Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls' and Women's Friendships

Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls' and Women's Friendships

by Ruthellen Josselson, Terri Apter, Torri Apter
     
 

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Best Friends provides the missing link to understanding and recognizing the impact of some of the most important relationships in girls' and women's lives.

Every woman remembers the sting of betrayal of a girlfriend, and every parent of a daughter has seen her come home from school in tears because a girl she thought was her best friend suddenly and

Overview

Best Friends provides the missing link to understanding and recognizing the impact of some of the most important relationships in girls' and women's lives.

Every woman remembers the sting of betrayal of a girlfriend, and every parent of a daughter has seen her come home from school in tears because a girl she thought was her best friend suddenly and inexplicably became her enemy. While boys hash out differences with fists and kicks, girls' societies are marked by secrets and whispers and shifting affection. The lessons learned as an adolescent girl are often carried into adulthood, making women fear confrontation—especially with other women. But the intensity of the struggles reflects the support and healing to be found within these friendships. Girls find themselves in the mirror of other girls, hence the power each has to influence the other.

Ruthellen Josselson and Terri Apter's many years of working with hundreds of girls and women have given them insight into the emotionally important relationships that are integral to a girl's self-image. Best Friends explores the bonds of friendship between girls and between women and the sorrows and joys they experience together, from early adolescence and throughout their lives.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Apter and Josselson] argue in this breakthrough study, [that] the enormous formative impact of women's friendships outweighs most other influences—even that of parents. . . . Like its subjects, Best Friends is an illuminating experience."
—Book of the Month Club

"Both the joy and pain of friendship between adolescent girls and women are scrutinized in this interesting and accessible analysis."
—Publishers Weekly

"As Apter and Josselson trigger strong memories, they shed much-needed light on the profound influence young women have on each other."        
—Booklist

"This book should become the constant companion of girls and women as they grow and change."        
—Judith Michael, author of A Certain Smile

"Best Friends is a rich and engaging book that women from their teen years into adulthood will find revealing and helpful. The authors have found a deep truth in their descriptions of the lifelong emotional importance of friendship for girls and women."        
—Nancy J. Chodorow,         psychoanalyst and author of Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities

"Best Friends is breathtaking in its promise of understanding what is compelling about female friendships."        
—Annie G. Rogers, associate professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education

"No woman will be able to read this book without reliving her own experience, past and present."
—Lillian Rubin, author of Just Friends and Erotic Wars

Alexandra Jacobs
. . .[A] simpatico if slightly casual study . . . .The book's major flaw is that the writing team chose to conflate its voice into one 'I'. . .
Entertainment Weekly
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Both the joy and the pain of friendship between adolescent girls and women are scrutinized in this interesting and accessible analysis. Psychologists Apter (Altered Loves: Mothers and Daughters During Adolescence) and Josselson (Revising Herself) show that the important role of female friendships in fostering a sense of self has been largely ignored in studies. Drawing on academic research, interviews with girls and women from a variety of backgrounds and the expertise of school counselors, the authors examine how females negotiate relationships that can include difficult periods of possessiveness, unrealistic idealization, envy and conflict. They also describe the benefits these relationships provide, such as pleasure, comfort, support and the nonjudgmental ear of a close friend. Apter and Josselson argue that these positive aspects contribute to psychological growth, and they recommend honest communication as the best way to strengthen female friendship.
Kirkus Reviews
You wouldn't wish the best friends described by these psychotherapists on your worst enemy. To give them credit, Apter (currently a fellow at Cambridge University; Secret Paths) and Josselson (Psychology/Towson State Univ.; Revising Herself), both experts in women's psychology, set out to add perspective to the recent spate of books and movies celebrating women's friendships. They seek a context 'that neither idealizes nor denigrates' such relationships. Girls and women can form rewarding and enduring connections, the authors say, but those relationships can also be hurtful and damaging. They discount recent research attributing pre-adolescent girls' diminishing self-esteem to societal pressure and suggest instead that 'the worst anguish is learned in the neglected but indelible doings with girlfriends.' What follows, despite the authors' attempts at nuanced understanding of why girls fail each other and lessons to be learned, is a litany of anecdotes about cruelty, jealousy, fickleness, and fear. From here on the authors' own recollections and the agonies of Tanya, Wilma, Rose, Angie, Robin, Della, and Quinisha regarding 'the friendship wars' takes over. Ninth graders Wendy and Janet spent every Saturday afternoon together, until one Saturday Wendy had to visit a 'sick aunt.' Sure enough, riding a bus that afternoon, Janet spotted Wendy window shopping with schoolmate Sandra. (The story, incidentally, is told by a now 40-year-old Janet.) Thirteen-year-old Rowena listens in on a phone conversation between her best friend and another girl. Rowena is dissed. Clare Boothe Luce's The Women is but one stereotypical scenario that comes to mind. Boys are stereotyped aswell, depicted as solving their relationship problems on the playing field. The authors do go on to suggest that female friendships provide support and understanding that can't be found elsewhere. The thesis that the turmoil of the adolescent friendship dance is valuable in both learning about relationships and defining self is valid, but this description of female best friends is likely to make misogynists of us all.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780609804728
Publisher:
Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony
Publication date:
10/28/1999
Edition description:
1 PBK ED
Pages:
324
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)

Meet the Author

Terri Apter, Ph.D., is a writer and researcher on girls' development and women's psychology. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, where she is now a Fellow of Clare Hall. Her book Altered Loves: Mothers and Daughters During Adolescence became a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She appears regularly on BBC radio as Radio Cambridgeshire's "resident psychologist.  Terri is married and has two teenage daughters.

Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., is a practicing psychotherapist who has been on the faculties of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Towson University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Fielding Institute. She has received the American Psychological Association Henry A. Murray Award and a Fulbright Fellowship. She is the author of several books, including Revising Herself: The Story of Women's Identity from College to Midlife. Ruthellen is married, and her daughter, Jaimie Baron, collaborated on Best Friends.

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