Thursday, July 9, 2009

Every woman has a Daphne

Lucinda Rosenfeld asserts, "Every woman has a Daphne in her life—a so-called “best friend” whose seemingly effortless successes never fail to make her feel like a Huge Loser." (See book review on Jezebel)

I don't have a Daphne in my life.

No one makes me feel like a huge loser.

I realize that some women do have a Daphne. Has the author done something useful by asking women to talk about these dysfunctional "friendships?"

The larger question for us to ask is: what gender issues make these dysfunctional relationships more common for women than for men? Is this due to women's famous low self-esteem? Is it influenced by consumer culture? Do elite males (all males? elites in general?) encourage this, on the idea that having women fight each other detracts them from fighting for equality with men, or fighting against classism or fighting for a more just society? (This is on analogy to the Marxist analysis of why it is helpful for the ruling class to encourage racism: The bosses grin as low-income whites and blacks wrestle over crumbs rather than uniting to overthrow an unfair social structure.)

The overall strategy to figuring out why the Daphne-Wendy dilemma exists can be the lawyer's strategy: "cui bono" -- who benefits, or follow the money.

If you have a dysfunctional friendship, it must be benefiting you in some way. So ask: how is it benefiting you?

My worry is that women distract themselves from achieving goals and reaching fulfillment because of the competitive game with other women. Social relationships are important, but so is developing your own interests and goals. Books like Rosenfeld's "I'm so happy for you" send the message that intense preoccupation with social relationships is necessary and socially normative. [Women's social ability is indeed awesome -- decades preoccupied with anything leads to intense skill; see examples in Baron-Cohen's book.]

Give that dyad a rest and get a hobby or join a cause. When you have some status via your achievements, friends will come.

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