The older I get, the more I question friendship. I understand the basics of it. Guys mostly make friends around activities – a team they like, a hobby they share, proximity through work, school, or neighbourliness. Female friendships seem more … personal? They may start out situational but are maintained by character alignment.
That’s not strictly true though. Us feminists like to say the patriarchy invented that whole ‘women don’t get along’ trope. But we all know a few women we can’t stand. And while we may sometimes be openly mean and judgey to these women, we just as easily call them our ‘friends’ and smile at them while stabbing their backs in any way we can. It’s a strange thing.
To be fair, guys do it too. I moved houses a year ago, and I get way more gossip from my new male neighbours than my female ones. So I know that fact isn’t gendered, at least not in my hood. So why is it that we still think women have harsher tongues than guys? And that doesn’t even get into non-binary and trans-folk who completely warp the system. They may be raised as one gender but identify as another so their socialisation is a whole new space.
Where is all this coming from? Well, I’m one of those girls that has more male friends than female ones. The Adult turned out the same way, except being a zoomer, she has some enbies in the mix as well. I learn a lot from watching how they live their lives – it’s warm and open and fascinating and beautiful and I can’t wait to see how this generation turns out. But that’s not my focus here. My battleground is male vs female relationships, particularly platonics.
I saw a TikTok by this girl explaining why she has a hard time making friends with girls. And I saw a tweet that responded, “You can’t be friends with someone that sees you as an object.” I’ve seen similar sentiments from fellow feminists. They say having more guy friends or exclusively male friends is a form of internalised misogyny, the epitome of, “I’m not like other girls.”
I always wonder about that one, because it’s something I say a lot. That and fatphobia, because my weight yoyos and I prefer my body when it’s thin(ner). I can see how saying that would make my fat friends feel shamed and rejected. Because what I’m saying is, “I don’t like my body when it’s big,” but what you’re hearing is, “She doesn’t like big bodies. And my body is big. So she’s obviously hating on me.” It can be hard to get past that point in a conversation.
Digression: I also wonder, does it make a difference to say these things out loud? Would the world prefer you think those thoughts in silence? Or does the world feel they can change a person’s thinking? How would you know what they were thinking or whether they changed their minds unless they shared their opinion? Case in point, cat calling degrades a woman, yes. But the real fear is a woman can’t tell if her cat caller is just showing off for the boys or whether he has an active intention of following through and hurting her.
That’s an extreme example – sexual violence. But what about seemingly ‘subtle’ forms of misogyny, homophobia, transphobia? Maybe that’s why a lot of people on the LGBTQIAP spectrum assume the hets hate them. It’s safer to blanket everyone than to trust some and risk safety. Hence #AllMenAre…
Enewei, we’re talking about girls who are mostly friends with boys. Other women are understandably suspicious of us. Best case scenario, the women are uneasy about their boyfriends and husbands spending all this time with a ‘platonic female’ and refuse to believe hakuna shenanigans. Median level, a girl that’s one of the guys is seen me as a pick-me. And at worst, feminists point out that a guys-girl perpetuates misogyny because they treat her well but treat other women badly and she’s a foil or token for his bad behaviour.
“He treats me well, I can’t believe he would hurt any woman.”
“I have close female friends, I’m a good guy.”
“He treats you well as an excuse to harm other women.”
Why am I more comfortable with male friends than female ones? Personally, I’m physically afraid of men but psychologically afraid of women. Because I have sexual trauma, daddy issues, and mummy issues. So I make friends with men because if they like me and aren’t banging me (yet?), they’re less likely to be physically or sexually violent towards me. It’s a subconscious safety factor.
And I fear making friends with women because the ones that raised me were emotionally remote, disruptively manipulative, and psychologically abusive. It’s made me terrified of women and I have a hard time trusting or being friends with women. It even affects the way I see myself as a woman, and how I express and perform my own femininity. It’s a trip, and I’m working on it.
I was watching a Red Table Talk episode on why women are mean to each other – that’s what chokonoa-d all this mess. But I also saw a tweet about how transphobia and homophobia are gendered. In the sense we all treat men and women differently, which is why we insist on knowing which one you are. According to that narrative, the thinking goes something like this:
“I need to know if you’re male or female so I know whether I should respect you or dismiss you, flirt with you or crush you. I need to know if you’re gay or straight so I can decide if I should be nice to you. It gauges your humanity.”
I guess my take is different. For me, men are a physical and sexual threat while women are an emotional and psychological one. And I’m a feeler and an overthinker, so mental wounds are just as bad as bodily ones for me. Worse even. So I guess I get … curious … about a person’s gender and sexuality as a form of self-preservation. I can use that basic data to protect myself.
Something in that thread made sense though – that being non-binary and transgender forces the world to see you as a human being, not as a man or a woman, a girl or a boy. And people don’t want to do that. I don’t see myself as transphobic or homophobic (though it’s not my place to say, just like I can’t declare myself an ally – such validation can only come from someone who feels I support them in a meaningful way), but I do like labels and neat boxes that help me fit new facts into my world view. For me, labels are useful as I navigate humanity, but for a lot of people, labels are restrictive and flattening.
I think about random things a lot. Like, I recently read an article about how men in the US are giving up on college and there are now more women pursuing higher education. The guys interviewed had different reasons. Some said they felt more ‘manly’ earning money at a minimum wage job than they did gaining student debt in a classroom. Others said scholarships don’t cover books and board. They drop out within weeks because they can’t afford it.
I saw a documentary years ago about bride kidnapping in China. The one-child policy meant many families aborted or abandonded female foetuses and baby girls in favour of boys. Decades later, there are more men than women and nobody for men to marry. The families that did keep their daughters gave them the best in life, so many of these women have careers and an education and are in no rush to be wifed. The result? People paying traffickers to kidnap women and force them into ‘marriage’. These women end up being chattel.
I see a potentially similar result with this whole ‘men quitting college’ thing. 50 years from now, they may have a population where most of the men are doing menial tasks while the college-educated women hold the corporate and executive jobs. That could cause a dramatic shift in capitalism, now that there’ll be more women in charge. Or it might not, because a lot of women get to the top of male-dominated industries by out-manning the guys.
(Just think of any female makanga, cop, or kanjo worker you ever met – they’re often rougher and scarier than the men. They feel they have to be in order to survive and thrive at work, and they end up being misogynistic.)
So a world of all-female CEOs may not be the valhalla we expect. Plus, if these female hotshots want to marry, they may end up marrying men with blue-collar jobs since there’ll be a shortage of executive-level men in their workspaces. That could be a big shift in the class wars, because it means the husband would have to be secure enough to marry a boss lady, or maybe become a stay-at-home-dad. This could go both ways – some men will be praised for their daddy-day-care as their wives get attacked for working.
Or the dads may resent their wives, get ribbed by their pals, then domestic violence could rise, like a LOT. Or maybe the classed executive women will hire unclassed women to look after their kids … which brings a whole different dynamic with the low-wage-dads. But then again, many of our zoomers are queer and anti-nuptials so maybe that’s how the marriage industry collapses.
For me, all this is tied into my nosiness about a person’s gender, sexuality, and presentation. But I understand that while knowing these things makes life easier for me, it doesn’t give me the right to impose on another person’s … person. Yes, my life would be easier if I knew which way you swing or what gonads you possess, but that is still your life, your body, your privacy, and I have no right to it. The LGBTQIPA doesn’t owe cis-hets anything.
I feel a twinge typing that, because yes, it’s a fact, and yes, it exposes my bias and rubs against my privilege. But here’s the thing about entitlement – it’s a false dichotomy. Just because I want to information about you or attention from you does NOT mean you owe it to me or that I have a right to it.
So when it comes to sidelining spectrum members, I recognise that as a cis-het female, it’s my job to sit with this discomfort. Their lives do not exist to sate my curiosity or ensure my comfort. Trans folk, enbies, and other spectra have as much right to life, love, freedom, safety, self-expression and privacy.
♫ Help Me ♫ Nick Carter ♫