Skip to comments.Nature of Friendship Among Women Explored
Posted on 07/10/2005 6:46:42 AM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
Women experience friendship differently and more deeply than men - and when it ends, they experience the loss more deeply, too.
That's the stance taken by writers of recent books about failed friendships that have sparked debate online and in the real world - among friends, of course.
"Men seem to have a hard time understanding women, and it really is nice to have someone understand you," says Jenny Bryers, a UW- Madison graduate student. "I don't think losing a friendship is necessarily worse for women than for men, but we probably let it bother us more. Women generally let things bother them more than men, especially if it's something we have no control over, something we can't change."
Susan Johnson, associate casualty claims representative at Madison-based American Family Insurance, added: "I think men bond differently, and forgive easier when it comes to male friends, and move on to bond with others. I don't think men hold grudges as long as women, because they don't get as emotionally involved with their friends."
These local women would find similar social commentary served up in recent books such as "The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women's True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned Out or Faded Away," edited by Jenny Ofill and Elissa Schappell. The Doubleday book came out in May.
The new take on female friendships runs counter to the stereotype of the "catty and competitive" woman, said professor Susan Friedman of UW- Madison's Department of Women's Studies and English.
We typically believe "that women are rivals for the attention, love, and approval of men and that they therefore can't really be friends (with other women)," she says. "But there is also a lot written that goes against such stereotypes: recognition that women need their friendships with other women in order to get through life's troubles and trials, often suffering related to their relations with men, their troubles with caring for children or parents, their difficulties on the job or combining family and job responsibilities."
In fact, in May, Shelley Taylor, author of "The Tending Instinct" and a neuroscientist at UCLA, announced that hard science suggests that "there's an important biological role for women's friendships that scientists have largely ignored."
Fundamental differences Biological or not, some at least perceive a real difference between the genders' friendship styles.
Johnson recalled a long-ago friend who after high school started to date the same man as she did. "It immediately severed our relationship," Johnson said. She had tried over the years to contact me. But I just didn't know what to say to her, so I never responded. I do know the betrayal I felt was deeper and hurt more than any man could have caused."
After 12 years, they patched things up. Laura Malischke, owner of Acclaimed Resume Services, has not. She recalls a long-ago friend from the dorms at UW-Eau Claire.
"She introduced me to new music, new books, and new ways of seeing the world," Malischke says. "While I had originally found her to be the strong, stand up for your beliefs-type, I began to observe that she was a very needy and very dependent girl."
It came to a head, she says, during a camping trip, during which her friend stayed up late complaining, getting drunk and throwing up.
"She dragged me down emotionally and physically with her neediness and constant seeking of approval," Malischke recalled. "I did a very selfish thing and removed her from my circle. I'm taking the good things from our relationship, while still remembering why exactly I decided to end it."
But others will have to be convinced that "The Friend Who Got Away" reports anything unique or even valid. "I think the whole thesis of this book is wrong, at least for me," said Katjusa Cisar, a student at Edgewood College. "And I think the emotional scars from broken relationships are difficult to bear for both sexes, not just women."
Sudden interest? Why all the recent interest in women's relationships with other women? It may be new to publishers, but not to women, said UW-Madison's Friedman, who has worked with the issue of women's friendships in relationship to literature.
"In the 1970s, there was an interesting transition from women's 'coffee klatches' to women's 'consciousness raising groups,' as women began to see that their personal problems were part of a larger societal pattern," Friedman said. "Women's friendships are at the heart of this phenomenon - existing before consciousness raising groups, and of course afterwards."
Or it could be marketing. Sheelah Kolhatkar, writing in the February New York Observer, says that "The Friend Who Got Away" and other anthologies "could all be a sign that the confessional personal essay has reached the peak of its power, culminating in a breathless surge of self-help chick-lit - a combination of memoir, therapy and girl talk. The anthology frenzy also suggests that the publishing industry is furiously trying to replicate one huge success by producing countless imitators."
Back in 1996, Kate Fillion, in her book, "The Myth of Female Virtue in Love, Sex, and Friendship," charged that studies of women's relationships were fundamentally biased.
"The problem isn't that men lack the gene for 'rapport- talk,'" she wrote. "Researchers' heartwarming description of female friendship omits a significant detail: many of these friendships are rooted in a fundamentally adversarial attitude toward men. Women's sharing and caring frequently involves swapping stories about what jerks men are and diminishing men to shore each other up."
Two recent books:
"The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women's True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned Out or Faded Away," edited by Jenny Ofill and Elissa Schappell. The American Library Association Booklist says, "By breaking the silence about failed friendship so literately, this book appeals to many more readers than just students of interpersonal psychology."
"Secrets and Confidences: The Complicated Truth About Women's Friendships" Edited by Karen Eng (October 2004, Seal Press). Amazon.com says the book concludes "problematic women's relationships with one another can be intense, intimate affairs, more steadfast than any romantic relationship and ultimately, more fulfilling."
many women i've known hate each other's guts, contrary to feminist dogma.
"friendships are rooted in a fundamentally adversarial attitude toward men."
This isn't friendship, it's a therapy session.
My pack of four "best" girlfriends have all been together for 25+ years now; friendships formed in our early 20's.
As far as getting together to trash talk men, with five divorces between us, I will admit that, YES that has happened in the past, LOL! We're all finally settled down with really great guys now, so that's no longer an issue.
Now we're facing more important things such as aging gracefully, empty nests and new grandkids, various bouts of cancer, menopause, vericose veins, plastic surgery decisions, and politics; ALWAYS with the politics, LOL!
You know, IMPORTANT things instead of the stupidity we considered Oh So Important in our youth. :)
..and toward other women.
This may well explain why I have had better friendships with men than I EVER had with women. EVER. I was talking to another woman today, and she was saying the same thing, she has only ever had one female friend, the rest have been men. From childhood I have NEVER understood all of the drama involved with females. I don't understand the game-playing. The superficiality. You can't be different or disagree without things getting personal.
Men are simpler. Not necessarily simplistic, just simpler. I can have a rousing debate with a male friend and later, yes, talk about hopes, dreams, goals, even emotions.
My problem as a 23 year old woman is that most of my friendships with men inevitably turn romantic some way or another. And if we're not going to start a romantic relationship and get married, then our friendship suffers. Most men who approach me probably do so because they're interested in a romantic relationship, and then it ends up becoming a friendship when they realize how cool I am, but that is never satisfactory for very long.
I've got to find a way to develop friendships with women in my real, offline life. But I just don't get them.
I have known several women that I only wanted to be friends with.
I have discovered that there is no greater insult to a woman than that.
I still found it funny how women all go to the bathroom together. What goes on there that you need to do that?
Most women don't make for friends with others, and most women really harm other females...
I have to admit, some of the most viscious and irrational harms caused to me in my life has been done intentionally by other women.
I think it has most to do with females competing for resources. Whether they are aware of it or not. I do know, however, that females are aware of their hate and hateful actions where other females are concerned....they just can never explain it beyond some start flash point issue.
Loss of a genuinely, non harmful friendship with another woman is why it's so profoundly painful. Because it's so rare.
I've rarely had a good female friend.
I also think it's the leading compulsion for eating disorders and other psychological problems of self...mutilations and/or overt cosmetic improvements, obsessions of the physical, by women.
It's as if many females are literally driven insane by the needs to compete and it's never stated or clearly defined and often discouraged from even being discussed without a lot of strife affiliated, thus, women internalize the threats and harassment that is inherent in female competition.
Men get together and at least bond and relax and enjoy mutually supportive group efforts...women rarely do that. Even sewing circles, things of that nature, are traditionally rife with women all competing with one another, as to who has the "best" gossip, etc...
Which is why women gossip, also. It's a form of destroying other females (competitors) and trying to get some other competitors into a sorta' truce...let's all gossip about someone we can all agree to destroy (which is what gossip is all about, destroying someone else)...in my experience, anyone who behaves like that is proving that they're capable of also destroying anyone else, thus aren't trustworthy (and thus, I don't participate, and disassociate).
Men gossip, too, I realize, but the behavior is the basis relied upon by many women about which to have anything "in common" with other females they wouldn't be spending time with, otherwise.
Might have something to do with the fact that females as children are not raised to participate as much in group activities as are males...and when they do, they are demeaned by other females and then the psychological problems manifest at teen years: rebelliousness and/or self harms, etc.
No, actually, I think that if there's anything fundamental, it's resentment/adversarial attitudes to and about other females.
I THINK -- just generalized best-guessing -- that it has to do with resentment about males who are perceived as not having helped/aided some women (in their troubles with/among other females), not having been shown any favoritism by males (fathers when growing up?), and a sense of feeling betrayed by women (their mothers?), and thus, they gravitate toward other females who suffer the same resentments.
But, it's not friendship, it's just a need for companionship to a certain degree.
I also think -- please don't anyone scream and yell about this, it's just a consideration I'm considering -- that this is the nature/source of that strange obsession by some females about cats: they can't deal with the antagonisms outright, that whole scenario I described, first paragraph, and thus internalize/isolate and supplant the problems that result from that level of psyhcological rage/isolation with cats. Captive animals contained in their homes who are highly sensual (responsive to emotional needs) and yet, who left on their own initiative, would be the wild animals outofdoors that cats are.
I always find it interesting when vets advise (sternly) that cat owners keep their cats indoors. Ask them why, and they roll their eyes: because if you let them out, they'll get into fights and catch diseases and reproduce and...
Meaning, the indoor-captive-cat thing by some females (and some males but it's mostly a common problem of females) is a sortof control mechanism by which they can not deal with the reality of our human world, and that is the female dynamic that harms females.
The "womens' movement" isn't so much about helping women as it is about the same process: avoiding personal reconciliation to the real problem among humanity, where female competition is concerned. Unfortunately, males become the target...but, in fact, males ARE the target, when you think about it.
"What goes on there that you need to do that?"
We assess one another's dates. Then we formulate ways to quickly lose the losers and then go out and have fun together, LOL!
Haven't you ever watched "Sex and the City?" ;)
Hmm, let's see. Understand women, or build bridge to Hawaii? Guess I better decide how many lanes that will be.
I've had what I thought were good female friends, but more often than not, the relationships ended badly. As an adult, I've decided that if I need to confide in a female, I'll talk to one of my sisters.
Wow. You've put a lot of though into your observations!
However, many of us leave those behaviors behind in Junior High. Or maybe it's just that I'm older than you and things were different in my youth when I was forming friendships? I must've picked some great friends, because besides the normal "pecking order" squabbling of young girls, female friendships were never as you've described for me.
Looking back, I think I always was the Leader of the Pack, though. Could they have been talking about ME and ripping me to shreds behind my back but never confronted me on it?
Nah. They were all strong, successful, good-student, life-grabbers as I was. We had no need to tear one another down to build our individual selves up. Water seeking it's own level and all that.
If what you say is true, then no wonder there are so many messed up young women wandering around out there these days.
I raised three boys. From what I understand from my other friends with daughters, I was infinately lucky. ;)
Actually, I have always had more male platonic friends than female friends. Boyfriends have just had to deal with it. ;-)
I hate shopping, I think gossip is boring, I don't feel the need to be all catty and backstabby and I never watched stuff on the Lifetime channel. I'm an NFL and MLB fan.
But I'm very much a "girly-girl" and get along well with women who have plenty of self-confidence.
And guys. For friends.
Which can kind of suck because sometimes the guy friendships threaten to turn into more and then you're left with the ...."do we want to risk screwing up a good friendship?" dilemma.
Now see how simple that is? We're not hard to understand at all! LOL
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