Women and Gender Studies

An Examination of Karen Walker’s Research

The article discusses the differences in men and women and how they make friendships.  In addition to gender itself, the two groups that were examined were people who could be considered working class as opposed to people who could be considered as middle-class.  Walker’s research was done in 1994 and some of her data was dated as early as 1985. I submit that in the years that have passed (more or less, two decades) regardless of gender, the gap has shrunk between those individuals who were considered middle-class and those who were thought of as working class. Two occurrences lead me to this conclusion: First, women who were once stay-at-home moms and wives now need to join their husbands in the labor force in order to make ends meet. Second, jobs that were once offered more so to one gender than another are now offered to both genders. Examples include male nurses when in yesteryear these positions were almost totally female-based. Likewise, uniformed police officers are now found in all communities while at an earlier date these positions were almost totally filled by males.

According to Walker, women’s friendships are based on emotion while men’s friendships are based on independent activities. Women, especially those with strong familial ties are concerned with child-rearing, household skills, spousal relationships, and those emotions they feel affect those relationships. Some women will confide in other women who they perceive as having similar needs. When these women can’t find others with similar needs they tend to do without friendships, submersing themselves in effectively maintaining their households. Walker perceived men as not having strong emotional ties and maintaining friendships based on likes and dislikes of similar interests, for instance, the discussion of spectator sports. While women focus their activities on shared feelings men’s focus is on shared activities.

Whether divided by class (middle or working), Tierney (2012, p. 68) suggests that women are still tied to household chores. Tierney acknowledges that there have been changes in the workforce, many women in the workforce have jobs equal or superior to their male counterparts, but these differences have not changed the perceptions of their male colleagues who still see them as housewives and mothers. Men, on the other hand, have taken on household duties to help their spouses but Tierney suggests that only a few men take on these duties voluntarily without coaxing from their spouses. Therefore, a woman who serves as a senior executive in some kind of company still has household tasks when returning home while her husband, who may be subordinate to her at work, will assume only minor household duties. These differences regarding which gender will do what has an impact on the kinds of external friendships that are formed.

While women tend to form friendships based on their emotional needs, men form their friendships based on their own likes. These relationships may be based on certain sports (men who enjoy discussing football will form relationships). Walker’s article does not discuss friendships among men based on emotional needs. For instance, the two characters who appeared in the movie entitled The Bucket List shared a friendship based on emotion. They knew their deaths were imminent and found comfort in sharing their personal emotions with each other. If Walker was aware that these emotions among men could exist, she did little to identify them, instead basing her research on women’s emotions and men’s independence.

Walker stated emphatically that in addition to examining genders in the workforce she also studied groups of individuals who were not part of the workforce. However, she did little to report on this group of people. This is quite possibly because regardless of Walker’s intentions, we simply don’t live in a utopic society. The very vast majority of Americans raise their families according to their beliefs or the beliefs taught by their parents and when not specifically engaged with family issues are engaged in their professions, regardless of what kind of profession that may be. Ordinarily societal individuals think of professional people as being college graduates, but in our society that may not be. The gap between college educated and non-college educated skills is shrinking.

According to Walker, she examined two groups of people separated by gender. The first group she studied was middle-class individuals, or what she labeled as non-working. The second group she labeled was working-class people. She then broke each of these groups down by gender. Through interviews or statistical surveys she determined that women are more emotional than men. They seek friends based upon matching their emotions to the emotions of other women. Men, on the other hand, are not strongly emotional. They base friendships on personal likes and dislikes. Men find their friends based on similarities in those things they like and that they can discuss, for instance, certain sporting events.

Walker’s article was interesting. However, in this writer’s opinion, it left more questions than answers. An area which Walker did not study and which might provide for further research is: In those societal groups which are considered are very wealthy, do men and women still pick their friends according to the norms identified by Walker? In other words, in that group of society where women do no housework and hire nannies to care for their children, do they still pick their friends based on their personal emotions? What about their husbands? When sitting “on top” of a company generally managed by subordinates, and with more money than the middle-class can only imagine, are friendships still formed based on similar interests? If not, what is the basis for their creation of male friendship?

Works Cited

Tierney, A. (2012, June 28). More Women Are in the Workforce: So Why Are They Still Doing So Many Chores? Time Magazine 16(4): 341-363.

Walker, Karen. (1994, June). Men, Women, and Friendship: What They Say, What They Do. Gender and Society 8 (2): 246-265.