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I hate to say this, but circa 2022 I had a girlfriend tell me: “Roop, I really prefer male friends to female friends.”
This schtick used to be something I heard a lot of women say about a decade ago. And they’d say it with pride, as if it were a badge of honor to diss women.
This got me thinking back to the days when women would loudly and openly claim to prefer male friends over female friends. From what I can remember back then, there were two types of women who preferred male friends.
One was what I refer to as the Angelina Jolie type. These beyond stunningly beautiful women were (and still are) just unreal. They often walked around assuming that normal, mortal women were jealous of their beauty. And maybe we were. Actually, who the f*ck am I kidding? When I see these drop-dead gorgeous women I still get jealous. How can you not? The world they see is a totally different world from the one I see.
I used to have a classmate back in school who could literally stop traffic. Men, other women, young people, old people, rich people, poor people—everyone would stop and gape at her. And of course, that made me envious. Don’t worry, I got over all that jealousy crap pretty early on in my life. In a quick aside, oddly enough, I always thought I wanted fame and attention but when I experienced a mild version of it, I ran for my life. I hated the feeling. These days I slip through life without anyone ever noticing me. And I like it like that. I can’t even imagine people’s eyes on me all the time. Even if said eyes were worshipping my goddess beauty…Nope. That’s just not my thing at all.
Back in the day though, I did feel some envy for this traffic-stopping friend of mine but—and this is the big but that’s key here—the jealousy was not life-changing in any way. Yes, I wondered what it would be like if one were that beautiful, and occasionally, I’d sigh deeply. That’s it. The distance between myself and women like the Jolies and this friend of mine often felt so vast that even imagining myself in their position was beyond me. But that no longer bothered me. What did bother me was when these women would proudly declare that they couldn’t make friends with women and preferred hanging out with dudes because they were “less complicated.”
I never understood that.
The other type of women were those who were offended at what they believed were derogatory and cliche terms used to describe women in general. They did not like to be called gentle, kind, nurturing, or a caretaker. I genuinely had female friends who hated being called, well, a woman. Back then, it seemed to me like there were women who went out of their way to appear tough. To behave like…well, men.
I remember talking to women filmmakers who always wanted to make dude flicks and not chick flicks. For them, being known as a chick flick director was the worst thing ever. It didn’t matter that an emotionally enriching character study or a rom-com (that was often dismissed as a chick flick) cost $1 million and made a profit of $10 million. While a dude flick, typically a huge action blockbuster, would cost $100 million to make but made only $125 million in returns. In terms of percentage, the chick flicks had a better Return on Investment (RoI). But that never mattered to them.
The biggest and best compliment for them was if someone saw their film and said, “I cannot believe a woman directed this movie.”
But that began to change after the Me Too and Time’s Up movements. As women spoke up about being discriminated against and abused by men, more women began to find their own voice and speak up. Over the past few years, there has been so much more solidarity and sisterhood than I’ve ever seen before.
And that feeling is not shared solely by the more famous women in the world (the Reese Witherspoons and Jennifer Anistons); the feeling started in the film industry but permeated down to businesses, offices, and our own families. Women started celebrating what they had for so long apologized for. They claimed proudly that they were emotional, caring, and nurturing, and they no longer seemed to care about the negative connotations that our patriarchal society had instilled in them for so long. Instead, women began to celebrate these very attributes that allow us to show up for each other.
That’s why when my friend trotted this old-fashioned and, in my opinion, extremely sexist comment against her own community, it felt jarring. And I found myself confused.
Don’t get me wrong. I have as many male friends as I do female friends. And many of my male friends are feminists themselves. They’re the ones who celebrate and, heck, even want to be like women. They’re kind and understanding and nurturing.
But as much as I appreciate them, I personally cannot fathom a life without my female friends.
If I had to give up my male friends, I could do it, though it would surely sting a bit. But it would break me if I had to give up my women friends. The sisterhood, the unspoken understanding, the spiritual connection I feel with them—I could never dream of being in a world where I didn’t have these.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the biggest devastations I’ve faced have been at the hands of my female friends. I’ve had friends ghost me, dump me for a partner, be passive aggressive, be judgmental, and so much more. It’s not always hunky-dory happiness. And when I’ve come across women friends who treat me this way, I’ve ruthlessly cut them out of my life. But the ones who are left now—and I’m lucky to have more than a few—they’re as important to me as the air I breathe. And I’m equally as important to them.
My girlfriends are my lifeline. Emotional or not, these women are the best and I celebrate them every single day.
And as for the friend who said she prefers her male friends to her female friends? I wished her the best of luck and deleted her contact info from my phone.