Female vs. male friendships

So I’m reading this book Girl Talk: What Science Can Tell Us About Female Friendships— it’s really interesting! It’s bringing up lots of things to think about– for example, how are friendships with women different from those with men? Lots of the findings really resonate with me, but also I’m thinking about how there are so often exceptions to the generalizations that we try to make based on evolution or our biology. Are these studies productive or limiting? Here are some of her findings:

  • “Men live in a much less intense social world than girls do. It’s a striking contrast. If you move to another town, girls will be on the phone constantly trying to keep that going. Whereas with guys, it’s out of side, out of mind.”
  • “…girls spend quality time talking with their friends, which enhances the emotional quality of their relationships. With men it doesn’t make a difference how much time they spend talking to their friends, because when you’re doing things together, you don’t need to talk.”
  • “Since women have much deeper relationships, they need to know more about their friends. They can predict how other women will respond if they do or say something. Because men don’t live in such an intimate social world, they don’t need to know these things, and thus, their relationships are much more casual.”
  • “This study also found that for women, friendship was a means to ‘express themselves and form their identity,’ while men wanted to get something out of their relationship, as in ‘what’s in it for me?’ Men were also found to be more inclined to base their friendships on social drinking.”

What do we do with these findings? In some ways, I think they can be pretty accurate and point out some interesting differences that I’ve definitely experienced at times throughout high school/college. But I also think about the many exceptions to these claims– is it problematic to make such broad generalizations about different genders? How can we acknowledge the biological/evolutionary differences between genders as well as the fundamental differences created by society, but also embrace the individuality and uniqueness of each person, regardless of gender?

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  1. These are really good questions to pose, Em, and agree that it can be dangerous to pigeonhole any one gender as having only one type of friendship. I definitely agree that some of my best experiences with my female-identifying friends are long, deep, rich talks, but I have also had those with my male-identifying friends and think/hope that they enjoy them as much as I do!

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