Mateship is a bond so sacred we want it recognised in the Australian Constitution but female friendship is something nasty and undermining. Apparently this is because female friendships are distracted by competition for men.
Oh, this kind of shit doth weary me. (From the San Fransisco Chronicle via the Sydney Morning Herald ).
We all know her. The “frenemy” who hugs you at parties, yet spills your secrets when you turn your back. The female boss who won’t cut you a break. The feminist who scoffs at your fishnet stockings, or the stay-at-home mum who pities your childlessness.
Whether it’s the mean girls on the playground or at the office, females leave lasting scars that make it difficult for adult women to form strong female friendships, according to the book Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships.
For a much more critical review of the book see the piece here at The New York Times, which highlights among other problems the fact that survey results are made or broken by their techniques and non-randomised surveys particularly, are way open to bias. Take a survey result that finds that 84% of women experienced emotional wounding from a female friend, as the author in Twisted Sisterhood claims: is this a higher result than would be found for men in their friendships? Is this result more than women experience in their friendships with men? Is there a difference for heterosexual and lesbian women in their friendships with women and frequencies of emotional wounding? Do the results actually mean anything – how many women have also experienced emotional wounding at the hands of their children, siblings, colleagues, bosses, teachers, neighbors? What kind of language was used in the survey? Was it gender-neutral? Did the words test the stereotypes or reinforce them? Do all women feel this way or are you more motivated to complete a survey when the subject matter relates to your bad experiences? Are women who have close friendships more likely to have experienced an emotionally wounding episode in their friendships, and is that necessarily worse than someone who only maintains surface friendships and never gets emotionally invested enough to be hurt? While the survey had respondents from different class backgrounds was the spread representative or were certain characteristics over-represented (which happens readily when surveys are non-randomised)? How were respondents located, did they know what the survey was looking for? Could they have selectively recalled memories to please the researcher? And on and on and on the list of potential problems go. Although naturally this hasn’t stopped the article from vigorously pursuing the idea that women’s friendships are ‘catty’ – they have an author with a survey to prove it.
The SMH article is riddled with sexist stereotypes – too many for me to bother with. But this is the bit I want to focus on here because I see this notion repeated a lot:
“When daughters see their mothers gossiping, see them bonding with other women over it, see how they reap social rewards by laughing together at someone else’s expense, that’s sending a powerful social message about how the world works,” Valen said.
Let me tell you something, daughters of the world. I have spent almost all my working life in very male-dominated workplaces, from the time that I was a ‘promotional girl’ for a beer company to the times I taught economics at university, all the way through to now when I work in the most male-dominated section of a male-dominated work environment, and I can tell you.. men love to gossip. Alpha males – men’s men – love it the most and generally have the best gossip. I’ll bet they also reap social rewards from sharing it. That’s right, daughters, Dad likes to laugh at someone else’s expense from time to time, too.
And that’s the way the world works!