Communication and Gender among Adult Friends

Michael Monsour. The Handbook of Gender and Communication. Editor: Bonnie J Dow & Julia T Wood. Sage Publications. 2006.

This chapter comprises five sections. I start by defining three pivotal terms: friendship, gender, and interpersonal communication. The second section identifies and critiques theoretical and methodological issues in the exploration of gender. The third surveys those same issues in the study of adult friendship. Section 4 is a selective review of the literature on interpersonal communication, intimacy, and gender in adult same-sex friendships, adult cross-sex friendships, and friendships among transgendered individuals. In the last section, I recommend directions in the study of friendship and gender and I locate my work within the theory and research covered in this chapter.

Definitions: Friendship, Gender, and Interpersonal Communication


Defining friendship is not a simple task because the definition depends upon the stage of life in which it occurs (Monsour, 2002), the culture in which it exists (Gudykunst & Ting Toomey, 1988), demographic variables such as age, biological sex, and education level (Wright, 1988), the level of intimacy (Fehr, 1996), and contextual features (Adams & Allan, 1998). Yet scholars generally agree on what it means. I find myself in agreement with Fehr’s (2004) contention that expert conceptualizations of friendship should reflect lay definitions (Monsour, 1992). Most investigators and laypersons define it as a reciprocal, nonfamilial, nonromantic, voluntary relationship characterized by mutual trust, support, and affection (see Fehr, 1996, for a review of the definitions).


Gender and biological sex are distinct concepts (Reeder, 1996), although some writers use the terms interchangeably. I have adopted the definitions employed by Wood (2005). The latter is a designation based on the biological characteristics of females and males; gender is “a social, symbolic construction that varies across cultures, over time within a given society, and in relation to the other gender” (p. 22). Wood’s definitions encompass a variety of viewpoints reviewed in the discussion below of theoretical and methodological issues in the study of gender.

Interpersonal Communication

I define interpersonal communication as the creation of meaning through verbal and nonverbal messages exchanged by individuals in a relationship. This process is dynamic, systemic, and takes place on content and relationship levels (Wood, 2004). This definition originates with theoretical perspectives such as symbolic interactionism (Mead, 1934) and social constructionism (Berger & Luckman, 1966; Gergen, 1985), which contend that meaning is created through interaction with others.

Theoretical and Methodological Issues in the Study of Gender

Theoretical Issues

I begin this section with an observation that has attained almost axiomatic status in academic communities: theories of gender, like many other theories, are sometimes motivated by political, religious, social, ideological, and even personal agendas (Allen, 1998). Some of them exemplify the claim of second-wave feminists that the personal is political. Harding (1991), a feminist philosopher of science, notes that scholars are currently operating within conceptual frameworks that restrict creative theorizing about gender. Harding believes that alternatives need to be developed but, as Allen notes, “One problem that negatively affects the scientific study of gender is the existence of polemic attitudes toward the issues” (1998, p. 442). Allen cites the work of Eagly (1995), who observes division within feminist schools of thought concerning what would advance equity between women and men: focusing on gender differences as a way to justify equitable practices or emphasizing their lack (Sommer, 1994). That theories of gender are sometimes motivated by other than purely academic and scholarly agendas is related to another pressing theoretical issue: a lack of consensus in scholarly communities on how to define gender.

Wood (2005) contends that theories about gender development and behavior come from three broad orientations, each of which generates its own theoretical issues. From a focus on the interpersonal come psychodynamic (Freud, 1957), social learning (Mischel, 1966), and cognitive development theories (Gilligan, 1982). I discuss the biological approach to gender in the following pages. Wood also identifies cultural approaches, which emerge from anthropology and sociology, and specific theories such as symbolic interactionism (Mead, 1934) and standpoint theory (Harding, 1991). Critiques of these theories reveal strengths and weaknesses, which suggest theoretical issues that must be grappled with (see Mawkesworth’s, 2002, critique of standpoint theory).

Controversy over the distinction between gender and biological sex represents another theoretical issue. Just how different from one another are these concepts? Although gender is normally thought of as a social, symbolic construction, biological sex can also be (Hood-Williams, 1996). According to Wiesner-Hanks (2001), biology, anthropology, psychology, and history have all contributed to the debate about whether a distinction between biological sex and socially constructed gender is justifiable. I can offer only a brief summary of Wiesner-Hanks’s analysis as it is relevant to interpersonal communication.

Biologists have difficulty drawing an absolute dichotomy between female and male. Their attempts to do so center on anatomical, chromosomal, and hormonal differences, as well as on variations in the structure and functioning of the brain (Wiesner-Hanks, 2001; Wood, 2005). Although most women can be anatomically distinguished from men based on their internal and external genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics, sharp distinctions are not possible when the external genitalia are ambiguous or have been altered by surgery. Dichotomously separating the sexes based upon chromosomes is also fraught with difficulties. An XY pair results in a male and an XX pair results in a female, but other pairings, such as XO, XXX, XXY, and XYY, are possible (Dreger, 1998) and raise questions about the appropriateness of binary categories.

Hormonal differences are another marker used to separate females and males because estrogen and testosterone influence behavior and brain development (Wood, 2005). Men and women have both, although most men have considerably more testosterone than most women, and most women have considerably more estrogen than most men. Yet there is variability, with some women having a higher level of testosterone than some men, and some men having higher levels of estrogen than some women. Biological theorists also focus attention on differences between male and female brains and on how hormonal differences affect gender and gender-related behaviors (Mustafa & van Kyk, 2005; Wood, 2005). The most extreme biological approach to theories of gender development is taken by sociobiologists, who claim that women and men are “the inevitable result of genetic factors that aim to ensure survival of the fittest” (Wood, 2005, p. 39; see also Bleske & Buss, 2000; Wilson, 1975).

Cultural anthropologists have demonstrated that some cultures have a third or even a fourth gender. Current, mainstream theories of gender in the United States assume that there are only two genders and that they correspond, at least roughly, to biological categories of female and male. Some cultures, however, recognize a third gender based on clothing and activities (Denny, 1997). The Xanith of Oman have a third sex role which a man can enter or exit (Wikan, 1977). Denny refers to it as an intermediate role distinct from male and female, what Westerners call transgenderism. The controversy over biological sex and socially constructed gender is exacerbated by disagreement between cultural and biological anthropologists about the relative contribution of biology and culture to human diversity (Worthman, 1995).

Psychology regards the rigid dichotomization of sex and gender as tenuous because men and women can have most or all of the traditional biological markers of their sex and yet think of themselves quite differently than the markers indicate they should. Some women feel they are men trapped in women’s bodies, and some men feel they are women trapped in men’s bodies: a condition referred to as gender dysphoria (Israel & Tarver, 1997). Psychology can also be credited with developing the concept of sex role orientation. Wright and Scanlon (1991) and Reeder (2003) argue that it offers a more compelling explanation of differences between women and men. Most of the work on sex role orientation is based on the pioneering work of Bem (1974) and her sex role inventory. However, Bem’s inventory, especially in its original form, has possibly outlived its usefulness. The adjectives used in the original inventory and even the variations of it may no longer be valid because of changes in gender roles, new gender constructs such as transgenderism and cultural, ethnic, and racial variability (Choi & Fuqua, 2003; Holt & Ellis, 1998; Konrad & Harris, 2002; but see Oswald, 2004).

Interpersonal communication scholars have devoted considerable attention to investigating gender differences and helping to differentiate between biological sex and gender (Wood & Dindia, 1998). Canary and Dindia (1998) have stated that

sex refers to the genetic, biological differences between boys and girls, between men and women; gender refers to the psychological and social manifestations of what one believes to be male and/or female, which might—or might not— reflect one’s biological sex. (p. 4)

Despite its clear definitions of gender and biological sex, the field recognizes and is addressing controversial issues and knotty methodological and conceptual considerations (Canary & Dindia, 1998). Some of those issues are addressed later in this chapter. Borrowing heavily from symbolic interactionism (Mead, 1934) and relational schema theory (Baldwin, 1992), interpersonal communication scholars have described the role of face-to-face communication in the social and dyadic construction of gender (Wood, 2005). Employing a cognitive approach, I (Monsour, 2002) noted that, while gender schemas are a lifelong work in progress and are affected by a host of factors, interpersonal communication impacts the content and structuring of those schemas. Likewise, gender schemas influence how friends communicate about gender issues. The process of communication cannot be divorced from the process of gender schema construction, and they produce a shared perceptual reality.

Communication scholars also build on the work of other disciplines through the different cultures approach. They contend that the communication styles of men and women are strikingly different (a debatable point) (Wood & Dindia, 1998), and therefore constitute different cultural styles of relating. Although the different cultures approach has its roots in sociology, anthropology, linguistics, relationships research, and feminist theory, these scholars have made substantial contributions to a critical analysis of that approach (Kunkel & Burleson, 1998).

Methodological Issues

An excellent and enlightening chapter written by Allen (1998), provides the foundation for this section. Allen notes, as have others in interpersonal communication (Poole & McPhee, 1985), that discussions about methods should involve theory, because choices about theory often influence choices about methods (Duck, 1990). Along these same lines, a central methodological issue is that current theories of gender are still in their infancy and are sometimes motivated by ideological, religious, and political agendas rather than by purely scholarly commitments.

Another pivotal issue is whether gender is primarily a reflection of nature (biological sex), nurture (gender and socialization issues), or some combination of the two. Allen devotes considerable attention to how researchers measure sex and/or gender differences and what those measurements mean. How gender and/or biological sex are measured depends to a large degree on the conceptual and theoretical choices already made about the meaning of gender. Even an apparently simple survey item requesting participants in research to indicate whether they are female or male is problematic. Respondents may not define the terms female and male the same way the investigator does. A respondent may use biological sex as the basis for answering the question, while the researcher might be operating from a conceptual framework that emphasizes gender and socialization. However, even when researchers are interested in such issues as possible explanations for variations in some dependent variable, they sometimes mistakenly operationalize gender exclusively through replies given to the question, Are you male or female? When respondents are using biological criteria to respond to that question, investigators may incorrectly conclude that they have discovered gender differences in some dependent variable such as self-disclosure (see Leaper, Carson, Baker, Holliday, & Myers, 1995).

When an investigation involves friendship and gender, methodological issues concerning gender are inextricably tied to methodological and theoretical issues associated with friendship. Inadequate theorizing about friendship and inappropriate or weak methods of measuring variables such as intimacy will affect conclusions about gender and friendship.

Theoretical and Methodological Issues in the Study of Friendship

Theoretical Issues

The literature on adult friendship is theoretically impoverished. Researchers have been content to employ theories of relationships and of interpersonal attraction to see what friendship processes those frameworks can explain (Fehr, 1996). However, even a cursory review of the literature reveals that many scholars adopt specific theoretical orientations (Blieszner & Adams, 1992; Rawlins, 1992; Werking, 1997; Yingling, 1994) and that some even label their endeavors as theories of friendship (Wright, 1978). Although the theoretical views of some friendship scholars make room for a consideration of gender (Monsour, 2002), none of those theories integrate gender and friendship. Theorizing about the influence of gender in friendships and making methodological choices about studying it become less effective when scholars are not operating from an integrated and clearly articulated theoretical framework.

The paucity of theories of friendship generates other issues. No single, agreed-upon definition of the word exists. Types of friendship such as casual, good, close, best, same-sex, cross-sex, interracial, intergenerational, childhood, and so on, may require separate theories because the dynamics are distinct in each. Other key constructs in the literature have yet to be adequately defined, the most important of which is intimacy. The problem of a correct conceptualization of the intimacy construct is examined next.

Methodological Issues

Scholars who study gender and communication in friendship face a number of methodological issues, only a few of which are addressed in this chapter. The first concerns the inherent complexities of relationships, because of which the proper study of friendship should be a methodological nightmare (S. Duck, personal communication, March, 2000; Monsour, 2002). Adams and Allan (1998) present a compelling case that researchers need to devote more attention to the broader contexts in which friendships are embedded. By context they mean “the conditions external to the development, maintenance, and dissolution of specific friendships” (p. 4). They contend that contextual factors are boundless, always changing, and take place on personal, network, community, and societal levels. Although their point is well taken and generally agreed upon among relationship scholars (Surra & Perlman, 2003), operationalizing boundless contextual variables is not viable.

A second methodological issue is a lack of consensus on how to measure key constructs such as gender, intimacy, and friendship. This disagreement is connected to the broader theoretical issue of what those constructs mean. For example, experts are almost unanimous in their endorsement of intimacy as a construct worthy of close scrutiny but not about the appropriate way to define and operationalize it (Acitelli & Duck, 1987; Reis, 1998). The same can be said about gender. Scholars agree that it must be considered when theorizing about friendships but not about appropriate ways to conceptualize and operationalize it.

A third methodological issue is the failure of many friendship scholars to get the perspectives of both individuals in a friendship (Monsour, Betty, & Kurzweil, 1993). Since a friendship is negotiated, with both partners verbally and nonverbally constructing and defining what it means (Monsour, 2002), the perspective of only one of them provides an incomplete analysis of the relationship (Ickes, 2000). Gaines and Ickes (1997) make note of a similar methodological issue when they observe the tendency of researchers to focus more attention on the outsider’s view of relationships, typically that of the researcher, rather than the insider’s view, typically that of the participants. Researchers studying intimacy might already know or think they know what it means. They then operationalize it in a way that makes sense to them, the outsiders, and impose their conceptual view of it on the respondents, the insiders, despite the distinct possibility that insiders may have a different definition (Monsour, 1992).

Another issue is the underutilization of qualitative methodologies. Quantitative methods certainly contribute to a knowledge of friendship, but qualitative methods are more suited to the kinds of problems currently facing scholars interested in developing theories of gender and friendship as integrated concepts. They should employ qualitative methods because of their emphasis on accumulating large amounts of the kind of rich descriptive data (Babbie, 1998) necessary for the development of theories about personal relationships (Kelley et al., 1983).

Review of the Literature on Communication and Gender in Adult Friendships

In this section I examine representative research conducted on friendships between same-sex adult heterosexuals and cross-sex adults and in the transgender community. Space limitations preclude an analysis of other kinds in which gender issues are particularly relevant such as friendships that are computer mediated (Adams, 1998), in the workplace (Sias, Smith, & Avdeyeva, 2003), between gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (Nardi, 1994), in racial minority groups (Gaines & Ickes, 1997), in non-Western cultures (Gudyknust & Ting-Toomey, 1988), and between children and older Americans (Adams & Blieszner, 1989; Monsour, 2002).

Gender and Communication in Heterosexual Same-Sex Friendships

Because intimacy is considered a central construct in the conduct and understanding of relationships (Fehr, 2004; Reis, 1998), researchers have devoted much of their attention to exploring what it means in male and female same-sex friendships and which type is more intimate.

Intimacy is a broad and slippery concept considered by some to be the proverbial elephant because its definition depends upon which part of the elephant a researcher is touching (Acitelli & Duck, 1987). Nevertheless, a few generalizations about friendship intimacy can be made with a fair degree of confidence and empirical support. One of them is that self-disclosure, conceptually similar to openness and emotional expressiveness (Monsour, 1992), is considered by laypersons and scholars to be the most common and prototypical manifestation of intimacy in friendship (Fehr, 2004). Self-disclosure is often the construct of choice when trying to differentiate female from male same-sex friendships (Dindia, 2002).

Activity sharing is also recognized as a common way of expressing intimacy in friendships, particularly male same-sex friendships (Swain, 1989; Wright, 1998). Sharing activities has been relegated to a position of less importance than self-disclosure (Fehr, 2004), and some scholars contend that research has been biased toward self-disclosure and other forms of verbal expressiveness that reflect a feminine form of communicating intimacy (Wood & Inman, 1993). Wright’s (1982) often quoted statement that men’s friendships are “side-by-side” (implying activity sharing) and the friendships of women are “face-to-face” (implying self-disclosure) captures in some people’s minds the primary gender difference between male and female same-sex friendships. But Wright (1998) also notes that not all shared activities are the same, and the degree of intimacy embedded within those activities depends upon many variables.

Fehr (2004) provides a succinct summary, with all the appropriate supporting citations, of the three major schools of thought on whether male or female friendship is more intimate and whether intimacy is achieved in the same way in each. According to the first school, women and men agree that self-disclosure is the major avenue for expressing intimacy, but men simply choose not to use it, resulting in less intimacy. Other theorists argue that men and women display intimacy on equal levels, but men express it primarily through sharing activities rather than through extensive self-disclosure. The third school says that women achieve intimacy through self-disclosure whereas men use both self-disclosure and sharing. I agree with Fehr’s contention that the main criterion for deciding which school of thought is more valid is which is closest to lay beliefs concerning intimacy and intimate friendships.

In Fehr’s (2004) testing of a prototype interaction-pattern model of intimacy, the results of six studies indicate that, for laypersons, activity sharing is a less prototypical way of expressing intimacy in a same-sex friendship than is self-disclosure. Fehr’s findings also reveal that women are more likely to regard self-disclosure as more central than activity sharing. However, in their meta-analysis of 205 investigations involving 23,702 respondents, Dindia and Allen (1992) concluded that sex differences in self-disclosure were so small, with women disclosing more than men, that those differences were probably of little importance in the actual practice of relationships (Dindia, 2002). Wright (1998) also observed that sex differences in intimacy disappear when close friendships are examined.

The debate (Fehr, 2004) over which type of same-sex friendship is more intimate begs the more important question of why friendship scholars should concern themselves with trying to make such an assessment in the first place. After all, women and men are not in competition to decide which of their friendships is more intimate. What would be gained if the results of hundreds of studies allowed friendship researchers to proclaim, “Female (or male) same-sex friendships are more (or less, or equally) intimate than male (or female) same-sex friendships”? Such a broad proclamation would encourage stereotyping, exalt one type of friendship over another, and set the agenda for another decade’s worth of research, as investigators tried to prove or disprove it.

Gender and Communication in Heterosexual Cross-Sex Friendships

Cross-sex friendships are an ideal place to explore the intersection of intimacy, gender, and interpersonal communication. O’Meara’s (1989; also see Rawlins, 1982) landmark investigation of the challenges confronting friendships between women and men provides a good point of departure. Of the four O’Meara identifies, the romantic and sexual challenges are most relevant. In the first, heterosexual cross-sex friends try to decide whether the feelings they have for one another are friendship, romantic love, or some combination. The sexual challenge refers to the sexual energy, tension, and desire in many cross-sex friendships, which can energize or drain them (Monsour, 2002).

There have been at least a dozen studies on the romantic and sexual challenges (see Monsour, 2002 for a review; also see Hughes, Morrison, & Asada, 2005). The main conclusion is that intimacy in heterosexual cross-sex friendships is more complicated than in the same-sex friendships of heterosexual adults. Not only do cross-sex friends have to contend with the generic intimacy issues that pertain to all friendships such as trust, reciprocity, and emotional investment, but they also have to negotiate intimacy issues surrounding sexuality and romance. Another complicating factor is that, from an evolutionary perspective, the motives for being in a cross-sex friendship are quite different from the motives for being in a same-sex friendship and are directly connected to procreation. In a testing of their contention that cross-sex friendships evolved to solve adaptive problems females and males have faced over time, Bleske and Buss (2000) discovered that, much more than females, males viewed cross-sex friendship as an opportunity to gain sexual access to members of the other sex, whereas females viewed them as protective. In recent years a number of studies have been published documenting the frequency of sexual contact among young adults who claim to be just friends (see Afifi & Faulkner, 2000).

Perceived differences in one’s own biological sex and that of one’s friend are at the center of many of the complexities of friendships between men and women, including intimacy and the romantic/sexual challenges. Those perceptions of differences and similarities are often arrived at by how friends verbally and nonverbally communicate to one another on content and relationship levels. Symbolic interactionism (Mead, 1934), social constructionism (Gergen, 1985), and relationship schema theory (Baldwin, 1992) lead to a number of conclusions about the connections between gender, intimacy, and interpersonal communication in cross-sex friendships. Perhaps the most important of those conclusions is that interpersonal communication is guided by schemas of gender, self, and friendship and that it reciprocally affects the structuring and content of those schemas (see Monsour, 2002, for a detailed treatment of this argument; Planalp, 1985). Cross-sex friends construct a shared reality about intimacy, gender, and issues surrounding sexual and romantic challenges through the communication practices they enact (Monsour, Betty, & Kurzweil, 1993).

Gender, Communication, and Friendships in the Transgender Community

One of the more compelling, complicated, and controversial gender issues facing friendship scholars is whether transgendered individuals represent a third category, and if so, what intimacy and communication dynamics exist in a friendship in which one or both individuals are part of the transgender community. A necessary and difficult first step in addressing this issue is arriving at a working definition of transgenderism (Bullough, Bullough, & Elias, 1997). According to Israel and Tarver (1997), it encompasses preoperative and postoperative transsexuals, transvestites or cross-dressers, transgenderists, androgynes, and intersex individuals. Because of the diversity within the transgender community, experts involved in transgender care prefer to refer to “transgender populations” rather than the “transgender population” (Israel & Tarver, 1997). For example, although transsexuals are typically interested in genital reassignment surgery, transgenderists and transvestites typically are not.

The transgender community is arguably one of the most marginalized in American society. Although the community has received a fair and growing amount of scholarly attention (Sisson & Moser, 2004), it is frequently overlooked in high-profile places. In the recently published (and otherwise excellent) The Handbook of Sexuality in Close Relationships (Harvey, Wenzel, & Sprecher, 2004), transgendered individuals are given only scant attention, even though their sexuality in close relationships is extremely complex. Part of the reason it has been marginalized is that the transgender community is quickly becoming an area of focus that inspires writers with other than scholarly agendas to voice their opinions (Califia, 1997; Sisson & Moser, 2004). This is unfortunate because the investigation of intimacy issues in friendships in which one or both individuals are transgendered would almost certainly challenge research findings and theoretical speculations about friendships of same-sex and cross-sex individuals.

Of particular interest to researchers are members of the transgender community who have undergone genital reassignment surgery and have transitioned from one sex and/or gender to another. If a biological male undergoes sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatments and now considers herself/himself a woman, do her friendships with women follow the same modal pattern of intimacy as friendships between women who have not made such a transition? Are the friendships she forges with biological males beset by the same challenges (O’Meara, 1989) that males and females often encounter in their friendships? Can a postoperative transsexual woman who was once a man truly offer her male friends an insider’s perspective on what it is like to be a member of the opposite sex? Even if she feels she can, will her male friends accept her assessment? Transitioning from female to male introduces similar kinds of questions. Do males who were once females emphasize activity sharing as a way of expressing intimacy or do they retain the preference for self-disclosure they might have had when they were biological females? Other gender issues that have been shown to be important in same-sex and cross-sex friendships such as sex role orientation may not be relevant when at least one friend has transcended traditional masculine and feminine categories.

Future Directions in the Study of Gender and Communication among Friends

In this final section I locate my work within the theory and research covered in this chapter, identify what I see as weaknesses in the literature, and offer suggestions for the study of gender and communication among friends. I have been guilty of conducting research from a heterocentric (or heterosexist) worldview, which implicitly and/or explicitly privileges heterosexual friendships (Werking, 1997). Through my adoption of such a worldview, I have inadvertently contributed to the marginalization of friendships in which one or both individuals are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or members of the queer community. Because postoperative transgenders might constitute a third gender or at least one that transcends the traditional masculine and feminine categories (Bolin, 1994), researchers and theoreticians should devote more time and energy investigating a community that could possibly serve as a catalyst for a paradigm shift in how gender is conceptualized.

Sexual minority groups are not the only ones marginalized by friendship and gender scholars. Far too little research attention has focused on friendships of racial and ethnic minorities (Gaines & Ickes, 1997), of older Americans (Adams & Blieszner, 1989), and in non-Western societies. Gender is a universal concept, but understandings of it are not (J. T. Wood, personal communication, November 22, 2004). The meanings given to gender depend on a wide array of contextual factors such as culture, race, ethnicity, age, class, spirituality, history, and the relationship in which it is expressed. Yet scholars of friendship and gender have barely begun to explore how these factors are related to the conduct and understanding of friendships.

They should concentrate on developing integrated theories of friendship and gender, rather than addressing each one as if it was independent of the other. Doing so would require more creative approaches than are currently being used in determining the meaning(s) of gender and friendship (Harding, 1991). I have attempted such an integrated approach in which I detail the relationship between schemas and how they act in concert to produce various communication dynamics. Another important part of the friendship/gender puzzle is the role of self and self-schemas as they influence and are influenced by friendship and gender schemas (Monsour, 2002).

Scholars of interpersonal communication have much to offer in elucidating the complicated intersection of gender and friendship. As a starting point, they might consider a more collaborative approach in which they work with rather than in addition to scholars from other disciplines. More interdisciplinary cooperation and less competition will permit scholars to integrate knowledge across fields (Frost & Jean, 2003) and in doing so arrive at more creative and holistic ways of theorizing about gender and friendship (Harding, 1991). Creativity and collaboration often go hand in hand (Kohn, 1992), and breaking down disciplinary boundaries and downplaying allegiances are important first steps.