No matter who you are, friendships occupy a crucial part of our lives. Friends are our second family, people with whom we can be ourselves without being judged. History is replete with examples of legendary friendships. Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield are just some of the few iconic friendships that are hashtag worthy of buddy goals.
With all that love, insanity, and shenanigans that friendship brings with it, it has also been a center of an eternal debate – can men and women be friends? Is friendship really possible between Mars and Venus? Let’s unravel the mystery straight from the mind of the men from Mars.
Piecing the platonicity puzzle
The men who believe that men and women can indeed be friends and a good one at that have a lot of insights to provide.
Communication skills broaden up: Most of us, especially from traditional societies are socialized to develop a friendship with the same gender. This poses a great communication risk when we step outside our homes. The world is full of both men and women and circumstances would compel us to interact with people of opposite gender all the time. In offices, train stations, grocery stores, malls, airports, the list is endless.
Interacting with only one gender severely limits your worldview and communication skills. If you haven’t talked to the opposite gender, it’s natural to feel nervous, tongue-tied, and shy when the opportunity presents itself. Men who think Mars and Venus can indeed be friends narrate their experiences of developing confidence in talking to the women.
Art feeds us the hackneyed narrative: Men who believe that men and women can have a platonic relationship would tell you that it’s only because our society is obsessed with romance that it tries to negate the possibility of a sexless association between men and women who aren’t related to each other. Pop culture only seeks to amplify the predominant narrative of men and women as solely sexual partners.
The stringent gender lines between friendships is an archaic concept. Men following this thought say that a truly platonic association between men and women, the premise of which is mutual respect and dollops of fun, is indeed possible. To interact with the opposite gender without being burdened by the need to impress each other or getting worried about the next date is truly refreshing.
In tune with your feelings: Studies have established that men bond over things and women over feelings. The interactions that men have with each other is largely bereft of expressing feeling for each other. Moreover, men and women see the world from a particular perspective. When they become friends, they enrich other’s worldview by providing an alternative perspective.
The men who believe that friendship transcends gender talk about how men who have close women friends are better at recognizing their feelings and expressing them. Being with women friends provide them with a safe space to air their feelings. Friendship with the opposite gender allows you to see the other side of the coin and understand diversity in perspectives.
Challenges gender roles: The way men and women operate is often within the socially defined gender roles. In the times we live in gender roles are being shattered and smashed. Men are becoming hands-on dads and taking more responsibility for the household chores. And women, well-woman are everywhere! In the kitchen and the boardroom. Friendships between men and women compel them to push the envelope of the gender roles that they have grown up imbibing.
The Nay Team
Now coming on to the dramatically opposite school of thought. Ironically the very reasons that men give for their flourishing friendships with women became the reasons why men and women can’t be friends. It is precisely because men and women think differently that both come with diverse expectations from each other in friendship. Believers of more orthodox gender roles find the idea of male-female friendship an impossibility.
The nay team believes that men and women are sparked with jealousy and possessiveness when they see their partners enjoying the company of the opposite sex who are not them. For the followers of this thought process, friendship with the opposite sex would forever be fraught by an underline sexual tension between the two people in question and possessiveness from their respective partners. This school of thought further says that men and women are better friends in their own “reference” group because of the similarities the group members exhibit.
Friendship is what you make of it. However, friendship with the opposite gender not only broadens your worldview but makes you a more empathetic and understanding person. Take from all then men who tell you that having women friends have made them a more responsive person in their other relationships- as a partner, sibling parent.
Friendship is all about shared interests and respect for each other. It transcends the identity markers that society tells us are true. Go ahead, make friends, without thinking about their gender because friends are just that, friends.