Cracking Girl Code and Bro Code


For years now, all guys can talk about is the “bro code”. They’re given guidelines for wingman-ship, man-on-man competition over women, rebound hookups, even what to get their buddies for Christmas—every facet of their friendships with other men is totally covered. They never have to ask themselves, “is it OK to hook up with this girl if my friend has already hooked up with her?” or “what should I do to help my friend going through a breakup?” They already know the answers—the bro code dictates their friendships for them. Us girls, however, have a slightly shakier foundation when it comes to friends and guys. Pretty much all we have to go on are the wise, wise words of Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls: “Ex-boyfriends are just off-limits to friends. That’s just, like, the rules of feminism!” But are they? What exactly are the rules when it comes to exes? Are ex-hookups off limits? What about ex-things? And what’s a friend’s responsibility when it comes to breakups, make-ups, and shakeups in her BFF’s love life? Basically, what’s the girl code…and how does it compare to the ubiquitous guy code? I asked girls and guys what they thought the rules were when it came to friends and the opposite sex, and the results may convince you that men and women really are from different planets!

Can you hook up with your friend’s ex?

GIRLS SAY: “Absolutely not, unless the hookup was a one-time random thing and your friend is okay with it. An ex-boyfriend is totally off-limits, and an ex-fling is probably weird too unless your friend specifies that you can.”
–Anna, Cornell University

GUYS SAY:“Yeah, totally—an ex is an ex, it’s no longer your concern.” – George, Rutgers University

GIRLS SAY: Girls say- check with your friend, but it’s prob a no-go. Guys say- go for it!

What would you do if you thought your friend was about to go home with someone you don’t approve of?

GIRLS SAY: “I would feel it’s my responsibility to protect her from going home with someone shady, so I would tell her I didn’t trust the guy and I wouldn’t let her leave without me.”
– Jaclyn, Cornell University

GUYS SAY: “I’d let him do what he has to do and make his own mistakes, but I’d definitely give him a hard time about it the next day.”
– Adam, University of Michigan

BOTTOM LINE: Girls say- Cock Block. Guys say- more material for jokes.

How do you handle the situation if you and your friend both like the same guy?

GIRLS SAY: “He becomes completely off limits. It’s not worth the drama it would cause between you and your friend if you try to start something with him.”
– Melissa, Cornell University

GUYS SAY: “Whoever wins her, gets her…unless your buddy specifically told you he liked her before you admitted you liked her too, in which case he gets first dibs.”
–Steven, Cornell University

BOTTOM LINE: Girls say- skip him. Guys say- battle to the death.

What do you think it means to be a wing-man (or wing-woman)?

GIRLS SAY: “A wing-woman protects her friends from doing anything she’ll regret when we’re out—takes her phone so she won’t drink and dial, makes sure she doesn’t go home with a random guy, keeps her away from her ex and his new girlfriend, etc.”
– Jen, Cornell University GUYS SAY: “A wingman is there to help you hook up. If you’re interested in a girl, he will attach himself to her friend, even if she’s not attractive, so you can all hang out together and eventually pair off. He will also do anything he can to talk you up and make you look good, in order to increase your chances with the girl.”
– Matt, University of Maryland

BOTTOM LINE: Girls say- Wing-man = support. Guys say- Wing-man = support… but with different motives.

Do you think it’s okay to tell your friend if you don’t like his or her boyfriend or girlfriend?

GIRLS SAY: “It depends on the situation. If the reason you don’t like him affects your friend, like if he was cheating on her or treating her badly, you should tell her. But if you just don’t like him, you shouldn’t say anything so you don’t hurt your friend’s feelings or cause any tension.”
– Jackie, Syracuse University GUYS SAY: “Absolutely. If a girl is not worth a guy’s time and he’s actually dating her, I’ll let him know—in fact, he deserves to know, so he can end it.”
– Ross, Skidmore College BOTTOM LINE: Girls say- only if he’s really bad. Guys say- spill the beans.

So, basically, girls and guys have COMPLETELY different views when it comes to the meaning of friendship. For girls, the key word of the girl code is protection: above all else, a girl is responsible for protecting her friends from harm when it comes to guys and to keep them from getting hurt, either by a guy or by other girls. For guys, the name of the game is support: whether or not a guy agrees with his friend’s taste in girls, his responsibility is to be there for him and help him feel good about himself and his relationships.

Geoffrey Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships, explains the male support system: “Essentially guys want friends to have their back, to be able to stand up for them whether they’re in the room with them or not. The system of honor is that a guy will not let other people talk negatively about you when you’re not present.” Women, on the other hand, value more face-to-face support. Greif says, “women tend to feel more comfortable interacting face-to-face and being more emotionally and physically expressive with their female friends, and the way that that’s carried out is often in face-to-face communications.”

So, essentially, women value supportive conversations more, and men value supportive actions—not that this is true of all men and all women by any means; every friendship is different. Also, keep in mind that these are not the only important tenets of friendship—good friends should be there for each other in every way they can, whether or not that falls within their respective “codes”. A rule book can’t give you all the answers, but it can help you remember how to be a good friend in a tough situation and learn a little bit about the behavior of the opposite sex!

Geoffrey Greif, professor at University of Maryland’s School of Social Work and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships
Ross Cioffi, sophomore at Skidmore college
Jackie Crossan, sophomore at Syracuse University
Matt G., junior at University of Maryland
Jennifer Albert, sophomore at Cornell University
Steven W., sophomore at Cornell University
Melissa Quartner, sophomore at Cornell University
Adam G., freshman at University of Michigan
Jaclyn Terran, sophomore at Cornell University
George Phipps, sophomore at Rutgers University
Anna Predleus, sophomore at Cornell University

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