Girl Talk

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Nov 2018

Member Reviews

An interesting exploration of the topic of female friendship (good and bad). It wasn't as exhaustive as I would have liked and as such I wish that the sub headline hadn't talked about it as a scientific exploration, But that's a minor nitpick. I think Mroz does the topic justice as she explores what friendship means to women versus men, how it benefits them and how the expectations of what friendship should be also contributes to the stereotype of women having more dramatic friendships and fallings out. From my perspective the science is less interesting than the emotional differences in what women seek in friendship versus what men seek. The science can explain the underlying reasons but I think what I found most interesting in Mroz's book is the idea that understanding the darker, dysfunctional aspects of friendship have potential to improve the way we approach friendship as women but also for men. I think midway through the book I was wishing that this was a more general exploration of friendship because the differences between the sexes underscored the fact that the sexes have different goals for friendship and that these goals are often what shape the intensity, duration and outcomes of those friendships. But it didn't seem to me that either sex has really mastered the art of friendship. Perhaps a follow up book? More research needed.
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This book is full of gold nuggets of information.
At times there were harder to find, but if the reader sticks with it I believe they will enjoy this book. 
The style of writing is more like a collection of articles. At some points the author includes anecdotal stories and I want sure whom the people were. They may have been from the study that the author conducted.

I was looking for more information from the study that the author conducted.

Overall, there were some really fun chapters and information.
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There's a lot of anecdotes about the author's girl talk experience. And It feels like you're learning about the importance of girl talk. And I feel myself longing for girl talk. 

Yet... I don't know what's missing. Something is missing from it and I can't put my finger on what.
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The topic of women's friendships is important and fascinating, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this book.  Unfortunately it failed to live up to its description.

Mroz seems to have put a lot of time into compiling anecdote from her own life, her friends' experiences, and the academic work of others, without any sort of analysis.  This leads to some stunning gaffes.  For example, "Research has shown that it's impossible to tell apart the brains of little girls and little boys-- that is, until they reach adolescence."  Okay, cool, but several pages later, " The differences in the human brain begin during fetal development, when female hormones...."  If Mroz noticed the contradiction she did not comment on it.  

With thanks to Seal Press and NetGalley for the ARC.
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An interesting look at female friendship.
Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author. All opinions are my own.
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osprey_archer: (books)
Jennifer Mroz’s Girl Talk: What Science Can Tell Us about Female Friendship is a useful compendium of interesting books about female friendship. I jumped right into Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney’s A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, about which I shall write a review anon, and I’ve added Marilyn Yalom’s The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship to my reading list.

Otherwise, though, Girl Talk is rather a wash. She opens with a facile chapter about the history of female friendship, which kicks off with the assertion that the ancient Greeks and Romans thought women couldn’t be friends, when in fact we only know that Greek and Roman men thought women couldn’t be friends. We have very little evidence what women thought about the matter.

And the absence of evidence shouldn’t be assumed to imply agreement. In societies where we have ample sources from both men and women (like, say, our own; or nineteenth-century England and America) there’s often a distinct difference in what men say about women and women say about themselves. Just because the men thought “women can’t” doesn’t mean women agreed. Sappho would be a far better starting place to understanding the lived experience of woman in classical antiquity than Seneca.

But okay. Mroz is a science writer; history may not be her forte. Maybe it’ll get better once she gets to the science.

But no. Mroz seems puzzled about what possible evolutionary advantage female friendship could have, and she remains puzzled even after she quotes evidence that shows that animals (including humans) with wider social networks tend to live longer and have more surviving offspring. 

That’s… that’s the definition of an evolutionary advantage. I don’t know what else she’s looking for. 

Or actually I do: she wants some kind of scientific, evolutionary explanation for the patterns she’s noticed in her own friendships, like the fact that female friends feel compelled to be supportive of their friends even when they know their friends are in the wrong, and to sweep conflict under the rug, which can lead to friendship break-ups as devastating as divorces.

But evolution isn’t going to answer these questions, because this is a cultural issue, not an evolutionary one, as becomes clear in Mroz’s chapter about female friendship in other countries. In Korea, for instance, friends are not expected to be supportive no matter what, but to bluntly confront each other with their flaws if necessary. If your friend loses her job, and you know that she’s been late every day and she spends most of her time in the office playing Candy Crush, a white American might feel compelled to say, “How could they fire you! You’re so great!” (aware all the while that this is a base lie, but that telling the truth may destroy the friendship), whereas a good Korean friend would say, “They fired you because you were a horrible employee. Play less Candy Crush next time.”

Mroz writes an entire chapter about this sort of thing - and then pops right back into “so how can we use evolution to explain (white, probably middle- or upper-class?) women’s friendships in America (or maybe the Anglophone countries more generally?” And the answer, as Mroz just demonstrated, is that you can’t! Because these are cultural patterns, not genetic ones! Did she write that entire chapter about the differences in friendships in different cultures without ever realizing that it meant most of her generalizations about women and the nature of female friendships are bunk?
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I received an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

I learned a lot of facts from this book. Having said that, I’m not quite not sure what it was trying to teach me, and I’m not sure why I had to know
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Women’s friendship complicated deep emotional and when friendships end can be similar to talk.Through history women have valued treasured their special best friends,Men’s friendships so different less complicated more go with the flow.This is an excellent fascinating look at women’s ties to their friends the ups the downs.Womens friendships traditions around the world.A fascinating read women of any age will relate highly recommend.#netgalley #GirlTalk Perseus Books.
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