ARE FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS MORE DIFFICULT?
First thing first, I've hardly ever struggled to start and maintain friendships. I could go onto befriend a corpse, just like the main character of Swiss Army Man starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano.
Later in life, I've realised that my tendency comes from a place not of amazing social skills and not of even wanting to be liked. But in order to expose a powerful rule about my social behaviour, I would have to take you back to my childhood: filled with Polish sausage and what will later be called squad goals.
I was raised in a flock (two brothers, one sister) therefore I was naturally drawn to larger groups of people. Like a penguin in February I was the happiest when with bunch of friends. I would not discriminate against anyone:
Girl, boy it didn't matter.
The more people around me, the better. From a scientific point of view, I could only ever have one hundred and fifty friends at most. But I didn't need Dunbar's number to notice the fluctuation of my squad members from year to year. I was shedding my old relationships to make more room for the new ones; changing schools, travelling and well, growing-up, was a natural part of this process. As I grew older I discovered that actually I was better off without the massive crowd of random people and stuck to five closest friends. And these are the females to hang on to.
The reason I bring this up is this article describing friendships between women.
Paula Hawkins, author of the article and a best-selling thriller The Girl on the Train, says:
"Friendships between women are the most interesting but not always straightforward."
It got me thinking about the reasoning behind her theory and about my own experience in that matter.
While some women can be vicious and catty it is dangerous to categorise an entire gender as difficult in a friendship. Studies have shown that women are no more hostile towards each other than men yet the latter rarely gets labelled as complex or anti-men and their friendship is usually pictured as simple and raw. Why are we quick to add a passive-aggressive comment when it comes to a female one?
I miss the good ol' days when the only requirement for friends was that they were a kid. But I do believe that female friendship is stronger and more important than ever. And maybe because it is so important, we put so much pressure on women to make it work.
Sometimes the pressure takes the form of antagonising. Madeleine Albright famously said:
“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
The line that was meant to unite the women at the campaign event for Hillary Clinton, instead attributed misogynistic attitudes towards other females.
This speech pattern is exactly what continues to feed the social and cultural myth that we don’t have each other’s backs.
While I do believe in an obligation to support each other, part of that support means also learning from one another and letting go of that negative narrative that suggests there is something wrong with us, women. We need to stop shaming each other if we want to grow and succeed. We can start with baby-steps. Let it be an innocent title:
"Are female friendships more difficult?". Let's turn it into: "Why do we think female friendships are more difficult?".
Let’s go back to the most fundamental human need of belonging.
The same individuals can attract or repel each other but a really good friend will challenge you to be your best. A friendly female crowd may offer a taste of such belonging, support your judgments and make you more confident in your opinions.
And while I'm perfectly happy with my only five friends (plus boyfriend, parents, siblings and awesome miista teammates) I need to be a part of the female flock in order to properly lean in. And it might just happen to be what doctor's ordered for the rest of the world to move forward.