Episode 27: Fantastic (Feminist) Friendships and Where to Find Them

In this episode, we delve into the so-called “mysterious” world of platonic friendships, in particular that of the male-female kind. This topic has been in the news lately in part because of the Mike Pence “controversy,” whereby it was revealed in a Washington Post profile of Karen Pence — Mike Pence’s wife — that the husband-and-wife duo practice what’s called the “Billy Graham” rule, in which Mike Pence is not allowed to have dinner with a woman that is not his wife. Under this rule, he is also not allowed to attend an event with alcohol without his wife being present as well. The Pences have been practicing this rule since 2002, so it’s not necessarily a new development, but its recent unearthing reveals not only the rule’s patriarchal foundations but also how misunderstood male-female platonic relationships — whether friendships, business partners, etc. — are.

As such, we dive right into the concept, exploring friendship’s historically higher value when compared to romantic relationships and how that has shifted over the years due to a change in focus socially and economically towards the nuclear family. We explore some social science research about male-female friendships, and also talk a little bit about how valuable it is to have friends and friendships with many different kinds of people in order to broaden your wealth of knowledge and empathy in order to grow as individuals. We also want to acknowledge that the question of “can men and women just be friends” is one that erases the experiences of those who are not necessarily cisgendered heterosexual individuals. However, as cis-het-people, we can only speak from our own experiences and we’re trying our best to acknowledge the narrowness of the question while also staying true to what we know.

Finally, there is an important announcement at the end of this episode — stay tuned to find out what it is!

Thanks for listening!

For those interested in learning more about the topic, we’ve provided links to resources as well as other recommended readings.
Mike Pence doesn’t eat alone with women. That speaks volumes. — why the Pences’ behavior is problematic for women
Vice President Pence’s “never dine alone with a woman” rule isn’t honorable. It’s probably illegal. — courtesy of Vox
Criticism of the “Billy Graham” rule from within Christian circles — courtesy of Christianity Today
Mike Pence’s Marriage Rule Holds Women Back — by Glennon Doyle Melton, courtesy of TIME
Aristotle’s views on friendship, from the Nichomachean Ethics — breaking down the historical philosophical argument in favor of friendships over romantic relationships
Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends” — clickbaity title, but worthwhile social science research on cisgendered heterosexual friendships
Can Men and Women Be “Just Friends”? — another clickbaity title, but this time exploring more about the ‘Friend Zone’