Note: I’m writing this as I rewatch the Girlpool documentary – a reward for surviving the day despite my panic attacks this morning – whilst one of the many college bands plays outside my window so the resulting post may be rather incoherent.
Another note: I never intended this to be a Women’s History Month post, but I suppose since it is Women’s History Month and merely a week since International Women’s Day, this shall double as my WHM post for I suspect an embarrassing, uninhibited expression of adoration for all my closest girl friends is to follow.
I’m in a state of exceptional sentimentality right now. Perhaps it is that the Girlpool documentary makes me want to cuddle all my friends (cue Lauren Mayberry squealing “I love tales of girlhood and teenage discovery” about the very same documentary), or that I’ve merely regressed to my excitable twelve year-old mentality after spending the past day listening to all of Paramore’s discography; but yes, I’m brimming with a rather juvenile bliss about my girl friends. Whatever happened to the quintessential English self-repression and stoicism? Austen would be absolutely appalled at this. I must admit, however, this joy presents a welcome change from the negativity that’s been plaguing me over the past semester.
And because I’m getting so uncharacteristically sentimental, here begins my unabashed declaration of appreciation for girl friends.
It is odd that most portrayals of female friendships in mainstream media – which are few and hard to come by – are inexplicably mired in drama.
Paris all-my-life-goals Geller calls out sexist media
Though I would not be so callous as to make the sweeping generalisation that all female friendships are otherwise, I find it hard to believe that they should be so fickle and superficial. After all, I’ve been blessed, in the past two decades, with the generosity and friendships of the most brilliant women such that I should think it regrettable for anyone to get on without such.
Lately, Internet lingo has spawned the terms “mom friend” and “sister friend”. I used to be the latter in my friend group until the “mom friend” began to renounce her duties (her degree understandably requires her to take care of her coursework more than us) and my anxieties left me to fulfil the vacuum she left instead. It is, however, curious to note that as traditional media depicts the female relationship to be turbulent and catty, girls are re-appropriating and redefining their friendships according to kinder and more affectionate terms – for this is how female friendships are: a warm sweater over one’s soul.
Over the course of our friendship, the best friend and I have marathoned countless tv series together, but the ones we liked most – and return to constantly – were those that portrayed women in the most genuine light. For TV writing is consumed with relationships, this essentially equates to frank and relatable representations of female relationships.
In Paris and Rory’s shared bookishness, Daria and Jane’s eclectic misanthropy, and Ann and Leslie’s loyalty; in Sookie and Lorelai’s fussiness and Olivia and Lucy’s absolute protectiveness over each other, we saw the best possible versions of ourselves.
“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.” — Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist
“My two best girlfriends are from secondary school. I don’t have to explain anything to them. I don’t have to apologize for anything. They know. There’s no judgment in any way.” — Emma Watson
“Women understand. We may share experiences, make jokes, paint pictures, and describe humiliations that mean nothing to men, but women understand. The odd thing about these deep and personal connections of women is that they often ignore barriers of age, economics, worldly experience, race, culture — all the barriers that, in male or mixed society, had seemed so difficult to cross.” — Gloria Steinem
“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke… She will need her sisterhood.” — Gloria Steinem, Sisterhood, for New York Magazine in 1971
As of late, the media has begun to get tired of the girl gang (or “girl squad”) motif – Dazed and Confused magazine has recently published a number of think pieces lambasting it. But as much as such a trope is typified by stereotypical “white feminism” today, the notion of belonging to a girl collective remains romanticised by many teenage girls. And while women have long since rallied in formally organised groups for common purposes, from early 19th C. suffragette movements to the female-dominated film production companies in Hollywood today, it is the inimitably Riot Grrrl-styled collectives that draws our attention. (After all, the best friend and I have toyed with starting our own collective for a while now but it proves tedious logistically.)
Perhaps it is the DIY nature of such collectives, with their zines, blogs, and podcasts that one can easily craft in the comforts of one’s bedroom that engages girls and women alike, or maybe it is the sheer warmth one finds in the unbridled support of other like-minded women that attracts them. Regardless, it is clearly evident that in such spaces, one is able to exist, occupy space, and be important. From Petra Collins’s art collective The Ardorous to Tavi Gevinson’s zine, Rookiemag and the Glasgow feminist collective TYCI – to even virtual book clubs such as Florence Welch’s Between Two Books, such groups grant women a sheltered environment to freely indulge in what they love to do and be recognised for it. In a world that continues to silence women, such spaces become sanctuaries.
I returned to college during recess week crippled with anxiety but eventually found myself under the care of a friend I made only months ago. She gave me her copy of Didion’s Blue Nights – since she was clearing her shelf and I was the one who recommended Didion to her – and, after a long rumination over our shared concerns, decided to spend the day with me such that I wouldn’t spiral into another panic attack.
Later, induced by the fears that devours one in the dark of the night, I began texting the best friend, spewing a stream of messages that recorded the extent of my anxiety. I woke up the next morning to her best attempt at soothing me virtually with what little knowledge she had as a first year psychology student. Within the next week, I received a letter alongside several postcards from Glasgow half-filled with one side of a conversation that kept me sane in high school, and topped off with Gilmore Girls-inspired cartoons.
Each time my thoughts begin to consume me, I can always count on the best friends from junior college to commiserate with me, even if they’re halfway across the world. Group chats peppered with personal anecdotes become ironic competitions of whose life sucks more – we all end up feeling better about our mistakes afterwards.