Gender Patterns in Friendship

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Gender Patterns in Friendship

Postby Sabina » Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:24 am

We had a forum topic in which we already discussed a similar subject matter. It started in late December 2009 and stretched until April 2010. I did consider adding to it, but there are already 8 pages of posts and what I want to add is more related to psychology. For those who have missed the debate back then or want to refresh their memory, here is the link: [url=]Friendship between Men and Women[/url]


I came across an article on [url=]gender patterns in friendship[/url] and thought it may be interesting for us to discuss. Definitely worth a thought at any rate.
Here is an excerpt which I propose to be used as material for a dialogue...


[color=#3d1f00][size=150]Women's Friendships[/size]
Women typically describe their friendships in terms of closeness and emotional attachment. What characterizes friendships between women is the willingness to share important feelings, thoughts, experiences, and support. Women devote a good deal of time and intensity of involvement to friends. Friendships between women, more so than between men, are broad and less likely to be segmented.

That is, women usually make a deep commitment to their female friends and their friendships usually cover a broad spectrum, while men's friendships tend to be segmented and centered around particular activities (Gouldner & Strong, 1987; Lenz & Myerhoff, 1985; McGill, 1985; Pogrebin, 1987).

History does not celebrate female friendships, and there is a long standing myth that the greatest friendships have been between men. The male friendship is usually portrayed as the most unselfish and perhaps the highest form of human relationship, while women's friendships have been devalued and seen as frivolous and superficial (Bell, 1981; Block, 1980; Fasteau, 1991; Rubin, 1985). A group of women friends is not seen as a team of colleagues, but as the "girls" trooping off to gossip, exchange recipes, and talk about trivia of fashion, cooking, or dieting over tea. Studies indicate that many of these stereotypes about women's friendships still exist.

[size=150]Men's Friendships[/size]
The great friendships recorded in history have been between men, and friendships among men have often been romanticized and idealized. Men's friendships have typically been described in terms of bravery and physical sacrifice in providing assistance to others. Hardly ever do these historical accounts celebrate interpersonal relationships characterized by closeness and compassion for other men. Bell claims that, "This has been so because masculine values have made those kinds of feelings inappropriate and highly suspect--they were unmanly" (1981, p. 75). Despite this historical romanticization of the male friendship, researchers have found that men have significantly fewer friends than women, especially close friendships or best friends (Bell, 1981; Block, 1980; Fasteau, 1991; Smith, 1983).Although the majority of men may not have close friends they do not conduct their lives in isolation. Block (1980) found that most of the men in his study had a variety of same-sex relationships. These include what Block calls "activity friends," such as a weekly tennis partner or drinking buddies; "convenience friends" where the relationship is based on the exchange of favors; and "mentor friends" typically between a younger and an older man.

While women's friendships are usually defined as self-revealing, accepting, and intimate, men usually shy away from intimacy and closeness. Authors identify at least three barriers to close friendships among men: competition between men, traditional masculine stereotypes about "real men," and fear of homosexuality (Fasteau, 1991; McGill, 1985; Miller, 1983).

In a discussion of gender differences in friendship, Sherrod (1989), points out that although men rate their friendship as less intimate than do women, at least in terms of self-disclosure and emotional expressiveness, men's friendships nevertheless serve to buffer stress and reduce depression in the same way that women's friendships do. Sherrod also reports that when men do achieve a high level of intimacy with other men, they usually follow a different path than women, one that emphasizes activities and companionship over self-disclosure and emotional expressiveness.

[size=150]Friendships Between Men and Women[/size]
Studies indicate that male-female friendships are less common than same-gender friendships. This is especially true for married people or couples, where friendships across the gender line are much less common than among single people (Bell, 1981; Block, 1980; Rubin, 1985). Most studies indicate that this is primarily due to possessiveness and jealousy that often characterizes sexual relationships and coupled life (Block, 1980; McGill, 1985; Rubin, 1985).

In his study, Bell (1981) discusses what he describes as an emerging "new pattern" in cross-gender friendship: "Men turn more to women for close relationships, and relationships with other men are less stressed as the only 'real' friendships" (Bell, 1981, p. 112). Rubin (1985) found similar trends. Some of the men in her study describe how a friendship with a woman provides them with nurturance and intimacy, that generally is not available in their friendships with other men. The women in Rubin's study share this view and most of them agree that in their friendships with men, they are the ones who listen and nurture. The vast majority of women, however, report that their friendships with men are less intimate than their relationships with other women. For their most intimate friendships, women turn to each other. [/color]
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Re: Gender Patterns in Friendship

Postby dermot » Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:50 pm

Im not sure what to say about all that Sabina, other than it seems all plausible, but does not shine a light on anything new or different.

Maybe if we take the idea that men and women compliment each other by virtue of their physical and emotional differences, then it suggests that a friendship between a man and a woman works on levels (with honesty) that same sex friendships simply could not?

Personally i would be more comfortable meeting a woman rather than a man for the first time, the roles are more defined and gender related courtesy plays a part in making it easier, for me.

For me as a man, to connect on a deeper level with a man, means taking a chance, not many men are comfortable doing this and silly macho posturings dominate the whole area of conversation.

Having said that i have male and female friends with whom im totally comfortable and that feels great.

Good topic, now im off to wrestle with a grizzly bear, whilst arranging flowers with my left hand ...or is it right hand?

[color=#a3ec14]....the heart only whispers, be still and listen....[/color]
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