We have all heard of the terms “girl crush” or Woman Crush Wednesday (#WCW) and many of us have actually used these terms ourselves, whether we were describing which celeb’s body we envy or Instagramming our favorite Hollywood starlet. But are terms like this actually rooted in the homophobia that still runs rampant in our society? While we tend to think of these terms as being complimentary toward other women, some say these terms are offensive toward the lesbian community.
A few years back there was a rise in straight men’s use of the phrase “no homo” after paying another male a compliment—lest comments like “It’s awesome hanging out with you” or “I like that shirt” challenge their hetersexuality. Many went on to publicly outcry that this phrase was homophobic in nature and should be removed from our progressive lexicon.
Although we’re not hearing as many panicked cries of “no homo” lately, there is the overlooked cousin of this term: “girl crush.” Both “no homo” and”girl crush” boil down to the same simple point: “I do not want my appreciation for another person to be received as having sexual attraction to the same sex.” This fear of being thought of as having feelings for the same sex is another representation of homophobia.
Though “no homo” has largely faded from the cultural lexicon, little has been done to try and erase the female equivalent. Marissa Higgins, a writer and lesbian at the forefront of the effort to illuminate the downside of this term, says that when she hears women use it, she will “often ask someone if they’re planning to ask her on a date and the person (usually) responds by saying, ‘Oh no! It’s just a girl crush, I’m straight/wouldn’t date a girl/don’t have a real crush’ in which case I remind them that as a lesbian, I do have real crushes on women, so it feels diminutive to have someone assert that crushes on women are inherently not as real as having a heterosexual attraction.”
So what should you say when you want to comment on Megan Fox’s figure or tell your girlfriend her workouts are paying off? Higgins suggests that instead of using “girl crush”, “simply saying ‘I really admire Jenny’ or ‘I wish I was more like Jenny’ serves the same purpose and is actually more honest and complimentary.” So before you hashtag that next #WCW, think about the weight these terms can carry—and what you are actually trying to say.