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Best Friends And Marriage: Exchange Among Women

Introduction

People are talking about friendship again. For the first time in this century it has kindled lively interest, although it engaged imaginations in past centuries, when the noteworthy friends were men. Women as friends were invisible, their friendships maligned. Women friends were heralded once, however, in the nineteenth-century sororal raptures of "romantic friendship." Today, scholars and journalists show women's friendships as positive once again and in many cases even contrast them to poorer relations among men. Canny advertisers now use friendship to pluck at heartstrings and pocketbooks. And filmmakers have seized upon friendship as a theme of regeneration.

This is a heady but confusing time to study women's friendships. As ideals about relationships form, they overshadow actualities and tempt us to treat friendship sentimentally, like other approved, private, and sentimental relationships—modern marriage in par-titular. And other issues cloud the field. Recent attention to friendship grows in part from a resurgent concern with "community." Nostalgia and yearning for community are widespread in politics, popular culture, and social theory. As in past revivals of concern about community, they follow a period of economic transition, ideological and political upheaval, and social experimentation.

The yearning for community as a source of stability, humanity, and unified and harmonious purpose has found expression along the entire political spectrum. On the left—where experiments in elective community once flowered—disillusioned writers now call for a return to older, traditional sites of community; the family ap-

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 No. 332
 Posted on 8 June, 2006
 
 
 
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