Tennyson, in a nineteenth-century poem, expressed the firm belief in the difference between men and women.
Man for the field and woman for the heart:
Man for the sword and for the needle she:
Man with the head and woman with the heart:
Man to command and woman to obey.
During the twentieth century, this doctrine of separate spheres was steadily eroded so that by now, in the Western world, woman are expected to use their brains as well as their hearts and men are encouraged to assume some of the roles previously allotted exclusively to women. This dialogue between Esther Perel and Marilyn Yalom will explore the challenges that men and women now face in assuming traits and roles of the opposite gender. Are we edging towards a more androgynous definition of gender and a multiplicity of gender identities? What are the lingering gaps in gender inequality? Is there a “crisis of masculinity”?
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?