"When women affirm women, it unllocks our power. It gives us permission to shine brighter." - Elaine Welteroth, More than Enough
Before college, I only had male friends. There were a few girls sprinkled in here and there, but my longest lasting and my most impactful friendships were always with those of the opposite sex. I hated being friends with girls. Our friendships seemed to crumble as soon as drama started. Once they had the same crush, the same outfit, or the same grades, we were pitted against each other and the feelings of equality and betterment dissipated quickly. It wasn’t until I was forced to share a small 14’x13’ room with another girl in college for me to realize that women really aren’t that bad. In fact, female friendships are incredibly important and offer guidance and perspectives that male friendships don’t. Female friendships are complicated, but why did I use to only see female friendships as fleeting or as competition?
Growing up, I never saw my mother maintain healthy female friendships, which I think had the biggest influence on my friendship decisions. She and her friends always argued, went behind each other’s backs, or spent their time together gossiping. I always hated that. Don’t get me wrong, I love gossip. In fact, I love doing it with my male and my female friends, but I preferred doing things with my friends. I liked playing four square, riding bikes, trying weird food combinations from our fridges— activities that boys tended to do more of. I didn't understand why girls always took things so seriously.
When puberty struck, I found it grotesque how cruel girls were towards each other. I remember girls at the age of 12 hitting each other, pulling each other’s hair, calling each other sluts. I had seen how my mother’s friends in their 30s spitting the same nasty words at each other over men that cheated on them, left them, or just didn’t treat them well. I saw the pain that ruminates when these men hurt and left them, and how in the end they didn't even have a female companion to confide in because they had soiled those relationships. I didn’t see the point in starting friendships that would only end in pain.
However, I recognize now that I was depriving myself of valuable lessons and emotional connections women offer. I let my clouded mindset that girls cause drama and trouble hinder my ability to connect with other girls. But it wasn’t just my experiences or watching my mother’s relationships with other women, it was the media.
As a young girl I used to watch and read countless hours of content where girls and women were pinned against each other as competition:
1. Kim Possible
Kim Possible’s vs. Bonnie Rockwaller’s. It was the cool “guys girl” against the popular, beautiful cheerleader. The two simply just could not simultaneously work with one another. They had to be competition.
2. The Proud Family
Penny Proud, Dijonay, and LaCienega vs. The Gross Sisters. I mean come on! The Gross Sisters? It was literally two groups of girls who were vicious to each other. The writer’s even made the other girls BLUE!
3. The Flavor of Love
Okay so maybe I shouldn’t have been watching this as a tween, but how could I pass up watching dozens of women fight against an old washed up rapper who wears excessive amounts of jewelry? However, this once again reinforced a mindset of women being competition.
4. America’s Next Top Model
While the show may initially sound like a simple beauty competition, it instilled a sense of unworthiness in many of its viewers. Beautiful girls were picked from all around to compete in photo competitions. At the end of each week, they were lined up next to each other and their bodies were analyzed side by side. Sure you may have a pretty photo, but if the girl next to you had a prettier one, then you were out and your modeling career on the show ended.
In conclusion, women were competition. In my mind, I needed to be prettier, smarter, funnier, richer, and more likable in female relationships and that seemed unattainable. And since it seemed unattainable, I just stayed away.
When I told my freshman year roommate (who I still live with and is my best friend to this day) that I didn’t get along with girls, she said: “well that’s stupid.” I was stunned. That wasn’t stupid, it was smart. I was protecting myself from unnecessary drama and comparison by avoiding female friendships. She was the one being stupid putting herself in the line of fire right? WRONG!
As time went on and proximity of a compact freshman dorm, a predominantly female major, and more roles of women in power on campus flooded me, I slowly began to develop closer relationships with women. I discovered myself seeking guidance and comfort instead of pushing them away. I was seeing in classrooms how intelligent women are, I was seeing in my work that women could run companies, I was seeing in the news that women could run for president. I was inspired. I slowly but surely became more confident in myself and my abilities as well, so I no longer was seeing women as competition, they were companions.
I have always prided myself in being a “guys girl,” but now I pride myself in being a “people person.” Now I can confidently say that the majority of my closest relationships are with women, strong women at that. My best friends are going to law school, delivering commencement speeches at the top universities in the nation, and touring in professional theatrical productions. Not only are they reaching amazing heights academically and professionally, but they are making the time to remind one another that we are all amazing and beautiful.