There is a basic code of behavior that governs female interaction, referred to in the vernacular as “girl code.” These unspoken rules are largely based on an assumption of trust and respect among the women in a particular social circle and only apply to women who are considered friends or colleagues. “Girl code” is also firmly rooted in the idea of female competition, particularly in regards to viewing males as potential suitors. A careful analysis of a few of these rules through the three main sociological perspectives will illuminate the underlying themes and meanings in the interactions of women.
THE BODY BASHING RULE
One of the fundamental rules of “girl code” concerns body bashing—the act of making negative comments about your own body in a semipublic setting. This rule states that if body bashing is initiated by one of the women in a social circle, all the women must participate by offering critical commentary about their own bodies.
From the perspective of symbolic interactionism, which is the sociological theory that focuses on the subjective meaning of human behavior on a micro-scale, body bashing allows the women involved to achieve a consensus regarding the definition of the situation. In other words, body bashing creates a bond between women that creates a shared understanding of the meaning of the situation. By sharing their insecurities, women show each other their vulnerability and are thus united in the trust they develop as a group. This gives the social circle a cohesiveness on which the individual women can start to build more complex relationships with one another.
On a larger scale, body bashing upholds the popular American value of femininity by reinforcing a self-image that centers on the physical attributes our society associates with women, such as delicate, angular facial features and a voluptuous body. This objective application of the scientific method to the social world falls under the sociological theory of functionalism. Americans are socialized to support a common ideal of what a woman is: how she should look and how she should behave.
Body bashing also serves another important function. It is the common tool women utilize to create an air of automatic trust in exclusively female situations. “Pillow talk,” so named because of the solidarity among women that arises from the air of safety at a sleepover or “girls’ night” during which women express their insecurities, is treated as sensitive information that should never leave the social circle in which it originated. This gives women a familiar language they can use to communicate and build relationships with other women in their society even if they do not have prior experience with one another.
We can also think of body bashing in terms of conflict theory, which highlights the conflict in existing social arrangements. The idea of femininity perpetuated by the body bashing rule, among other social...