Yet Another Take on 'Girls: Other Species Have Female Friendships, Too

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Lena Dunham's new HBO series Girls has inspired conversations, backlash, hate, and love, but mostly it's inspired a ton of writing. As we predicted at the end of last week, the conversation would not end with episode 1, nor the week following episode 1. And so with episode 2, right on time, we get a whole bunch more conversation.

Along with all the standard recaps, there's John Cook doing another old-man recap in Gawker. There's Foster Kamer interviewing a dude about what dudes think about Girls for Jezebel. There's Anna Holmes' New Yorker follow-up to the questions of race and diversity that kept us busy talking last week and into this one. And then there's this piece in The New York Times (one of these things is not like the others). It starts out pretty normally, with writer Natalie Angier reminding us of what Hannah, the character played by Lena Dunham on the show, is up against—complications ranging from her finances to her relationships to, in general, life. And then things go a little off the expected path.

"As in urban jungles, so too in jungle jungles. Researchers have lately gathered abundant evidence that female friendship is one of nature’s preferred narrative tools," writes Angier. "In animals as diverse as African elephants and barnyard mice, blue monkeys of Kenya and feral horses of New Zealand, affiliative, longlasting and mutually beneficial relationships between females turn out to be the basic unit of social life, the force that not only binds existing groups together but explains why the animals’ ancestors bothered going herd in the first place."

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Yep, ladies have been being friends throughout the biological landscape for, like, ever! Ohhh, snap! And it is good for females to be friends in these sorts of small groups, as evidenced by experiments with baboons, horses, and elephants. Benefits include lower levels of stress hormones, living longer, rearing more kids (whatever type of animal you are) to grow up and form their own female friendships, and so on. Note to Judd Apatow: Not only is Girls reflective of contemporary culture and female friendships as previously seen on Sex and the City, Girls is tapping into something primal: Animals have BFFs, too.

For best results, have three friends—trios are strong and stable (when they're not arguing among themselves, in which case, they may turn vicious: "The females scream, lunge, bite, rip the flesh of an enemy’s calf down to a bloody frill round the ankle.") After the fight, like so many friend-jaunts for restorative Cosmos and mani-pedis, the pals groom each other. This is all good, all good for the ladies. In an otherwise tough world full of male baboons you can't trust or who treat you like crap (and/or kill your babies), you have to fight for your next meal, and danger can come from any angle, your friends have your back and help keep you safe. Just like female friendship in the big city. According to Robert M. Seyfarth of the University of Pennsylvania, quoted in the Times, “'You have to have somebody to hang onto. A friend gives you an element of predictability and certainty, and you can use that to buffer you against all the things you don’t have control over.'”

As for how any of this would actually play out an an episode of Girls...well, it wouldn't:

Some signs of female camaraderie are easy to spot. Lionesses suckle each other’s cubs. Female spotted hyenas greet each other through elaborate ceremonies of mutual trust, lifting a leg and exposing their famously penislike genitals to their snuffling sisters and their bone-crushing jaws.

But, that's why we're human and watch HBO, pretty much. Also: Better outfits. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.