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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 120 to 123: Women and Friendship Salon in London, Ontario

Arriving back in Canada after the long trek home across the States, our first stop was London, Ontario and a salon devoted to the topic of women and friendship. Appropriately, co-host Sue had gathered some of her closest friends together to explore the issue, and in the company of Kelly, Mary Lou, Randa, Sandi, Sheila and Susan we turned a celebration of good friendships into a rigorous examination of just what it means to 'do' friendship well.

This emphasis on friendship as an engaged act of doing (as opposed to a simple state of being) lay at the root of the evening's main theme: How do we want to see female friendship? - as a 'site' of consolation or as a 'mechanism' for investing women with personal and socio-economic power?

Three philosophical concepts helped us to distinguish between these two 'takes' on the purpose of friendship, and develop our own individual philosophies of friendship in and around them. The first was Aristotle's discussion of 'perfect' (and by extension, 'imperfect') friendship - his idea that perfect friendship is a state of excess that can only be extended to one, and certainly never to a woman (or for that matter, even experienced between women) provoking much vibrant food for thought. The second was radical feminist Janice Raymond's notion of female friendship as 'Gyn/affection - her suggestion that one's Passionate Self should be understood as the Original Friend who in turn propels us out and into action in the wider world, resonating strongly with many of us, as well as triggering an interesting conversation around what it means, as a result of our friendships with other women, to be what Raymond terms 'life-glad.' The third was relational ethicist Marilyn Friedman's proposition that women's friendship provides a new basis for 'thinking' community and creating it - her emphasis on the voluntary aspect of friendship leading us to examine how choice plays itself out in our sense of who we are and how we are in the many and varied relationships that make up our life.

A combination of charades, character sketching and creative writing were used to milk the material for all it was worth, and a spirited dynamism that spoke to the sense of solidarity and ease that this group of friends experience when in each other's company kept us all on our toes. It was a wonderfully stimulating evening and we want to thank all those who participated for making it such a great welcome back to Canada. A very special thanks goes out to Sue for co-hosting the salon alongside us with such aplomb, as well as for showing us such warm hospitality during our two day stay with her. We are looking forward to visiting London, Ontario again!