The most controversial topic on which I write is the topic of who makes better friends for women, men or women. And my blogging rule is that when emotions are high, the best thing to do is to write about the controversy again. Amusingly, I notice that women who prefer the company of men (perhaps because "women take things too personally"?) take what I write about prefering-the-company-of-men very personally, and then make personal remarks. I ask everyone to remember that my goal is not to insult anybody, but to make Single people feel better about being Single. When I said "Have some dignity," I meant only "Don't run after men" for any personal reason including friendship. I didn't mean it was undignified to have platonic friendships with men.
I asked my husband yesterday what would happen if a man told a group of men that frankly he preferred the company of women to the company of men. He thought about it a bit, and predicted that the men would accuse him of using this as a cover to get sex. And then if he said, "No, no, I just really like hanging out with women better", they would think that he was very weird or perhaps gay. It might not be the fact that he preferred hanging out with women they found irksome, but that he felt a need to inform them of his preference.
In general, I am not feminism's biggest fan. Nor is feminism my biggest fan: I was once picked up and carried out of a Woman's Day parade by two large abortion rights activists with buzzcuts. However, you can't be a woman--even in an enlightened country like Canada--without noticing that "men's stuff" is valued more than "women's stuff", even by women. Careers traditionally held by men are valued more than careers traditionally held by women. I know women who would never, ever be a nun (or are ex-nuns) who long, long, long to be priests, and even join the WomenPriests or the Anglican Church in their attempts to fulfill their dream. Unfortunately, too, women dream of being "First Woman To--." Why is being "First Woman To" so darned important? Why this need to be unlike, ahead of, better than, other women?
I have also noticed that sisterhood is not so powerful in the kind of workplace where women scramble to show that they are "just as good as" men. In my ministry training, I watched with horror as two of my female "mentors" literally almost killed themselves with overwork: one in a ghastly car crash, and one with heart disease. And I noticed that they were impatient that I was not willing to go the same distance. However, I felt no need to kill myself to prove I was just as good as a man. I know I am just as good as many men, worse than some and better than others.
Meanwhile, I've noticed middle-aged female managers giving preference to handsome young subordinates while ripping strips off younger female subordinates. I had a boyfriend, a work colleague, who reported that he had overheard the female manager to whom we had been seconded saying over the phone, "He's six-foot-four, he's got blue eyes, and I wish we had three of him." He found it funny; I found it disgusting.
And that is why I get very testy when women say to other women, "I prefer the company of men." Except in wartime, women have it harder than men (we bleed profusely for a week every month for up to 40 years, for example--a messy and uncomfortable business), and it is very annoying when other women make us feel worse about being women.
If you do make men friends easily, and it does not in any way cause you grief or loss, then I think that is marvellous. I don't think it is better than making woman friends easily, but I think the important thing, for Single people, is that you not suffer acute loneliness, and/or get involved with dodgy people who try to exploit you. The freedom women have in the West to have men friends is not universal, and so the next time you are laughing over drinks with platonic men friends, offer a prayer for those women who are jailed for being found alone with men to whom they are neither related nor married.
I do not mean to spit on anyone's personal friendships. What I hope to do is to get women to take a good, objective look at their lives and to see them as they are, and not as how they hope they are. The key to lasting happiness, I firmly believe, is to live firmly rooted in reality. And although some women do have great male friends who are sincerely their friends, other women are exploited by their male so-called friends. I get letters in which this is quite obvious to me, if not yet to the letter-writer. And goodness knows how many men and woman are miserable because members of the opposite sex constantly "think of them as friends."
Also, I want to stress what a comfort female friendship can be to women, not only when you are Single, but when you are married, and widowed, and in the nursing home. Because of our physical realities, women share an awful lot in common. And the fact is that men are not always there and that they do not always understand what we are going through or have gone through because they have not gone through it themselves. They are very often not the skilled listeners women very often are. And they usually die before we do. If you are a woman who dislikes women, then I am sorry, and I wonder if a few sessions with a psychotherapist won't help with this. Learning to get along well with women will almost certainly improve a woman's life.
Hmm. This post is much more convoluted than the usual. Anyway, as ever I throw this out not as the Last Word on male-female and female-female relationships, but as food for thought. I am not a bishop; I have no teaching authority.
All comments will be moderated for the next little while. I may be stricter about which comments I let through, too. Although my tone is often bracing, I want this blog to be a comfortable place to visit. I don't single out individual readers for insult; please don't single out me--or a reader--for insult.