s unwholesome, and perhaps like Noel Coward’s Amanda I was born ‘jagged with sophistication’, but John Galsworthy’s Irene Forsyte said something I first heard as a child which has stuck with me all my life. When she is caught out by her protégée June having an affair with June’s fiancé, the younger girl has a right hissy fit and yells something like: ‘But I thought you were my friend!’ Irene replies along the lines of: ‘A woman of the world doesn’t have friends — she has lovers, and acquaintances.’ I wouldn’t go this far – I have a whole batch of bitches, and I adore them – but neither do I consider the craze for prizing female friendship above all other forms of affection to be any way to live one’s life when it comes to the all’s-fair arena of adult love. If what you crave above all else – beyond extreme fun, extreme honesty, extreme LIFE – is loyalty, get a dog.