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The prominence of women as friends would have surprised people living in the distant past and would still surprise people in certain parts of the world, where only male friendship is prized. Yet, if you ask Americans today whether men or women have more friends, the answer is likely to be women. I shall examine the ingredients that seem basic to women’s friendships and suggest ways in which friendships between women (and between women and men) may be the saving grace in our present lives. I shall also examine the concept of friendship more generally as it has been understood in the western tradition since Aristotle. What are the benefits of friendship? Is it possible to live well without friends? What can women learn from male friendships and men learn from female friendships?
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Marilyn Yalom is senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from John Hopkins and was Professor of French at the California State University at Hayward, before assuming research and administrative roles at Stanford. Her books include Blood Sisters. The French Revolution in Women’s Memory (Basic Books, 1993), A History of the Breast (Knopf, 1991), A History of the Wife (Harper Collins, 2001), Birth of the Chess Queen (Harper Collins, 2004), The American Resting Place with photos by Reid Yalom (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), How the French Invented Love (Harper Collins, 2012), The Social Sex with Theresa Brown (Harper Collins, 2015) and The Amorous Heart: An Unconventional History of Love (Basic Books, forthcoming January 2018). She lives in Palo Alto with her husband, the psychiatrist and author Irvin Yalom.
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