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Femininity is a social construct, and like many social constructs, it is subject to perpetual change. That said, it’s a beautiful, surreal experience to indulge in your womanhood, but for some, such an experience appears much later in life, if ever. Personally, it never occurred to me that I was a rather deep-rooted tomboy until I had grown out of the basketball jerseys and pixie haircut and embraced the winged liner, wild ombre, and flowy skirts.
Although the process of becoming a young woman struck me rather late in the day, I had nothing to be ashamed of. I was still an apparent “tomboy” in many ways, but on the outside, I preferred to express my femininity in whatever manner I deemed fit. My body and soul are not society’s objects to manipulate into gender roles and categories. I refused to repress my inner woman to stay true to the rough and tumble nature I’d grown up with, but I likewise resisted to rid myself of my boyish needs.
However, throughout my personal awakening, I always subconsciously found myself with more male friends. No, not because “I’m not like other girls,” and not because guys have no drama (because, God, they totally do), but I found it easier to relate to them in terms of interests.
Unfortunately, these interests so happen to be male-dominated: sports, video games, and outdoors activities—there is nothing particularly male about any of these things, but the environmental conditioning of society has deemed them to be “guy things.” In my experience, the hard truth is that, outside of social media, there are very few girls in real life who are remotely interested in them. To be clear, the fact that girls and guys generally have different interests is not a stereotype; it’s a result of circumstance, culture, and upbringing. Girls are nurtured differently, and the result is, of course, bounded by narrow lines.
It goes without saying that my wide array of girlfriends are the most invaluable people to me; their support, affection, and incredible sense of humor are to die for. When I spend time with them, the experience is overwhelmingly positive. There’s something unique about connecting with your own kind, like a permanent membership to a club that will likely last until death do you part. No matter where I am in the world, female companionship will follow me. However, it can often be hard to connect on a material level with them, and that’s where my boys come in.
Lovably careless and ripe with crude jokes, boys come in different shapes, sizes, and opinions. Many of them wave away offense with a laugh, but like girls, they too get offended and bear sensitivities. When forming close friendships with them, the repressed aspects of their innate human character present themselves, and such exposure often leads to the making of great platonic soulmates. While girls tend to be able to connect on a broad level, regardless of gender, guy friends are no exception to this rule.
It appears that men, at least during their youth, wait for the moment of disaster before addressing the consequences, whereas we women seem to plan ahead of time to prevent the disaster from occurring. Most of them view the world through some lens we women cannot fathom—in their mind, nothing really seems to matter at the end of the day, so let’s sit here and laugh for no reason while stuffing our faces with French fries.
Possibly the most refreshing aspect of being “one of the guys” is embracing that carefree attitude, even if only for a little while.
But while the great pros of being in the gang are unmatched, I genuinely struggle to feel complete. And while every girl who finds herself with more “bros” than average faces many of the same challenges, most of them refuse to acknowledge this to the public or even to their female friends.
Why, you ask? The dreaded answer, indeed, is the internalized misogyny found in many women.
Internalized misogyny is all around us—the pride we take in femininity, such as good looks or a smaller frame, and the pride we take in masculinity, such as being tough or insensitive in the face of pain. Both of these are extremes, and both of these are harmful. These are concepts that have been fed to us as children, through films and popular culture, leaking into innocent discussions and defining our gender roles.
We see women in films and books being cool and composed when the men in their lives are absolute rubbish to them. We see women having to succumb to supposedly masculine traits in order to become a success in any industry, be it corporate or academia. And yet, ironically, we see women, sometimes our own mothers, judge the sheer quality of another woman on her sex life, when men and their temptations are swept under the rug.
Eventually, we find ourselves looking down on women when we come of age. We brazenly begin slut-shaming and resenting them, considering ourselves the rare few exceptions to the apparent bane of the female existence. We eventually become scared, against all reason. I don’t want to be those girls. I don’t want to be called these things, and I don’t want to be put down by men and women alike.
I don’t want to be naggy, or fussy, or spend my days gossiping and doing makeup, but apparently, everyone is attributing these things to me as if they are the norm for my gender. I want people to take me seriously, and so I have to excuse myself and take my leave from the nation of the female-kind.
“I’m not like other girls” is such a statement that is used repeatedly to slam and shame the purity of female friendship, completely disregarding the emotional and spiritual fulfillment we need to connect with our own sex.
This reason is often why we cling to our male friends, even at times when we truly desire the comforts of sisterhood. And yet it’s a result of misogynistic nurturing—and each of us must take control of our lives, get a little perspective, and let go. And so we begin to find ourselves amidst a company of male friends.
However, I realized quite later in life that close friendships with boys affected my mental health in a surprising way. This unmasks itself exclusively in their presence, regardless of how confident I am overall. I came to understand that the idea of hanging out with boys leads to less drama, less competition, and less gossip is a fictitious one.
It’s all fun and games until competition begins to bloom between you and your mates, and the reality of the stress experienced when competing with men, even the ones you love, is crushing. No matter how good you are, how smart you are, or how strong you are, your abilities will never be good enough for them. You’ll be subject to their mockery, or even worse, not worth competing with. The sensation of isolated failure is an unpleasant stab in the chest when you’re in the middle of having a “supposedly” good time—ultimately, you don’t belong here, and it’s pretty darn obvious.
I started to become perpetually insecure, particularly when pressured to do something I wouldn’t do with a group of girls, making me instantly regret all attempts to communicate with them. Being friends, of course, I’m at the point of no return, but it took a lot of willpower, meditation, and self-actualization to rid me of this unnecessary feeling. Perhaps this is just me, but when discussing this phenomenon with fellow peers, the response was overwhelmingly similar.
Naturally, the social, physical, and mental differences between sexes inevitably exist. When someone accepts the difference, they finally come to their senses and realize that there wasn’t much use trying to “be one of the guys.” That said, for all the girls who proudly proclaim to neglect female companionship by being “unlike other girls,” you’ll never be complete without them. No matter how much you suppress your insecurity, the blatantly obvious elephant in the room that is your feminine existence will draw you apart from the boys.
Growing up, I was consistently competing with my male classmates. As a result, I formulated close and genuine friendships with them. It appeared to be a code of honor, and a competitive nature was somewhat necessary to become accepted by them for companionship. Now that I’m older, I’m surrounded by a variety of expectations my rather carelessly mediocre abilities have yet to upgrade to. I’ll never be good enough to get a dozen headshots in a row playing Call of Duty simply because my taste in video games is unconventional. I’ll never shoot a straight three-pointer with my eyes closed because I quit basketball to join badminton instead. Why my friends and I expect to do these so-called predominantly male activities above par sans experience, let alone why I allow it to affect my own self-esteem, is beyond my own understanding.
Unfortunately, the internet reveals very little of the truth related to complicated symptoms of male-female friendships, possibly because there are too many issues to discuss all of them in depth. While essential to socialization, it’s also important to strike a balance. Moreover, the pretensions of girls who are “not like other girls” need to be addressed headfirst.
Suffice it to say that liking a certain thing or activity doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else, particularly in the context of gender, since these concepts are nurtured differently in each household. Women need to stop putting other women down by disowning what are known to be feminine traits or activities, and by glorifying the male stream of interests. If you like sports, good for you, and if you like knitting, great. Our respective crowds have yet to reach this level of humble understanding of one another, and it will take a great deal of patience and social change before harmony sets in.
Moreover, women need to stop hating one another for petty reasons, turning God-given traits into a competition. Rather, we should help foster circles where every girl can feel safe and supported, even girls who tend to lean toward masculinity.
After all, they still identify as women, so why isolate them? The vicious cycle of misogyny can only end when we put a stop to the culture ourselves, and we must, regardless of how hard it may seem when we’ve become comfortable with the jealousy and hatred that comes with it.
Undoubtedly, being friends with boys is rewarding in its own ways; their naivety in challenging times and untainted dedication makes them loyal, sincere companions. They would seldom stab you in the back or borrow your clothes without asking, and they are unlikely to disrespect your name in the presence of other men. When you cry your heart out, they’ll stand by awkwardly with nothing to say but shield you from the public eye while listening to your woes. But, the truth is, being friends with boys is not “easier” than being friends with girls, and each friendship comes with a set of expectations, challenges, and competition, unique to every group.
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