The phrase “I get along better with boys” is often said by girls in their late teens and early twenties when describing their circle of friends. It’s not murmured as a secret, or something one finds out about another deep into a friendship. Often, it’s proclaimed matter-of-factly, with pride and confidence. Moreover, it’s a sentiment that’s met with approval and agreement. I’ve been in groups of girls where we all simultaneously agree that we get on with boys better than we get on with each other. It seems absurd, but it’s something that I’ve been guilty of several times.
Why? Somehow, between our pubescent detestation of boys and our college cries of girl power, it seems girls decided that it was “cool” to be better friends with guys.
So, in an age where we triumph the power and equality of women, why are we so hesitant to admit that we get on with each other? It seems to me that we’re not so much trying to say something about other girls as we are ourselves.
The statement is normally followed by a rationale or two. It’s because there’s less drama with boys. They’re funnier. They’re more relaxed. They’re less judgemental. But like any huge generalisation, these justifications fall through pretty quickly. Anyone who’s been friends with any boy knows that dramas, anxieties and judgements are as prevalent in groups of boys as they are in groups of girls. It turns out that these are common amongst people, not just girls. Effectively, the statement relies on generalisations of men and women that border on stereotypical.
When we say we don’t get along that well with other women, we’re hardly referring to the women we know in our everyday lives. We’re referring to stereotypical girl friendships. We’re referring to the groups of girls we see on TV and in movies – Clueless, Mean Girls. Girls who judge other girls, girls who bitch about each other, girls who, to an outsider, appear superficial and laughable. They’re friendships that, possibly, we believed we saw replicated at high school, and believed to be the norm. Girl friendships tend to get a tough rap in popular culture, and are also largely misrepresented. They don’t reflect who we believe ourselves to be, and so we’re desperately trying to separate ourselves from them.
But in claiming we don’t get along with girls, we enforce the very stereotype we’re trying to defeat. In trying to prove that we’re not bitchy, superficial and dull – that we’re not like “other” girls – through asserting that that kind of girl is “normal”, we reinforce the notion that it is. It may well be that many girls have more friends that are guys, but that’s not because girls don’t make good friends. It’s time we reclaimed the girl-friendship, with all its negative, pop-culture stigmas. Only then will we be able to change our own prejudices, and remember that we’re not all that bad after all.