There are far more articles out there suggesting that women make friends easier than men, and though in the adult life of an American man I cannot even begin to address the would-be difficulties of forming new, solid relationships, I am here to suggest that, at all stages of life, women are at a social and inherent disadvantage when it comes to making friends.
Not only are women in a natural competition to secure the man of their choosing, but society also suggests that any female that poses a threat should have her confidence undermined and reputation tarnished. So, instead of women forming intimate friendships with both males and females that would enrich her life with support and love, she is left with a habit of crushing the spirits of prospective friends for fear of scaring off any potential mates.
We all hear about girls being catty- in school, in the workplace, when meeting new girlfriends- but what if the issues girls have with each other were so deeply rooted that it was no longer an issue of girls being catty, but instead a matter of revising our societies entire mentality? My first favorite example to support this argument is the movie Mean Girls (2004). Hopefully you have seen it, if not, get to downloading. Despite being over-dramatized for comedic relief, there is some truth behind this movie. Many believe that humans have an innate desire to find a mate, and in doing so, we are in competition with others seeking mates. So, in the scene where Cady Heron leaps across that table and mauls her opponent, this might just be an instinctive response to her failure at attracting the mate of her choice. But, what role does society play in all of this?
My second favorite example I use to support my argument is this Ted Talk by Colin Stokes called “How Movies Teach Manhood.” Now, this Ted Talk is directed more to the lack of representation of appropriate models for young men, but it speaks incredibly to the insufficient amount of male-female relationships, at any age. When Stokes discusses the gender portrayal within children’s movies, he attributes the lack of male-female friendships to our societal views of gender; “a male hero’s job is to defeat the villain, with violence, and then collect the reward, which is a woman who has no friends and does not speak.” If we could teach the next generation that boys should befriend girls and that girls are allowed to be friends with boys, we would be giving both genders a fair chance of forming true friendships.
Though we may not always act on our primal instincts to treat others as opponents, and though there are some very successful female-male friendships out there, these are important factors contributing to the difficulty women face when forming new or maintaining current friendships. It is important to note, however, that another contributing factor resides within female expectations of friendship.
We have all come across this idea, which is actually statistically proven, that males tend to have more friends but few intimate friends, while females have fewer friends that are more intimate. In this article by Lynn Davidson, “Friendship: Communication and Interactional Patters in Same-Sex Dyads,” the levels in which a female connects with another female friend are analyzed in comparison to male-male friendships. This article tells us that, in order to form a friendship, females must connect with the other person on three levels- topical, relational, and personal -while males only really need to connect on a topical level. Basically, while also supporting the popular stereotype that women are complicated, one of the reasons females find difficulty in securing friendships is because prospective friends must meet an implicit list of requirements and expectations.
So, readers, whether you are male or female, I want you to take away at least three things from this article:
- Instead of being catty, be friendly.
- Live by example and make friends of all genders.
- And lastly, all relationships are complicated, but worth it, even if only to learn.