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‘Just Friends’: Opposite-Sex Friendships Are Feminist AF. Here’s Why 

‘Just Friends’: Opposite-Sex Friendships Are Feminist AF. Here’s Why 

opposite sex friendships

Is it just me, or is it true that in the last decade or so, gender-based segregation has become fashionable? With girl squads taking over our social media feeds, it almost seems like we’re putting same-sex friendships on a pedestal. Female friendships are irrevocably empowering, and absolutely necessary for a woman’s wellbeing. But, it doesn’t always give a woman power in the mixed-gender world we live in. We can have all the girls’ nights or women-led businesses we want. But, what happens when the girls’ night is over and we’re back to our patriarchal realities? Or, when a woman joins a male-dominated industry? Does the sexism stop? Not quite. 

One of my biggest pet-peeves is when, at social gatherings, men and women segregate based on sex. It happens all too often – a soiree starts with a mixed-gender group huddled together. At some point, men form a bad boys’ club, and the women settle in a separate corner. It’s as if men and women can’t see each other as worthy of genuine friendship which has no end goal (like romance, perhaps) in sight. Friendship for the sake of friendship. 

If we want a truly equal world, we have to learn to balance the power scale in shared spaces. This is where opposite-sex friendships come in. 

You see, men tend to view women as achievements or accessories, and seldom as complete, independent human beings. Traditionally, our society is built around men. Men own public places, workplaces, and any affairs outside of the domestic sphere. In most Indian homes, the women do the labour, whose fruits men enjoy. So, while domestic lives might be led by women, men reap the benefits of it without putting in much effort. This builds a culture where women remain in service of men. 

The only way to combat this disparity is if we foster genuine friendships with each other. It might be true that men will not understand a woman like another woman does. But, does this mean that we can’t connect human-to-human? 

Out of my five closest friends, two are straight men. All three of us have partners, but honestly, that’s irrelevant for my argument. Having these two male friends has helped me see men as whole human beings in their own right, with hopes and heartbreak, fears and aspirations. I believe my presence in their lives has done the same for them. We don’t see each other as potential romantic partners, and this has allowed us to look at the opposite sex from a different lens – a lens that has no agenda. It’s just individuals hanging out together. Just… being. 

We talk to each other about all sorts of things: work, girlfriends and boyfriends, travel, our mental health, movies, music, and even shopping. I learn about cars from them, and they learn about matching the right colours from me (sexist, I know. But do you see how our friendship is helping us bridge the gap?). 

When I’ve had an issue with a guy I’m dating, I’ve asked my guy friends for insight because they can relate to a man’s experience of relationships better than any of my girlfriends can. When they have an issue in their love lives, they come to me for advice and I make sure I give it off to them if they’re being an asshole. I’d like to believe that by having an honest friendship with a guy, I’m making another woman’s life a tad better. 

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Spending time in their territory – their homes also showed me a traditionally non-masculine side to my guy friends, and men in general. Although both of them are partnered up now, we’ve seen each other through phases of being single and living alone. Both my guy friends are good homemakers. Meaning, they take care of their house and put in the effort to keep it clean and organised. Quite unlike the trope that men don’t care about trivial matters such as these. One of them is an ace cook and has, on several occasions, fed us a meal he whipped up from scratch. There goes the stereotype that men can’t cook or clean. It’s not that they are incapable of it. It’s that some men are unwilling to do it. 

Here’s what the domestic proclivities of my male friends means for me, and other women I look out for: We expect a male partner who is willing to share the load (Hi, Surf Excel, are you listening?). 

Another tiny step closer to a more equal world. 

As for how their worldview is impacted by having a female best friend – both of them think intellectual compatibility is super important in a relationship. ‘I want to be able to talk to my partner the way you and I talk about all sorts of things,’ one tells me. I’ll take the credit for showing them that the women in their lives are more than just bodies with the sole purpose of making their lives easier.  

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