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Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

Men and Women Can’t Be Friends

When I was growing up, everyone firmly believed that males and females were incompatible. It started as a general aversion and a terror of cooties, then evolved into cautious flirtation coupled with a raging insistence that boys and girls cannot be friends. Magazine articles and locker room talk all confirmed it… boys and girls who liked each other were bound to hook up, and could certainly never remain friends after breaking up.

Once our hormones got under control, we all realized that men and women could definitely like each other in a nonsexual way. And then the real reason we couldn’t be friends came to light — and it wasn’t because men were from Mars and women from Venus.

It’s because men spent their whole lives being socialized into thinking that what women say doesn’t matter. While there are exceptions, many men simply don’t care what women have to say. And without that mutual respect, true friendships can’t thrive.

Recently, there have been #MeToo-inspired reports of male supervisors saying that they can’t mentor women. Let’s not pretend that these men mentored women before… no man had the utmost respect for women and then got concerned about false allegations. They always felt that women were not worth their attention and used #MeToo as an excuse to stop paying them mind.

This speaks to a bigger problem in which men feel like they can’t talk to women. Scores of memes and jokes characterizing women as dumb, entitled, and selfish affirm this perspective. But lest you assume that only men with 1950s mentalities think this way, I want to share a few anecdotes.

He glared at me as though I’d just suffocated his puppy. “Don’t do that,” he said. He stood up and shoved his chair toward the table, then walked away without a word. Whenever I saw him from then on, he glared at me and said nothing.

These were friends. And they had no respect for anything I did or said. And although I’ve had female friends reject me, there was typically a disagreement that spurred it. When my male friends rejected me, it seemed to have to do with their own insecurities. It involved their tone policing me. It included insults directed toward me.

And so I started to really question a lot of my male friendships and listen to what my “friends” were saying. And once I really started listening, I heard what they said about other women — that they were manipulative and conniving, disrespectful and unappreciative. I heard them express plans to dupe women into sex with expensive meals and flowers. I heard them mock women as stupid and directionless, overemotional and illogical.

And it all made sense. My male friends had never respected me. They’d been waiting for a chance to pounce, a perceived attack by me on their supremacy so that they could try to knock me down.

Moreover, by being friends with me, they were permitting themselves to hurt other women. I was their excuse, as a female friend. My presence allowed them to say that they weren’t sexist or abusive because “I have girls as friends.” They’d used me.

And so we were never truly friends.

Rachel Wayne is a writer and artist based in Orlando, FL. She earned her master’s in visual anthropology from the University of Florida and runs the production company DreamQuilt. She is an avid aerial dancer and performance artist, and also dabbles in mixed-media. She writes nonfiction stories about herself and other awesome people, as well as essays on feminism, societal violence, mental health, politics, entrepreneurship, and whatever cultural topic strikes her fancy.

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Writer by day, circus artist by night. I write about art, media, culture, health, science, and where they all meet. Join my list:

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