We’ve all rolled our eyes at the Chill Girl who coyly says, “All of my friends are guys, girls are just soooo catty,” as she chugs a Bud Light tall boy and bats her eyelashes at the group of dudes she’s with. “I just want someone to talk about sports with.” Typically, we write Chill Girl off, seeing through her cheap ploy to seem “low maintenance” and therefore more dateable to the men around her. To me, it always seemed unfair and very not cool to write off girls around you just so that you could hang with a bunch of dudes who couldn’t care less.
So you can imagine my shock when recently, my boyfriend pointed out to me that almost all of my friends are…well, guys. “It just kind of happened that way,” I shrugged. It’s hard to keep up with friendships when you move away from your hometown to a huge city like Los Angeles — you inevitably lose people along the way. The more I started to think about it, though, the more it began to bother me. Why did I currently only have two close girlfriends, with whom my relationships were rocky more often than not? Why didn’t I have a Sex and the City-esque clique of girls to go to brunch with every Sunday, to go to music festivals with, to take to work events, to confide in? Did those kinds of friendships exist? I couldn’t help but wonder.
So I started examining my female relationships, past and present. The ones with girls from home that I was still friends with but was only able to see once a year. The ones with girls from past jobs or chance meetings that simply hadn’t stuck. The deeper I dug, the more I realized that I just didn’t seem to feel as comfortable or at ease with girls as I did with guys, that my friendships with my male friends were much more likely to last. But why was that? I began to question if I was just bad at female friendships.
And then it hit me. It wasn’t my fault, or Chill Girl’s fault. It’s how we were raised.
Growing up, we’re taught as women that our worth comes from three things: finding a man, having children, and our looks. I don’t remember anyone teaching me that it was important to celebrate my relationships with other women or how to emphasize my own strengths, let alone other women’s. Our relationships with females never come first. We’re taught to tear each other down, rather than build ourselves up together.
Ladies, how many times have you had a conversation like this:
Girl 1: “I’m so bloated today, and it’s making me look super fat in this dress. I can’t wear it.”
Girl 2: “Girl, stop, I could NEVER pull that dress off—I’d look like a whale. You look amazing, you should definitely wear it.”
As women, putting ourselves down around other women to make each other feel “better” is currency. We commiserate about how fat we look, how split our ends are, how chipped our nails are, how much we look like shit today. We’re taught that we must compete for male attention, and that female friendships are never as important as the husband that you must get as soon as possible to prove your worth.
The competitive undercurrent of female friendships can be subtle or obvious, but it’s always exhausting. I have countless examples in my own friendships, and I’m sure any woman reading this will as well. It can look like your single girlfriend becoming über competitive when a new guy is around you and your friends—all of the sudden, you’re clamoring all over yourselves to be the center of his attention at the expense of being respectful to each other. It can look like asking a girlfriend to please tell you that you’re prettier than the woman of your crush’s affections to make yourself feel better about the fact that he’s paying attention to her and not you. It’s hurtful, and it’s a dynamic that I’m tired of.
As someone who thrives on authenticity in relationships of any kind, it’s hard to connect when a cautious and guarded wall is up. I don’t want a friendship to be solely based on talking about men or contrived compliments about my hair or my outfit. I don’t want to see other women as a threat, and I don’t want them to see me that way either. When we value ourselves solely through the eyes of men, it doesn’t leave room for us to value ourselves as women, let alone our relationships with other women.
It’s our job to be aware of this internalized misogyny and stop perpetuating it. I know that it’s my responsibility to become aware of when I am carrying this energy with me into friendships with women, both new and old. To realize when I am becoming aloof, jealous, or disrespectful and replace it with authenticity, compassion, and kindness. We all deserve that.
Time to download Bumble BFF and dismantle the patriarchy, one female friendship at a time.