Friendship and Gender

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of assumptions are made when I talk about my friends to other people. I am not saying that these are bad assumptions, especially as I probably do the exact same when other people are talking about their friends, but I wanted to highlight it. You may have guessed from the title of this blog post that the assumptions I am talking about are in regards to gender, of which there are two. The first, and most prevalent, is people assuming that when I talk about ‘my friend’ I am talking about someone female. This is not always wrong, in fact the majority of my friends are female, and in society women are led to be friends with other women. However, this does not mean that we cannot have male friends. One of my closest friends is male and that is one of the qualities of his friendship that has made us so close, because he sees things from a male perspective. There are genuine differences between the male and female brain (the book Girls are Best by Sandi Toksvig is great for explaining this) and so this is probably why women both benefit from having male friends but also tend towards friendships with other females. Anyway I digress, the point is that we need to stop assuming we know the gender of people’s friends. This brings me on to the second assumption, which I will admit is not a particularly common occurrence, but still relevant to this topic. My male friends are FRIENDS. Just because they are of the opposite gender and I spend time with them, this does not mean that there is any attraction between us or that we are romantically involved. Yet some people (and this is both rare and often in a jokey manner) automatically jump to the conclusion that we are a couple or at least one of us wants us to be a couple. In fact the two men that have come up in conversation in the past week or so are both, as far as I am aware, happy in fairly long term relationships that I look at and hope will last indefinitely. Some relationships may well start out of friendships but that is not a reason why I have ever developed a friendship, and assuming that’s the case is hardly going to make romance suddenly appear. Not to linger to long on the point of sexuality, but if you consider how society and, to some extent, the brain leads us to be friends with people of the same sex, would you suggest to a gay person that there’s a romantic undertone to their friendships? This has become a slight rant and I apologise, but I hope that you have found it informative. And if you do make these assumptions, don’t worry because I do too. I’m going to try really hard not to and hope this motivates you to do so as well!

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