Monday, August 29, 2011

Group Dynamics of women

Image Source : This is your conscience

In my last post about the way female bonding is represented in Bollywood, one of the fellow bloggers Preeti, made an interesting comment about the whole issue of female bonding.
In my post I had alluded to the fact that in society many think that women are incapable of long standing, deep relationships. I have mixed feelings on this point. On one hand I do believe that women are totally capable of long, deep friendships, and can be honest and supportive to one another, but I also agree that this is more the case of one on one friendships or with a small and close group of few girls.

In the last post, I also talked about Sex and the City (SATC), and how I related to the story of the women and the story of their bond. Preeti made an observation about SATC, that it was wonderful and admirable to see the honest bond that these four women shared, and how upfront they were with each other about how they felt, even though they were so different from one another, personality wise, but whether this was indeed possible so smoothly and seamlessly in real life? Especially in a case where all the women may not be very close friends to every member of the group.
Her comment made me think whether she does infact have a point, and is it that, while women can be great friends to each other personally,  or even to a few close friends as in SATC, however, when you put a group of women together, they can possibly do things which may even be uncharacteristic of them individually. They can indeed be petty, mean, and gossip about each other, behind the other's backs.
 These are all issues which are bound to come up sooner or later when it involves a group of women and not just two or three close female friends. I have seen such problems creeping up very often in almost all of the group of girlfriends I've had. In the US especially, in the desi circles, I noticed, many such problems about two or more women not getting along spoiling the dynamic of the entire group. Since in the desi circles here, the women mostly relied exclusively on their friends for social contact  (being away from family) the interaction was much more frequent and close, resulting in increased friction in some cases. Very often one could see cases of sub-groupism, gossiping, back-biting, etc, resulting in the group becoming fragmented into smaller sections, and one being compelled to pick sides among the quarelling women. This wasn't an observation in an isolated case, it was rather a pattern which unfortunately repeated itself periodically.

The SATC gals were quite a bit different from one another as far as their personalities and beliefs go. A Samantha was pretty much a polar opposite of a Charlotte in the way they thought, what they believed, etc. Yet, they seemed to make it work. Yes, they did have some differences of opinion, but most just got sorted out without ever turning into anything ugly. But is it really that simple in real life ? Can we truly be a supportive person to someone who has a different way of life than our own, and especially if we have some sort of a moral objection to their way of life ? What if it is not a dear and long time friend, but a friend who is part of a group of friends we hang out with ?? I don't think the answer can be a very simple and emphatic no for everyone. Yes, some of us may find it easier to adopt a live and let live policy, but many may not, and in a group of people, there are bound to be people of all kinds of personalities, so what happens when there is a clash among opposing views ?? Can it be truly overcome as simply as shown in SATC ?  Isn't there a possibility of some of the women gossiping about someone like a Samantha behind her back in real life ?

Another interesting point made in the comment was that of feeling guilty by association. Would we infact feel guilty by association , if we hung out with someone, whose choices in life, did not reflect our moral guidelines, or boundaries ? And is it possible to feel guilty, yet find the friendship worthwhile enough to hang on to ?

I think there is an inherent difference in the way men approach frienships, especially in a group and the way women do. I know many guys who can be friends with someone for years, without ever knowing much of anything about their personal lives, men can just compartmentalize their lives easily, and not have the different compartments overlapping. Their activities together will revolve around playing or watching a sport mainly, so there isn't much room for personal chit-chat, and whenever there is time for such chit-chat like when playing golf, their topics would involve, politics, their job, the economy, etc, and rarely would the topic revolve around anything personal, like their marital troubles for example. So, their friendship is more at a surface level than a deeper emotional level, and that's what works for them. Men will get over a grudge fairly quickly and not keep rehashing the past and the unpleasant memories of the past, and just move on with a blank slate, something many women find very difficult to do. For guys, if ever a particular friendship became a drag to hold on to for some reason, or some differences crept up in the friendship, then they would rather cut losses and break off ties than try and 'fix' the problem.

Women on the other hand are very emotionally involved in their friends lives, knowing pretty much every detail of their friends' lives. Women tend to look at their friends as their personal agony aunts. They love to consult their friends on every problem they face, and will share even the littlest details of their lives with each other while doing so. This while helping to create a deep bond between the women involved, does run a risk of over-exposure of one's life to someone else, and also has other drawbacks like too much of familiarity breeding contempt. Women usually like to indulge in activities with their friends, that allow for personal time, like shopping or eating out, or a visit to the salon together, etc, all of which will allow for a lot of time to indulge in personal discussions. Their topics will include anything from, marital woes, to MIL troubles, to work related problems, to mothering issues. They look towards each other for comfort and provide a shoulder to cry on. It is because of these deep emotional attachments that women find it difficult to just break off ties with someone without trying to 'fix' it .

I had once read somewhere that when in a group, men are like dogs and women are like cats, simplistic maybe, but somehow it does ring somewhat true.

Although I do definitely think that women are capable of long friendships without the drama, I have several long and close bonds with my friends, and I know others like my sister, mother, aunts, etc too who do, so I have seen it and experienced it, but this I believe is more successful in case of a one-on-one friendship , or even in case of a close-knit and small group of friends, who have had a history together. However, when it comes to the group dynamics in a somewhat larger group of women, not all of who would be close to each other or had a history, the situation is much different and much more complicated. While women can be the best of friends to each other, they can also be the worst of enemies, if things go bad.


  1. hehehe ya har ek friend zaroori hota hai :) :).. Personally for me I think friendships are the same whether men or women..Even men have groupings and side-linings. They have favs and non-favs too. But yes I do agree that emotional dependence might not be to the same level as women have. Guess also because women are more expressive there seems to be a problem in groups. Nice post Anjali :) :)

  2. I agree that men and women don't have the same involvement level with their friends, I know all the juicy details of my friends lives, DH mostly know things about work, the latest gizmo one of them bought, and politic. While I tend to just talk about everything and nothing with my friends, and it often revolve around how women feel, what piss them emotionaly, DH would never admit his feeling about something to one of his friend that openly.

    Now on the SATC be it the serie or the movie, well, the reason women like it is because they don't have that type of friends dynamic in real life, chick flics and series are all about dream. I think the biggest cliques I've been part of was 3 of us from middleschool, and then another group of 4 in highschool, ahd it broke appart very easily, I am in touch with 2 of these friends today, one from each group, all the others vanished from my life. The only factor that held the groups together were the classes we had together, once that was gone, those who had the least similar interest with me, just left.
    Oh and on an amusing note, DH was in Switzerland for several months once, and after hearing so much about one of my friend, and hearing me chat via internet with her often he was curious to meet her, but admitted that it was uncomfy, as he had nothing to talk about :)

  3. you know men don't bother much...they are friends period! women, well, they need to know the whole family tree and what not :)

  4. lol...nice one...
    i won't dare to categorize women...they fill the entire spectrum...
    men on the other hand does not differ much...easy to Chintan said, we don't think so much...coz u need brains to thin :p...

  5. @ Sunita , yes, I agree men too can have some under currents among themseleves, but it seems that they handle it better, and don't get too bogged down by the trivial details of things, while women do, I guess that's just a basic difference between us...

    @Cyn, I see the same thing, I know every tiny detail of my friends' lives, right upto what dress they bought last time they went shopping, or what was their last fight with their DH about, whereas my hubby's talks with friends seem to revolve around the latest gadget out in the market, or the last cricket game, or office politics if it is a clearly the nature of the relationship is very different...not better or worse just different.
    I agree with the rest of the comment too...My husband too finds it wierd to hang out with my longtime friends, because he has nothing to talk about with them...

    @ Chintan : I dunno if men don't bother or not, I guess it's just an inherent difference between the sexes, it works for the guys, if for girls, we see a girl who doesn't show much interest in our personal life details, we probably will assume that she not a genuine friend and doesn't care about us, and either cut off friendship or minimize interaction with her...LOL..

    @ Sub : Hey you are allowed to criticize women, as long as it is done constructively and fairly, please don't take it to assume that men cannot dare to say anything negative about women, women aren't perfect, they too have flaws, and they can be pointed out in a fair manner. I wouldn't say men don't have brains, think men don't like using their brains too much unless there's something to gain from doing so, haha...I think that's smart.. :D

  6. Ahh.. Did I just trigger you to write another post .. kudos to me ;-) It seem like you can read my mind, coz that is pretty close to how I feel !

    On another note, I have to say I find your posts very appealing. Like this comment you made, "Since in the desi circles here, the women mostly relied exclusively on their friends for social contact (being away from family)". It is a pretty obvious observation on its own, but being able to put it all together is actually quite smart - an analytical mind ?

    Alors, continuez !

  7. i heard this somewhere that men treat their friendships like a football & it lasts & women treat it like a glass & it breaks
    yes Anjali agree on that ki we do get too emotionally involved sometimes whereas the men are bit more detached which works very well for them

  8. @ Preeti : You bet you triggered this post. See when I have such smart readers as yourself, how can it not trigger a though process for more posts ???
    About having similar thoughts, what can I say, but great minds think alike ??? right ? :DDD
    Thanks much for the are the best...

    @ Sujatha : I love the analogy to football and glass, so aptly described...lovely...


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