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Gender, Friendship and

Stacey Oliker


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The subject of gender and friendship links two fields of sociological scholarship. Gender was rarely a salient theme in pioneering studies of friendship, communities, and social networks that emerged in anthropology and sociology in the 1960s. By the 1980s, though, burgeoning gender scholarship in the social sciences ignited interest in gender and friendship. For the most part, the sociology of gender and friendship has explored how differences in the meanings, expectations, experiences, and identities that are culturally associated with biological sex create patterns of difference in the friendships of men and women. A second perspective, examining friendship patterns as a force in the constitution of gender difference and inequality, is less prominent in the literature, but it is promising. Sociologists trace the modern forms of both gender and friendship to the emergence of market economy, the separation of work and family life, and the cultural changes that cultivated modern individualism. In the nineteenth-century public sphere that men entered as workers and citizens, men developed forms of individualism and masculine identity that emphasized autonomy, competitiveness, and the emotional toughness to suppress personal concerns that could contaminate their public roles. In the newly defined private sphere of family that became women's proper domain, women elaborated new private ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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