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.