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."
Hi babe, Interesting article!
I have two friends that I've been close to for over 10 years.... They are as close as my sister and I. but overall, I would rather work with men over women, only bewcause "we" can be catty!
You know what's so funny - I feel closer to some of the women I've met on FR than I feel to others I've know for ten years.
The women I have met through FR have mirrored my philosophies and independent attitudes. They don't whine - they move on, plan, execute, live fully.
I have female "friends" that I've known for years that still talk about their ex-es from maybe ten years ago. They can't let go of the past, blame others for their circumstances and generally just mope. I have no time for it - myself.
But it is sometimes a bit weird trying to explain to "real" people about your "freeper" friends. Between shooting events, protests & parties, I have met many freepers in person so that makes them more "real".
Yeah, I read through some of it, but it just doesn't seem to apply to me. Maybe it's because I don't let people get close. I handle things more like a man does according to this article. OH NO!!! AM I A MAN???? LOL
Just read your post to Allegra. The "tame me" got my attention. I was friends for two years with a man a few years older than I am. We were just friends as far as I was concerned, but he wanted more. He kept saying he wanted to "tame me." Nothing makes me run faster in the other direction than to hear those words. What are we, wild animals?
Actually, to them - yes.
But - our "spunk" is what they fell for at first - but then they want to "tame" it out of us.
My last major relationship was the poster boy for this "taming" thing. Good riddance.
Hurry it up, wouldja?!
OH NO!!! If your a man, that would mean I'm gay. I can't be gay, I'm a lesbian! LOL
I am exactly the same way..
...and then it ends up becoming a friendship when they realize how cool I am...
They haven't given up on the romance, they are hoping you will change your mind, and playing "friend" to stay in the game.
...but that is never satisfactory for very long.
To paraphrase some good advice to men I heard a while back:
"Making friends with single women is like playing with your food. It's rude, unsatisfying, and eventually someone will come along and eat it right off of your plate, leaving you disappointed...and hungry." ;)
You just described my mother and sister. I'm glad I at least I have an awesome sister in law to confide in when I need to talk to another woman who is family.
I'd agree with that, but I'd also add that IMO to be a conservative woman, you have to be able to think like a man in some respects. Instead of reacting emotionally to a given situation, as both male and female liberals do, conservative women are more likely to ananlyze an issue and come to a conclusion based on the facts presented to them. Of course that isn't always the case... :-)
I thought the adage was, a guy gets married thinking she'll never change, a girl thinking she can change him - neither gets what they expected.
Sometimes the roles are reversed.
Sometimes everyone wants to change everyone.
Many, many women are concerned with surface existence. Whatever is currently in Cosmo, Glamour, InStyle, People, whatever, is what they spend their time discussing. Who has the "cutest" clothes, who does your hair, let's do lunch, what color is that nail polish, puke, puke, puke.
Men, in general of course, are concerned with facts and history and world events and economics and discipline and things that go deeper than their hair color. And they are NEVER offended by even the dirties joke. Gotta love that.
Needless to say, I have never had a lasting friendship with a woman. Inevitably they go the poor pitiful me route with their husbands, or they think it's okay for their kids to throw a fit and get their way, or they start a competition of some sort. Fuggit. I like men.
I will say, however, that FReeper women seem to be some of the most level headed women I have met.
I'm a stay-at-home Mom myself and I consider it a profession. :-)
And what else needs to be said? You summed it up perfectly.
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