Our Gender, Ourselves

The changing American family

Friendships Between Women Have Health Benefits

Women's intrapersonal relationships have the potential to be stronger

The term “guys’ girl” has been used to describe women—typically adolescents and younger women—who relate better to or feel more comfortable around men, or who simply have more male friends than female friends. As an adolescent, a girl might make a conscious choice to identify as either a guys’ girl or a girls’ girl, depending on what sort of attention she’s after. If she wants to appear emotionally controlled or powerful—“tougher”—she may take on a masculine attitude or strive to be part of a largely male group. If she’s interested in attracting boys romantically—or if she believes that beauty equals power—she may lean towards the side of girlishness, spending more time on her appearance and even holding back the stronger aspects of her personality.

With each new study offering proof that women are getting more freedoms, more job offers, more money, and the like, there also come the inevitable suggestions that women are becoming “more like men.” They aren’t of course; if anything, women are becoming more like modern women.

Studies show that women have an essential need—personally, but also professionally—for other women in their lives. At work, close intrapersonal relationships are what help form bonds, foster loyalty, and encourage people to be team players; these relationships often have the potential to be stronger, and more essential, between women. What’s more, friendships between women have considerable health benefits. A 2009 University of Michigan study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, for example, found that when women feel emotionally close to other women, their bodies produce more progesterone, boosting mood and alleviating stress—a handy  survival kit if ever there was one.

And in many instances whether you’re a guys’ girl or a girls’ girl is less about reality than about self-perception.

 Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. is a research psychologist, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University and author of two books about modern families and the children they produce. Follow Peggy on Twitter and Facebook and learn more about Peggy at www.peggydrexler.com

Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. is a research psychologist, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University and author of two books about modern families and their children.

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