Do women like each other?
February 28, 2009 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Do women ever genuinely like each other?

After watching the "Housewives of Orange County and New York" and meditating upon my own past relationships with women, I have come to believe that most female relationships are complicated by secret competition. Even women who appear to be closer seem to have underlying tensions.

In many of my work situations, the worst grudges appeared to be among the women. The arguments quickly escalate to personality and often have little to do with actual work issues.

Is this due to unresolved issues with our Mom's and siblings? Any thoughts on this?
posted by AuntieRuth to Human Relations (31 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: this is sort of chatty nd strange and not open to any answers other than "yeah they do" or "no they don't" and might be better suited to BBQ or elsewhere. -- jessamyn

 
Not only do I *like* my close women friends, I love them. But then, I have a great relationship with my mom, and only a step-sister.
posted by bellbellbell at 10:57 AM on February 28, 2009


I love my women friends; they love me. That's why they're friends.
posted by Stewriffic at 10:59 AM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


please dont base your social observations on tv shows. I am female, I have many close, dear female friends for whom I feel genuine unalloyed love and affection, untainted by competitiveness, jealousy or tension.

unfortunately there are lots of externally dictated cultural messages that foster and reinforce these ideas of competition and "cattiness" amongst women. unfortunately some women fall prey to those messages.

most dont and many outgrow it.
posted by supermedusa at 11:02 AM on February 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


You're talking about people who were forced into situations where they had to work/spend time together, not situations where people could choose their companions. And it's not just women, men forced to work together often have issues, too. I think that's just human nature. Actually, it's just nature...look at the issues in a dog park sometime.

But when women (people) are able to choose who they spend their time with? Oh yes, women like each other very much, and can form bonds closer than any other outside of perhaps the (healthy) parent/child relationship. Genuine love and trust are there, as well as a desire for only good things to happen to/for that friend, and no jealousy, only joy as seeing successes or happiness come their way.
posted by agentwills at 11:03 AM on February 28, 2009


My close friends? Nahh, we don't compete -- we're each others biggest fans. It seems to me that when acquaintances are mistaken for friends is when nice-nice passive aggressive stuff starts to fester.
posted by desuetude at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2009


Wow, what?

I think it's actually a pretty offensive stereotype of women to assume they never really like each other. It's not surprising that a lot of portrayals of people on TV are based on offensive stereotypes. And by then it's pretty easy to make the confirmation bias leap in your own observations of people.

Women may be socialized to communicate in different ways than men, and that might partially account for some of the things you observe among women coworkers. But, honestly, there's no reason to leap from there to a broad-based assumption that women don't get along with each other, or whatever.

My closest friends are women, and while I've had the occasional disagreement or annoyance with them (and I'm sure, they've felt the same toward me), we are allies and genuine friends, and we love each other a lot.
posted by peggynature at 11:08 AM on February 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I like my female friends. Some of them are my best friends. They wouldn't be my best friends if I had secret competitiveness issues with them.

And I love my mom.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:11 AM on February 28, 2009


I have liked and loved some women, but I also have intensely disliked some.
posted by francesca too at 11:12 AM on February 28, 2009


peggynature: I think it's actually a pretty offensive stereotype of women to assume they never really like each other.

I second this.

I have amazingly intimate, satisfying relationships with several dear women friends. I adore them, respect them, look to them for support and they bring such depth and meaning to my life.

And, for the record, I'm not close with my mom because she has always been depressed and emotionally unavailable.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2009


I will go against the grain and say... I never knew evil until i started hanging out with a lesbian. Girls are so much more evil than guys... Guys will get pissed of and show it and maybe end up in a fight or just outright obvious hatred. Girls get pissed with a vengance and keep it hidden and keep it for a long long time. Guys eventually blow up either verbally or physically, Girls are subtle and vengeful. Guys will either fight or say "F**** you, I'm never dealing with you again", Girls will keep the hate and key your car.

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

Like all sayings, there's a bit of truth in it else nobody would have ever thought to say it.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


After watching the "Housewives of Orange County and New York"

Aside from the fact that there isn't much reality in so-called reality shows, consider that harmonious relationships don't make for great TV. A show that genuinely showed normal life would be BORING.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:18 AM on February 28, 2009


Yes, of course.

TV shows play up stereotypes and place people with incompatible personalities together to foster conflict.

They aren't indicative of real life. Most friends, real friends, are people with whom you are compatible on most levels, so they aren't undermined by that catty stuff you can find on TV.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2009


Absolutely. The women in my life mean more to me than the men ever have.
posted by greta simone at 11:22 AM on February 28, 2009


Girls get pissed with a vengance and keep it hidden and keep it for a long long time. Guys eventually blow up either verbally or physically, Girls are subtle and vengeful. Guys will either fight or say "F**** you, I'm never dealing with you again", Girls will keep the hate and key your car.

You do realize that this isn't every woman and that some men also act this way, right? Generalizations like this don't help anyone.

I'm pretty damn direct with people and I'd never key anyone's car or similar.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:22 AM on February 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love my friends, any disagreements/differences I have had with work collegues has remained professsional and NEVER gotten personal with either men or women. But I don't watch TV so maybe I don't know how I am "supposed" to behave.
posted by saucysault at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, women can like and love each other. That said, not all women like and love each other.

Either way, reality shows are not the way to observe natural human behavior.

The women at your workplace, well, that might be confirmation bias. Have you tried to also notice the number of women who don't get involved in arguments?
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2009


You do realize that this isn't every woman and that some men also act this way, right? Generalizations like this don't help anyone.

I'm pretty damn direct with people and I'd never key anyone's car or similar.


Yeah, this. I've had competitive relationships with female friends, but then, I'm a competitive person. I've also had competitive relationships with male friends. I've had underlying tensions with both male and female friends, and I've also had situations where everything is out in the open with people of either gender. It depends on the individual relationship.

I would never key the car of either group. And I love my mom.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2009


Guys will either fight or say "F**** you, I'm never dealing with you again", Girls will keep the hate and key your car.

Stereotype and generalize much? And you learned all of this by hanging out with a lesbian? Obviously, the behavior of one individual is representative of an entire group. Obviously, no man is ever passive-aggressive, and men never hold grudges.

To the question: Real Housewives of [wherever] is, you know, not actually real. The situations are engineered, the episodes are edited to produce the most drama, etc. And it's a self-selected group of women who want their fifteen minutes of fame.

Yes, women genuinely like each other. Yes, they are supportive and loving and communicative. I mean, I am a lesbian, so obviously I have some bias - but the fact that I'm a dyke also means that I've spent a huge chunk of my life in relationships (sexual and platonic) with women, and so have seen this stuff up close.

I myself have never experienced a "secretly" competitive relationship with a woman, even in work situations. Perhaps you need new friends, or a new career.
posted by rtha at 11:27 AM on February 28, 2009


Like all sayings, there's a bit of truth in it else nobody would have ever thought to say it.

Yes, William Congreve was the greatest sociologist and psychologist of all time. Or wait, maybe George Santayana was the greatest sociologist and psychologist of all time:

The loneliest woman in the world is a woman without a close woman friend.

Or maybe it was Emily Dickinson:

My friends are my estate.

Nah, I guess it was Simone de Beauvoir:

No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.


To answer the original question, hell yes. I love my female friends and they love me. I love my sister-in-law and she loves me. My mother was a difficult and troubled person, but she did love me, and I her. Sorry you haven't been so lucky, OP.

Or maybe you got a bug in your code about this (not difficult, because there is so much 'women are catty bitches who don't like each other' static being generated by the media and corporate culture) and that bug is keeping you from having good friendships with other women.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:30 AM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I totally willing to be your (non-competetive) friend AuntieRuth - you can come hang out with my cool Mummy and sister too. I bet they'll love you!
posted by saucysault at 11:34 AM on February 28, 2009


Do women ever genuinely like each other?

Yes.
posted by box at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2009


I do think I know what you're talking about; in my teen years, my friendships with girls were intense, competitive, back-stabbing. We paid each other compliments and bitched about each other behind our backs. When I see something like what you're talking about, it reminds me of the clique I was a part of back then.

That said, when I was a senior I fell out with that clique and made some new friends, and was astonished to find that my new group of friends genuinely liked and supported each other. It was a great revelation that made my whole life better.

When I have sometimes felt competitive with a close friend, again as a younger person than I am now, it has been because of some insecurity of my own. Improving my own mental health improved my friendships. I tend you think of things like you describe, because of my own experiences, as something people/women grow out of.
posted by not that girl at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2009


AuntieRuth, I find it interesting that you "favorited" only zengargoyle's comment, which read to me as extremely misogynistic generalization based on a single female friend (I'm not so sure why the fact she is a lesbian is important, either). Bonus points to him for dragging out the old "there's a reason stereotypes exist, it's cause they're true LOL" canard.

Think about that for a second. You might want to look a little deeper into your own psyche and figure out why you're so heavily invested in this belief. It's possible you've been hurt by close friendships in the past and feel embittered and would like to write off all women, but listen to everyone else in the thread who is telling you otherwise. You don't want to fall into the "All women are catty bitches, all men are rapists-in-waiting" sorts of ways of looking at the world. First, that will lead to a miserable existence. Secondly, you'll be make assumptions that aren't based on fact but that originate in fear, and you will end up never truly accepting people as unique individuals.

Also: chatfilter.
posted by stagewhisper at 11:39 AM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


You do realize that this isn't every woman and that some men also act this way, right? Generalizations like this don't help anyone.

I'm pretty damn direct with people and I'd never key anyone's car or similar.
I'm saying that once I got in with a bunch of Girl-Girl interactions they were much nastier than Guy-Guy or Guy-Girl interactions. I'm sure not all are like that, but it made an impression on me that I'll never forget. Guy vs Guy gets you a Fight movie. Guy vs Girl gets you jail time for domestic violence. Girl vs Girl gets you a thriller movie with plot twists and delayed revenge.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:42 AM on February 28, 2009


Saying women are always catty to one another is about as accurate as describing all men as immutably existing in a violent, perpetual struggle for dominance with each other.
posted by 5imian at 11:43 AM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I was in college I became confused about the strange dynamics between two lasses I knew who certainly seemed to be solid friends and good roommates, but would then pull some cruel, sly things things on one another. I was used to some fairly upfront exchanges on the guy side of things. I finally asked one of the two what was going on. She sat me down:

"Adipocere [she didn't really say "adipocere," but you get the idea], you have to understand two things about women: Women often don't like other women, even if we act like friends. Also, almost everything we do is about men."

I was internally flabbergasted, because that seems like kind of a horrible thing to say about an entire gender, but on the other hand, I'm supposed to believe about women what women tell me about women, right? What to do?

I vowed to split the difference and pretend it would only apply to these overly competitive sorority girls who decided to live the stereotype and were vying for the same guy, and that I would not wonder where the stereotype came from or how relevant it was. So far, that's working out pretty well for me, although my ability to pretend is occasionally (like when NPR did that bit on bullying between girls in middle school) strained. When it is strained, I just remind myself that people as a whole suck, and that if there are any differences, it's just differences in the flavor of suck, not the magnitude of suck.

I suggest you do the same.
posted by adipocere at 11:44 AM on February 28, 2009


It was many female friends who happened to be Female-Female relationship. They are so much more vindictive than Male-Male or Male-Female or Female-Male.

I'm straight, this was the mid-west and I was LosAngeles boy looking for friends. Met up with the punks and the gays. (no offense intended). I've been homeless, had a knife to my throat, been attacked with skateboards... NEVER have I seen anything nastier than a Girl-Girl squabble.

Maybe 'love interest' fits in to the equation, but I'm a decent southern boy who holds doors open for women, would cower in the corner and only strike if my life was in danger.... Just an observation.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:53 AM on February 28, 2009


I think it's important to remember that the women on Real Housewives aren't necessarily friends with each other. They go to the spa and out to eat together, but that doesn't mean it wasn't organized by production (or else Lynne and Vicki/Tamra wouldn't have ever been in the same room this past season). Some of them might become friends during taping, but I wouldn't call many of their relationships true "friendships."

Trying to learn about human nature from anything on the Bravo Network is almost always a bad idea. I love pretty much everything on that channel, but they take seriously messed up people and then manipulate their circumstances to the point where it's not reality anymore.
posted by lilac girl at 11:53 AM on February 28, 2009


After watching the "Housewives of Orange County and New York" and meditating upon my own past relationships with women, I have come to believe that most female relationships are complicated by secret competition. Even women who appear to be closer seem to have underlying tensions.

All human relationships have the potential to be complicated by competition and to suffer from underlying tension. Few if any relationships will be free from these problems 100% of the time.

If your emphasis is on "secret"--there may be an element of truth to that, in that girls are often socialized to be conciliatory, and boys to be competitive. Both conciliatory and competitive behavior have their uses, and both can be abused. Mature people will learn to avoid those abuses, the stereotypical extremes on both sides of which are described by zengargoyle above.

The root of the problem you're observing with your coworkers is that they are women, but that they are immature.
posted by torticat at 11:54 AM on February 28, 2009


I and female, and work mostly with men. Actually, the people I work with on a daily basis are 90% male, I would guess.

These are big gossips, who play nice face-to-face, and then bitch about whoever is not in the room. As a matter of fact, they bitch about all sorts of things. They'll commiserate with one another about how much they dislike people, events, their wives, etc -- and then, when the other is gone, I get to hear the gossip they have about one another. They have said potentially career-sabatoging things about each other. Two of them were recently turned down for a promotion, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if their behavior didn't contribute to this. I could give you reams of examples of their immature comments, credit-stealing antics, and competitive attutides.

I don't like gossip, and now that I am settled in my job, I don't even pretend I'm listening. But look: their behavior is exactly the stereotype of women that you are afraid is true. My friend, it's not women. It's any insecure, immature person who has made a habit of wasting their lives feeling as though their status is threatened by other people.
posted by Coatlicue at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here is my totally politically incorrect but absolutely honest answer based on three decades of life as a woman:

Yes, some women really do like and love some other women as friends. I've personally been blessed with several best female friends throughout my life with whom I've had very profound and multi-faceted friendships and I have a special place in my heart for every one of them to this day.

On the other hand, growing up and in school, there was always lots of cattiness amongst girls who were supposedly friends of which I was sometimes the object and sometimes a participator. I'd like to say I've outgrown all that, but it's hard to say one way or another, because I don't have the type of "group" relationships I did in school...now I pretty much only hang out with people I've handpicked and genuinely like.

As an adult I have observed that women I don't know are much quicker to treat me poorly, or be nasty to me for no detectable reason than men. With men I don't know, the default setting is much more likely to be friendly.

As a result I tend to have quite a few more male friends than female but my friendships with my female friends tend to be more profound, though I value both types of friendships equally.

Is this due to unresolved issues with our Mom's and siblings? Any thoughts on this?

I have often wondered about this myself. I grew up with no sisters and strong brother and father influences and I find a lot of other women are often difficult for me to relate to -- I feel like I just don't know how to go about it. Interestingly, the women friends I do have, almost without fail, also grew up with strong male influences. I often wonder that maybe if I had had sisters or a more traditional mother I would understand other women better.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:13 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


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