One of the best things that has happened in the last couple of years is the debunking of negative female friendship myths. In the past, gross concepts like ‘I just get along better with guys because women are too much drama’ or defining women as ‘not like other girls’ as well as the constant media portrayals of other girls being mean and catty have been really popular.
That, and the consistent pattern in popular movies and TV shows only casting one female character who is ‘not like other girls’ (cough the avengers cough). This attitude characterised female friendships as shallow, catty and unfulfilling, and as people to compete against, and not be friends with.
In the last couple of years, that has really changed, and I could not be more grateful. Women have been calling out these outdated (and misogynist) attitudes, and are being more vocal about their solidarity with other women.
As someone who really values my female friendships, this positive view is much closer to my own experience. My female friendships have been some of the most fulfilling relationships of my life, and I never saw the positive aspects of media reflecting that. I am so grateful for my female friendships and without them I am sure I would be a much more miserable, and allover worse person.
In so many ways and through so many means, women are told there is only ‘one’ way to be, physically, career wise or in relationships. Sometimes it feels like if you’re not thin, white, and attractive, that you’re doing womanhood wrong. When you hit your twenties, there are so many arbitrary markers for success that it can feel overwhelming, and the pressure to be married by a certain age breaks me out in hives.
The more time I spend with other women, the more this monotonous idea of normal becomes ridiculous. All my friends are STUNNING, and non of them fit into the stereotype of female beauty that is pushed on us (no one does, it’s not real). Some of my friends are passionate about careers they decided on in primary school, and others have pursued something totally different. The typical measures of career success also seem silly when your friend has travelled through most of the world or is kicking butt at being a mum.
My female relationships have also taught me more about relationships and love than any movie or TV show, and the narrow idea of a heterosexual, sitcom style relationship is unrealistic at best and outright damaging at worst. Every woman I know also has a different perception on weddings and relationships as well. Some of my friends are engaged, or have been in committed, loving relationships for years, and others have no interest in weddings at all. The stereotype of the perfect wedding is not as prevalent as it once was, buts its still nice to see that everyone is different.
They are a barometer for what is normal, and what’s not…
Sometimes, something happens that you play down because you’re sure it happens to everyone, and you only realise its not normal when you tell someone else. It could be someone sending you a creepy message, or behaviour that rubs you the wrong way. You feel uncomfortable, and then you ignore your instincts, because you’re sure that this is normal behaviour, and you’re just overthinking it. After all… you don’t want to be ‘that’ girl.
Because of social conditioning, and some gross assumptions about gender roles, we sometimes ignore that gut feeling and accept things that are not appropriate or okay. Your female friends get it, helping you to accept those things are not okay, and help you pick up the cues you missed (or wilfully ignored). Having this kind of sounding board is wonderful, because those ‘missing’ red flags can deeply impact your mental and physical welling and your career.
One friend realised how her boyfriend was treating her was not right after a drinks night, when she had mentioned an event, and everyone else had reacted negatively. Another friend only realised that incredibly painful period cramps were not the norm, after they discussed it with other women. They had suffered hideous pain, and had missed things like school and work, not knowing that this was not a universal experience!
The amazing support system
Every so often I have one of those days where I feel like Gollum from LOTR, and I know it’s important to develop healthy self esteem, but we all have those days where we feel like trash queens (not the cute kind, the soul crushing kind). My female friends lift me up when I am feeling insecure about my own abilities, and speak up for me when I am feeling vulnerable, and I do the same for them. And from my experience, hell hath no fury like a girl whose friend has been hurt in someway.
It doesn’t even have to be an external thing, every woman I know if overly critical of themselves- about the weirdest things. I have had a weird ankle day before, no one has ever mentioned my ankles, it is something I made up in my own brain, without any context. If I tell my female friends I am having a ‘day’ they immediately jump to my defence and shut that insidious negativity down, until you end up feeling good about yourself.
Part of being a woman in the world is experiencing constant criticism about your appearance, and unrealistic and damaging body expectations. My female friends act as an antidote to that societal message, sometime you just need someone to tell you that you’re not doing too bad.
The Shared Experience
It’s nice to know that you’re not alone, female friendships affirm that certain experiences are common, and if not, you have sympathy and a support system to confront them. Laughing with my friends about work, to having deep conversations about gender roles and mansplaining are some of my most cherished memories. Just knowing that someone feels the same way is a positive and affirming experience.
If any of my friends are reading this- you are all precious angels, and my life would be much bleaker without you