Words by Emily Fuller
This piece is an ode to the staying power of friendships, both old and new, both past and current. More specifically, this is a dedication to the vitality of female friendship.
Female friendship is a notion that has been stigmatised for as long as I have been able to recognize and appreciate the meaning of companionship and solidarity. Straight off the bat, insecurities within women make their presence dominant, looming over us like an unwanted party guest – forcing us to feel belittled and unsettled with our sense of self. From the rejection of our bodies, to the self-deprecation of our identity and self-expression, not to mention having to hopelessly navigate around the wrath of puberty and periods – these insecurities provoke us to question whether we meet the accepted standard of femininity. The development of this culture of insecurities within women can simultaneously breed an environment of hatred, where girls cannot help but compare themselves against every other girl that presents herself as a threat.
From a ripe young age, we are taught to approach other girls with caution and apprehension – we constantly hear phrases such as “women are each other’s worst enemies”, and are ensured that it’s in a girl’s nature to be bitchy and competitive. The irony of this bemuses me immensely – it is these cultural myths that foster and cultivate such toxicity amongst women. Such myths serve as a convenient cop-out for people who want to ignore the reality of gender inequality and discrimination, as they insist that the consequence of centuries of sexism is actually due to the inability of women to get along. Pride radiates from young girls as they confidently make a social statement claiming that they “just get along with boys so much more than girls”. I recall being as proud as a peacock whilst making such exclamations when I was younger, but now my friendships with women completely outnumber the relationships I have with men. Don’t get me wrong, opposite-sex friendships are just as valuable as those of same-sex, however it’s imperative to separate the connotation of shame that is inherently tied to female friendships.
Being at this age proves to be confronting for many people as we begin to embark on our paths of self-discovery. Our psyches express desire to seek out interests, passions, ambitions, individuality, morals and ethics – all of which provide definition and understanding of who we strive to be. I think this is the point where we as women feel inspired to dismantle the illusion that has dictated our understanding of female friendship during our formative years of life. For me, I have quickly learnt to proudly embrace and celebrate my relationships with the women in my life. Such relationships have the potential to bud and bloom like the most bold, brilliant and wild of flowers – needing nothing but love and care to strengthen and sustain them.
The reality is, that female friendships are of utmost importance for the wellbeing of women and for finding your place in a world of naturalised sexism. Women share an inextricable connection founded on our perceptive understanding of the feminine experience. These friendships teach you that there is no shame in asking a stranger for a tampon in desperate times; they show you that if you feel insecure about your jiggly thighs, you have weird friend who will enthusiastically volunteer to jiggle her thighs to ensure you’re not alone; they hear you and respond with paralleled fury when you miss out on a promotion for being pregnant or when you’re too frightened to confide in anyone regarding a situation of domestic violence or sexual assault. These relationships create a feminine space to flourish and to practice compassion, as well as to feel comfortable in our vulnerability as women. They allow us to welcome our emotional impulses with open arms instead of blanketing them with nothing but shame and silence. These are the friendships that encourage us to view womankind as a sisterhood of alliance, and furthermore, inspire us to alter the way we love and respect ourselves internally as women.
Art by Alana Hansen