My friendships with women

I used to say that I got along better with men than women. I used to believe that women were “catty” or “overly dramatic” or any of the other adjectives the world likes to use to interfere with women forming bonds. I used to think that being friends with men (or, when I was younger, boys) was easier.

And then I looked around and realized that nearly all of my closest friends, the people I sent texts to at 3am, or sat down and hand wrote witty cards to, whose birthdays I remembered, and who I trusted with my greatest confidences, were women, and they had been for my whole life.

BUT WAIT. I’m sure I get along with men better than I do women. After all, it was a popular refrain that I’d heard from movies, and television, and other women my whole life. It was dangerous to be friends with other women. You had to be careful who you talked to, because you never knew which one of them was going to try to steal your boyfriend, or stab you in the back (what does that even mean in friendship, really?), or talk about you behind your back. Women would hurt you.

I’ve been hurt by women. It’s part of having friends. Of any sex, or gender. Human relationships, true, honest, vulnerable friendships leave room for pain. It’s not a bad thing. It can be a scary thing, but it’s part of friendship. The risk of being hurt.

My friendships with men have left me open to hurt, too. I’ve been hurt by men I counted on to be kind with my emotions. But when those hurts happened, I forgave and worked to get back in their good graces. It’s kind of sick, really. I had so completely bought into the idea that, as a woman, my value was tied to the approval of men, that I quickly and easily buried my misgivings and pain, in an effort to have that male validation.

One day I figured it out. I wasn’t a “guys girl,” I didn’t get along with men better than I got along with women, I didn’t feel safer with men than women; I was parroting some social bullshit that I thought made me cooler than other women. I thought it made me a better woman because I eschewed the “drama” of female friendships. It really just made me kind of a dumbass.

I guess women can be more dramatic than men (though I’m not really convinced of this as a gender stereotype. My husband works with all men, and they’re just as damn dramatic and gossipy as any group of women I’ve ever known), but I think a lot of that is simply a result of parroting the misogynistic language that swirls around us to describe women’s relationships with other women. Let’s be honest, women’s friendships can be dangerous to male supremacy, right? If women start recognizing the value and power of strong relationships with other women…well, there’s power in numbers.

I’m grateful for all of my friends. But it will be my women friends, those I’ve known since I was 14, and those I’ve met in the last few years, who have cried, and celebrated, and grown with me, who I will grow old with.

* I wrote this post for submission to the Feminist Odyssey Blog Carnival that Ashley Lauren is starting and hosting on her blog, Small Strokes  on Wednesday. Head over then and read the rest of the submissions and submit one of your own next time around.


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9 responses to “My friendships with women

  1. good one, Tan. glad we’re friends. 🙂

  2. I feel the same way. Huzzah for friendships with women!

  3. I’m not sure when I quit buying the “I get along with men better” line. Probably around the same time that I quit buying the “If I wear pink and am feminine, then I am not feminist”. It’s very odd, sometimes, to sit and think of all the things we have ingested as normal, standard.

  4. BUT it does make me think of Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy. I do know that when I valued my friendship with men more, I really allowed myself to be manipulated and put into situations where I had to prove to be “one of the guys”. Even if it made me feel uncomfortable. There was always that need to PROVE. I know it’s not exactly what you are talking about here, and I still find my friendships with women to be complex, but I think that may be more about this time in my life.

    • I haven’t read Female Chauvinist Pigs, so I can’t comment on the book, but I absolutely agree with you about the need to prove yourself. I found myself adopting a kind of “oh, haha, boys will be boys you know!” attitude to distance myself from my discomfort. I sat in the corner silently while they talked shit about other women, or bragged about their made up exploits, and would smile weakly if anyone looked at me. And while I was busy sitting in the corner, I was developing this idea that men were really a bunch of assholes. But it never occurred to me to get up and walk out. Well, I mean, it did eventually. But not until I was older. And men (as a whole) aren’t a bunch of assholes, although get a group of some of them together and they might do a damn good job acting like it.

      I think our friendships are supposed to be complex. I think that’s part of what distinguishes friends from acquaintances.

  5. Pingback: Feminist Odyssey Blog Carnival: First Edition | Small Strokes Fell Big Oaks

  6. Jo

    Just the other day my facebook page spewed some of this nonsense at me, about having guy friends so that there isn’t all that “drama…” As if having male friends somehow makes you a more worthwhile and valued human being. Excellent post, thanks for sharing!

  7. Thank you for this! I worked with a woman last summer who always said this shit, and it is REALLY hurtful to be in a conversation with a woman who is saying TO YOUR FACE that women are bitchy and mean and she doesn’t want them as friends (guess what? Now she doesn’t!). I went to a women’s college, which was a surprise to myself as much as anyone. But I loved the friendships, the intellectual energy, and the solidarity with one another’s lived experiences. Imagine my fury when this coworker, “parroting bullshit” as you say, insulted my entire college experience in one fell swoop! Ugh, I wonder if she even recognizes the self-hatred she spews and deep offense she causes other women, who would have liked to have a friendship with her?

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