In reading this excellent essay on the importance of lady friendships, I was surprised by some of the responses. While I think it’s perfectly valid for a woman to articulate why it is that she doesn’t have many women friends, some of the conclusions that were drawn in the comments struck me as downright depressing.
This one, by Alex, stuck out at me quite a bit:
I have been fortunate to meet some women… who are the “odd ones out” like me, and as it happens, they’ve all been in the jeans and sneakers, roughhousing, strongly opinioned [sic] category.
You know, maybe I’m just jaded at this point, but I really don’t like the implication that strongly opinionated women all abide by a certain dress code. No. Really. It comes up again, and again, and it’s fucking bullshit.
See what I just did there, huh? Huh? I expressed an opinion! A strong one! While showing off a pair of high-heeled boots in my banner! It can be done.
I can relate to just about anyone who says that they can run into problems with women who judge them as “not feminine enough” or whatever. I hardly ever leave the house without eyeliner, but guess what, I get it too! All the time! Other women have told me that I’m “cold” and “unfeminine” because I don’t go into a moral panic over abortion, because I’m not looking to get married, hell, some have felt the need to tell me that I don’t wear skirts often enough.
I can relate, but I do not extrapolate such incidents onto fellow women in general. People who harass me about stupid crap, I write off as assholes. I similarly write off people who will tell me that I am not tough enough, not rough enough, for their love, or friendship, or whatever. Look, some jackass told me I ought to take my boots and GTFO the other day. I am not going to rush out to make a person like that love me. I’d take a fine-ass pair of boots over some idiot any day of the week.
I’m not going to accuse someone of internalized misogyny just because they admit to having a tough time making friends with women, but I can’t deny that certain generalizations do piss me off, and rightfully so. None of my female friends fit into some neat little category. I would like to imagine that I don’t fit into a neat little category either. I cry a lot, for example. I can spend an inordinate amount of time talking about Orlando Bloom. I also like shiny fast cars and whiskey.
So why hasn’t my head exploded following a crisis of identity? Could it be because…stereotypes are mostly crap?
Friendship among women is important. Friendship is important in general, but women, I think, face extra pressure to compete with each other, being as we are on a lower rung socially, for the most part. It’s not coincidence that “chicks before dicks” evolved in response to “bros before hos.”
Let’s face it, we don’t generalize about men like we do about women. We don’t accuse men of “performing masculinity,” because it’s not as if we have this iron-clad definition of masculinity to begin with. What does it involve? Grunting a lot? Solving physics equations? Making that money? Being hairy? “Tackling drunk bitches”? Starting wars? Men are human beings, goddamit, you can’t pigeonhole them like that! That’s sexist! And wrong!
Women, on the other hand, are held to a pretty strict standard, and the crappy thing is, you can’t win. Anyone can come along and judge you as too feminine, or not feminine enough, and they do. All the time.
So hey, if you don’t want to be friends with me, don’t be friends with me. I’m not hard up for friends, luckily enough. Just don’t tell me it’s because I “perform femininity” or some crap like that. Tell me it’s because my sense of humour is ridiculous. Tell me it’s because I sketch you out. Tell me it’s because I have way too much to prove, or way too little, or because you think I am a jackass, or because you generally can’t abide by people who listen to Alla Pugacheva in the shower and pretentiously insert The Brothers Karamazov into virtually every argument they make (except for this one, though I bet I could, if I thought about it hard enough). That would be fair, no?
24 thoughts on “Um, I wear heels. And have opinions. Oh, and I have boy friends. And girl friends as well.”
Word. I hear this from a few of my own female friends. Even from very socially aware female friends, who I feel should know better. I think that all this competition stems from, as you said, the “extra pressure to compete” from being on a “lower rung socially,” but more specifically from the insecurities our societies place on us. For instance body image issues (“I’m not as pretty/smart/desirable as I should be so all women are my competitors, not my friends!), or gender roles and worth (“If I don’t have a boyfriend, I’m undesireable/a loser.”), etc., and these things drive us to exclude our fellow females as threats. I myself can be accused of acting like this, back in high school when I was sure that a boyfriend would be the only thing that validated me. Now I know better, and both male and female friends, sometimes a boyfriend, sometimes not, I dress in jeans and sneakers or in a skirt and heels, and I’m definitely hella opinionated. 🙂
You. Rock. And I’m not just saying that because you are a fellow high heeled boot wearing, opinionated female who listens to Russian pop stars in the shower and pretentiously inserts Dostoevsky into virtually every argument you make.
I actually find it much easier to be friends with men. Being friends with other women feels like it takes much more effort, and risk. Check it out, even commenting on your blog, I am far less comfortable than I am commenting on a blog written by a man. Until I bring up something like double standards for men and women, and then I’m suddenly more comfortable here. 🙂
I think there is a reason for that, and I think it has a lot to do with the kind of society we live in. I think women are encouraged to compete with one another in ways that men aren’t (this isn’t to say that men don’t compete with one another, of course they do, it’s just usually more out in the open, whereas women are expected to stab everyone in the back). And, I mean, how many times do you hear, growing up: “girls are all jealous of one another, they’ll be jealous of you, etc.” It gets exhausting.
I think that with men, if you’re a straight chick, there’s that attraction factor. Flirting with your male friends is fun. But that’s the only difference, I think. A good friend is a good friend, regardless of gender.
OK, so, before I start I’d like to preface this by saying I’m not going to come in here and say “men are just as discriminated against as women too!!!1eleventy” or any of that bullshit. I’m not that kind of asshole.
But. As a man, I’d say that while the definition of masculinity is perhaps not as restrictive as that of femininity, inasmuch as men get to drive cars and fell trees and earn money and fuck around and whatnot, there is a very definite definition of masculinity that we police very fucking rigidly, and heaven help the biological male who doesn’t live up to that standard. I admit it is very hard to be “too masculine”, at least from a gender-policing point of view, but it’s certainly very easy to be insufficiently masculine for society’s tastes, and those deemed as such can be just as vulnerable to violent retribution for failing to uphold the standards. Sometimes more so, because for those men who are committed to the gender norms for whatever reason, those men who blur the edges – like gays, transfolk, or even those who don’t sufficiently hate on women – represent a danger to their way of life that the average woman does not.
Again, not to take away from the body of your post, and not to say that men have it worse, but masculinity is generalised and is policed with psychological and physical violence, the same as femininity is.
I think you’re absolutely right about it being policed – I think the range of behaviours is greater, though. I think it ties in with how feminists view themselves, I guess. We accuse each other of “performing femininity,” but we don’t really treat guys in the same way.
Yeah, I think I get that, but that’s one of the ways in which feminism can eat its own head, I think (although I’m not saying it’s an exclusively feminist problem or anything). Get rid of the patriarchy in order to set up a catfight.
Masculinity is “performed” in exactly the same way that femininity is, but male feminists tend not to harangue each other over it that much. At least, not the bits of masculinity which don’t involve overt misogyny, which is annoyingly few. I don’t think it’s because there isn’t a concrete view of masculinity, though, as much as there’s not the same stigma attached to it, so we’re guilty of indulging in different pleasures when we do something gender normative than those icky girls, or something. We can’t “let the side down” by growing a beard.
Not that I think women are letting any side down by wearing lipstick or shaving their legs, but I at least understand where people are coming from when they think that.
Especially since beards are hot.
I realised a while back that it wasn’t “women” that I have issues relating to, but “people who have thoroughly adopted mainstream gender-based behaviour”; further, that the reason I don’t run into the mainstream-gender behaviour from men wanting to interact with me as often is that, well, I’m a Gurl, so I’m an alien and they don’t know how to talk to me, so they don’t talk to me, so I don’t interact with them.
Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve gotten a lot more female friends, and, as someone commented over there, a lot of them are people who have historically gotten on better with men. It’s an interesting thing.
It doesn’t seem to be a femme thing; a fair few of the people I’m thinking of are, to one extent or another, femme. It’s something about not expecting me to also be femme. And something about being a whole person rather than the weirdly truncated thing that a mainstream-conforming human is supposed to be, cutting away the “boy things” if female or “girl things” if male and so on.
The friend who’s a regular at an apparently decadent spa and responds to my talking about Little Foot with fits of “I WANT ONE”? Also someone who figures she can fix anyone up with a beer they’ll like.
(I need to try taking her advice on the beer, too. Haven’t gotten around to it, alas.)
Gasp! I feel so objectified…
Oh dear! I’ll do three Hail Dworkins, and atone.
It’s odd, because my friendships have done a complete 180. In first grade and kindergarten, my best friend was a boy. I transferred schools by third grade, and hung out with a lot of older girls. (New school was insanely skewed when it came to gender- there was only one other girl and five boys.) High school, I talked more often with boys then with girls. I was pretty much a lone wolf back then. For college, I went to an all-women school, and I’m still pretty tight with the girls I met there.
I don’t regard myself as conventionally female- I dress down, prefer pants to any skirt, and I hardly ever wear heels. I don’t really get along with the conventional females either. I met a married college friend, and kept thinking she was such a wife..
Politicalguineapig, you say the ‘such a wife’ like it’s an insult. I’m curious.
I love Chally’s post and agree that some of the comments are saddening for reasons I can’t quite be bothered to put my finger on. but aren’t a million miles away from what you’ve written.
Btw, I love the new header, it’s full of intent.
Safiya: I meant she kept going on about her husband, their future plans, and how great married life was, while I could barely keep from rolling my eyes. I’m a professional cynic and I hate romance with a passion. (Snark meter on full, because February, the most excruciating month is dead ahead.)
It’s okay, though, ’cause I have a few friends who’ll be suffering through it with me.
it’s OK, I quite enjoy being objectified!
We all know people who let one aspect of their lives become the dominant one, be that “such a programmer” or “such a geek”. I don’ know that being a wife is really an insult, but being a “such a wife”, if it is, is quite a benign and probably justifiable one. There are definitely people who seem to be Professional Marriage Evangelists around these days.
I personally see “such a wife” crop up a lot, but “such a husband”? Never. So far.
I think there’s a reason for it, and the reason is, women are just naturally expected to invest more in a relationship. Whereas with a man, they’re not, so a guy who’s really invested in a relationship is usually thought of as merely a kind, loving man, as opposed to “such a husband.”
Not that I think that we don’t make fun of men at all. I mean, the expression “pussy whipped” didn’t just randomly arise out of nothing.
Mcduf: yes, that’ s exactly what I meant. And I was the lone single woman while everyone was showing off their engagement/ wedding rings- it definitely felt like a tent revival.
Did I completely imagine leaving a comment here or has it been eaten by a spam filter?
Checked the filter, dude. Nada.
I am so totally losing my mind.
Hi Antonia. I’m a writer who came across your website researching FEMEN. I can’t find a ‘contact’ button? Would you be so kind as to drop me a mail? That was some great copy by the way, I hope to meet up with Anna myself.
Interesting debate on here; refreshingly balanced and articulate for such emotive issues that sometimes unnecessarily polarise people.
As a hetero’ man who grew up in a blue-collar provincial UK city, I agree that male roles are indeed ‘policed’ and can be stifling sometimes.
Luckily I found a community where I can talk about more than just beer and sport (not that I don’t love talking about them – but there’s a lot more to life).
I’ll say this RE female friendships: I know a lot of guys who commit to a relationship and then practically give up on their social networks. I’ve been guilty of it myself; you could call it getting most of your needs met by one person – or at least thinking you are. My own perception has been that women keep bigger and better networks.
I could well be wrong, it’s a necessarily-subjective – possibly narrow – generalisation in a broad area of debate. But if I was going to be a 40-year-old divorcee, taking forward all those life lessons and looking for a new start; I might prefer to be a woman…
Looking forward to the next post.
Apologies, I called you Antonia there. Every day I fight a battle with a juvenile alter ego that wants to alliterate everything and anything – inevitably inspiring inanity. So I’d somehow got it into my head that your name was Antonia Antonova…