Take the time to enjoy this video and dance around your home. Maybe twice.
And then take a read through this numbered approach about How to Be Friends with Another Woman by Roxane Gay.
So what is so important about lady friendships? A night out on the town, coffee dates, just as women. Is it the shared vagina component, and thus vaginal dialogues can happen? From my lips~labia to yours? Perhaps, but these are likely few and far between. Unless, of course, it’s a roomful of women’s health providers, and then, look out, there’s going to be some serious coochie convo.
I believe that, invariably, among most women, it’s the connection we feel with another of the same gender, sharing experiences of social and political nature that men don’t encounter and to which men cannot equally relate. It may also be, in seeking especially close friendships, finding someone similar to ourselves but different enough to encourage us to be challenged, loved, encouraged, and taught things outside of our own realm of knowledge. And that someone, close in nature and approach to ourselves, is similar in our identity enough to be relatable, easily conversing about things that are close to our heart, our bodies, our minds. Conversations that flow freely, and silences full of comfort and rest. You know, friendship. Straight up. Not on the rocks, not shaken, not stirred, no twists.
But what trouble do we run into with each other? Roxane references the bitchy, toxic, competitive nature that some women exude or thrive on in relationships. Now, what is that? I can remember that component being a part of my relationships with women until the point when, as an older adolescent, I finally recognized it as such, named it, and removed it from my surroundings as much as possible. I chose only women who did not repeatedly make me feel in competition with them. Even as an adult I’ve had to re-examine why I disagree with some women, with their way of being friends, and have needed to scale back on our closeness.
So what is this competitive nature? Is this ingrained within us, as women, in our surrounding culture of inequality? Has it become part of our raising of how to make it in an unequal world, clawing our way to the top, as reviewed by Lindy West? Female contempt, even for other women? When another woman expresses pride or success over something, is there an automatic competitive spirit that ignites our response system? We can’t be automatically proud of a close female friend for her achievement? Is this because it wasn’t our own, part of our own work in our individual life? In our work toward paving forward for other women?
Similarly, Roxane mentions avoiding writings that highlight female friendships as fragile and fraught. Outside of my relationship with my partner, I find that my closest friendships, those with other women, are filled with incredible strength, and often surprisingly so. I feel strongly for my friends, for their emotions and their lives. I care for them so deeply, that I don’t know why I’m surprised when they reach out to me in the same way. It’s such a wonderful feeling, to love and be loved in relationships, and friendships are vital our hearts and our lives and our work. And that strength is part of any lasting friendship – no fragility to be seen for miles.
But what about the woman-woman component of these friendships? What does it mean to have women who are friends with other women? In society, it can demonstrate unity, connectedness, group power, as with any gathering of people, but perhaps notably important among women. In media, it looks like a reflection of culture, if there are women who regularly converse and are with other women, is then shown in a positive light via media. And strong female friendships are necessary in public to be shown in cultural reflection, to make it as far as writers, advertisers, and producers and the mirror of our lives they produce. And positive relationships with other women creates positive images of women in our own lives, as well as in the lives of those observing us, namely our partners and families.
Importantly, talking negatively about women does no good, as occurred in this article. Especially for a group continually clawing to the top, negative or degrading talk about women, particularly by other women, is a horrendous act in my eyes. Via Roxane Gay: “Don’t tear other women down because even if they’re not your friends, they are other women and well, this is just important. This is not to say you cannot criticize other women but understand the difference between criticizing constructively and tearing down cruelly.” This is part of my whole idea of what is wrong with women who are anti-feminists. What is the use in putting down other women? What is your endpoint? If, for you, it’s solely an academic argument to consider the end of feminism, then possibly you’re not experiencing the world of inequality that women are still experiencing elsewhere, and you should check yourself before you wreck yourself. There isn’t an endpoint in a conversation like this, and it does nothing toward the individual work of that woman to get where she is, or the group work of women to get where we are, to speak negatively about other women. As Roxane says, “this is just important.” And she’s right, it just is.
Lena Dunham’s Girls is quite the popular topic these days.
This show is a blast, and is all around the friendships of these women. Ignoring the obvious concerns about overwhelming presence of white characters, privileged twenty-somethings and het-sex abundance, the friendships between those women are intense, beautiful, ridiculous, and amazing. Examples of strong female friendships are needed to show women how to support each other and be friends, good friends, and good people, to each other. But is this tumultuous-ness exclusive to female friendships? Absolutely not. I’m sure that most men experience similar circumstances in their friendships, but perhaps don’t advertise and discuss as widely.
The whole conversation about lady friendships is a slippery slope of ‘this is how women behave, and this is how men behave’. Which is absurd and ridiculous. Gender is irrelevant, but the concept of ‘good people’ is relevant as hell. What are we really looking for in friendships? We’re looking for people like ourselves. We’re looking for people who believe in our highest-rated beliefs, are interesting to us in some way, and are fun to be around. Someone whose company we seek regularly. Someone whose comfort gives us peace. Wrapping it up, Rosane quotes her mother: “Qui se ressemble, s’assemble.” Those closest to us require work to be maintained, to uphold the assemblage, family and friends alike. I’m constantly working to ensure that my friends know who they are, know my love and respect for them, and tell other people how great they are. Particularly the lady friends. Because, it’s just important.
And really, perhaps the importance of lady friendships is the feminist aspect of, “Heck yeah, I think women are the friggin’ bees knees, and I want to surround myself with them.” Usually that’s what I’m thinking when I meet other strong, fun women. So that’s what I’m going with.