Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gender and Friendship

One of the things I find the most mind-boggling and interesting are the essentializing scientific studies that claim certain gendered behaviors as linked to various biological things.

A recent article I found in Time talks about a study that "shows" that girls have strong, one-on-one friendships while boys hang out in large groups. It's all related to hormones and activated brain regions, very complicated. You know, nature versus nurture.

It's interesting in a few ways. First off, those are some pretty big generalizations.... I spend time hanging out with a large group of men and women. I think I'm attuned to group dynamics, and I care about them. And, I'm pretty sure that there are men who have the type of friendships the study suggests as being feminine.

Secondly, the study argues that all of this is because of evolution. Men hang out with large groups because they are trying to cut down the competition for potential sexual partners, and women focus on one-on-one friendships becuase they are trying to find the best father. I don't know how smoothly that argument applies to the non-sexual, same-sex friendships the study looked at.

I'm willing to bet that a large part of these friendship styles are due to socialization. If young boys mostly socialize with sports teams or larger groups, and young girls are sent to "play-dates" where they are told to play house or whatever, that probably impacts what their friendships will be like in the future.
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