I have made reference in my prior posts on this subject to the fact that the vibe in an all-male group is quite different than the vibe in an all-female group. I have probably exaggerated that fact a bit, as Ron O. has pointed out. After all, men are capable of conversing about more important things than the sports page. And that's exactly what I love the most about ambi-socializing. I get a huge kick out of the fact that men and women are a lot more similar than not, and I think that's something that people too often forget, especially with the current popularity of humor based on gender differences or pop-psych books like the odious Men are From Mars, Woman are From Venus.
Social conservatives often bemoan the blurring of gender distinctions-- but I think it's fabulous. In law school and in the legal profession, I have really enjoyed the fact that my husband and I, along with our male and female friends, are in the same boat together having similar experiences. We're out there hunting for the same jobs, honing the same skills, practicing our evidence flashcards together on a Saturday night (okay, okay, we were geeks), and getting a lot out of the fact that we know so much about what the other is experiencing. Talking shop with my husband or with other lawyers, male and female, is one way of relating and remembering that we are all human, with similar drives and interests and ambitions and responses to certain situations.
I don't think men and women need to be in the same profession to be able to relate in this way. Today, I see men and women in different professions, including stay-at-home moms, relating to each other on a level that didn't happen when I was growing up when the men talked shop in one corner and the women talked family-life in the other corner. I think the blurring of the distinction between female-dominated spheres of life and male-dominated spheres of life is a wonderful thing, and can only help us all to see members of the other sex as fully human. It's a lot harder for a man to view women as "the Other" when he is working on a joint project with a woman in the office next door, and then going out for drinks after work in a mixed gender group-- as opposed to a more traditionalist way of living in which husbands and wives have entirely distinctive responsibilities and concerns.
Am I advocating some sort of bland androgyny? Well, no, I don't think across-the-board androgyny is really possible. After all, there are basic differences between the sexes -- physical, sexual, and reproductive differences if nothing else. We don't need to work too hard to preserve sexual distinctions, because they are right there before our very eyes every day. I look different and sound different than the men with whom I work-- and I would look different and sound different even if I showed up in a coat and tie. I also don't have the foggiest idea what it would be like to walk around in a six-foot-tall hairy male body and I don't know what it's like to experience sexuality as a man. So for that reason there will always be some sense of mystery and distinction between the sexes so that we don't really need to belabor it. Belaboring and exaggerating the distinctions between the sexes will always result in one sex or the other (and you know which one is the likely candidate) being marginalized or viewed as "less than."
Many years ago, a friend of mine had a boyfriend who was attending the Citadel (yes, the Citadel! Before it went co-ed!) and he and a group of his friends came up to our women's college. The Citadel guys treated us with a sort of exaggerated chivalry. One of them made a big deal about the fact that he would never swear in front of a woman, even though he indulged in foul language with great relish when he was with his buddies. I like to think that these young men had the best of intentions, but the way they treated me made me feel as though they could never view me as one of them, or as fully human, or as someone capable of understanding them. And while the young Citadel students I met were nothing but courteous and kind to me, it still did not surprise me a couple of years later to hear of Citadel students torturing the women who tried to integrate the school. Because it's going to be a lot harder to empathize or respect women when you live in a culture, like that of the Citadel, in which women were viewed as utterly distinct beings without commonalities with oneself.
I can't say that mixed-gender socializing is the key to feminist nirvana, but it's one small step that helps. Plus it's fun!