The Revolutionary Power of The Female Friendship
My girlfriends are like my feminist lifecoachs, in that they remind me, when I badly need to be reminded, that I am allowed to apply feminism to my own life. That I have value. And that as well as fighting for women, for every other woman, I am also allowed to fight for myself. My friendships are a feminist force, and some of the most important, deep, relationships of my life. They feel, sometimes, like my very foundation.
I am on the road again. I’ve left Paris, after talking for so long about doing it. So I’ve just gone through a few weeks of goodbyes, to places and faces, and it really brought home to me just how important those friendships are to me — how they are so much a part of me that I’d taken them for granted, hadn’t even realised I was leaving them, and how beautiful the love between me and my female friends is. I realised how much I would miss our moments of gossiping, getting angry about sexism, encouraging each other not to accept less than we deserve, helping each other know how to react to a society which still doesn’t like women… I realised, and it elevated me, how wonderful it was to have women who are there for me, and a kind of kindness that takes my breath away each time, and an amount of love that is just not quantifiable. I don’t know how female friendships came to be labelled toxic, because, really, in the face of the patriarchy, they are revolutionary.
I am lucky enough to have absolutely amazing women in my life. So many that I sometimes look around and am blown away by the greatness gap between the men and the women I know. Because my girlfriends are all intersectional feminists that want to change the world and I know there are loads of guys like that out there, but many of the ones around me are flawed by their privileges. They just don’t measure up to the women in my life. I’m not saying women are inherently better. Just that I sometimes wonder whether men who are white, and heterosexual men, and who haven’t suffered any other form of oppression, can really empathise with those less privileged. Whether they can actually understand what it feels like to live in a system of oppression, and never be able to escape it.
« If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends »
I’ve never recognised most of my female relationships in the stereotype of toxic, jealous, competitive, spiteful female friendship that is often portrayed. I mean, I have been around women all my life. I grew up with two sisters, listening to the spice girls, screaming GIRL POWER, and all wanting to be ginger spice, and yet somehow making it work. And then went to boarding school, and lived in a dormitory with three other girls. People used to ask if the atmosphere wasn’t “too bitchy,”, and I would just think of the supportive, laughing, uplifting relationship I had with the other girls, and be like… erm. no.
That said, I did have one female friendship which could be labelled toxic. a girl who broke up several of my relationships. and at one point stopped talking to me because, I quote, I was too much of a slut. It was heart-breaking, because we’d been through a lot together, and by a lot, I mean she was the person I used to break out of boarding school with to go drinking and dancing, and get sexually harassed by random guys, and spending long cold nights on the streets of Paris back when we both lived too far from the city centre to make it home after the trains stopped running, and we couldn’t afford taxis. But eventually, we repaired that relationship, too. We grew up. We changed the dynamic.
Female Friendships vs. The World
The world needs female friendships to bring down the patriarchy. I mean, for feminists to survive, I think they all need a bubble of feminist friends, people who they don’t have to justify themselves too, who they don’t have to educate, who they can just be themselves with, and safe from microaggressions. I know I do. And bubbles get criticised a lot, but I need to have a bubble to better leave my bubble. Being able to recharge in that safe space helps me be able to confront the world on a daily basis. It helps me to not burnout in the face sheer heaps off bullshit women wade through.
Plus, female friendships are like having sisters in arms. The thing about an oppression as personal and all-consuming as sexism, is that it is sometimes hard, even when you know something is sexist objectively, to act on it. Sometimes you need people to incite you to do so, or just tell you that you are allowed to. Sometimes, you just need people who you know will be around when you decide on something which goes against society.
Female friendships feed feminist movements. They are what gives us the courage to march, and fight, and educate our aggressors, and hope, hope hard, for change.
I think the real reason female friends are presented as toxic is that society is terrified of them. Because they aren’t poisoning women… but they might just end up poisoning the patriarchy.