Female Friendships

Female Friendships

Dear Reader,

As I drove back into the wild on Friday I listened to one of my newfound favorite podcasts: Unladylike.

Cristen and Caroline’s words often resonate with me. However the particular episode I chose for Friday’s drive sang to my soul in a whole new way. As I listened to the ladies speak, I felt my own experiences echoed in their conversation. The episode was entitled: How to Be Girl Friends.

As I listened I thought about the post I wrote about my friendships with women: Unmatched. And I began to realize that my own experience truly learning how to be friends with women was not so uncommon.

My road to deep female friendships filled with communication, trust, and love for one another has been long and rocky (and in the end, of course, altogether rewarding). But perhaps this isn’t because I don’t know how to navigate female friendships. Perhaps, in large part it was because of the way society frames friendships between women.

Kayleen Schaefer, the author of “Text Me When You Get Home,” spoke about the inherent competition she felt between herself and the women she called friends in high school and college.

**Side note, this title is maybe my favorite book title ever. It’s the phrase my best friend of 15 years and I have always said to one another as we hug goodbye.

Competition among women is something I often see, likely because for so long women have not had space to occupy, and the little space available has been a commodity to fight over. But I see a great shift in this competition as we work together in the feminist movement. As we coin phrases like: “Women Empowering Women” and lift our sisters up, rather than fight against each other, for success better achieved collectively.

But it’s true, the majority of strife created in my female friendships in high school revolved around who was most liked by boys (ie. competition). Imagine that?

This is something else Kayleen speaks about, the value we place on our relationships with male partners. This value is often held in the highest regard. As a result, we often choose boys over friends, we skip birthday parties to gain love or validation, etc. etc.

Now, I’m not saying this trend isn’t changing, I’m definitely not saying we should feel shame or that it’s our fault. More pointedly, I would look to society and the roles women played in the foundation of our country.

Women’s classic role was to be so devote to her man and his well-being that he was transformed from libertine to prince charming.

In fact, if a man failed and reverted to devilish behavior, the blame fell squarely upon a woman’s shoulders. I mean, for god sake, people were pretty afraid that society would collapse if women did anything other than keep men good.

Moreover, women were not thought to be incapable of friendship with one another. Women were not seen as sophisticated or deep enough to maintain relationships outside of wife, mother (let’s get real, property). And in reality, this is likely because dudes were afraid. Anytime women got together, in true friendship, an unmatched force was created.

But with all of that fear of female friendships, is it really any surprise that navigating female friendships is still hard today? I think not. But with podcasts like Unladylike, movements like the Women’s March, and women coming together all of the world, I see a CHANGE.

I know there has been a huge shift for me these past few years (read the full story in Unmatched). This shift comes with truly learning to communicate with the women in my life and hold these friendships in the highest regard. In fact, the women on Unladylike speak about how we lack the tools to communicate with our girlfriends when we are hurt, need more attention, or simply desire an apology. This deep communication is something I’ve worked on with great success in my female friendships.

Recently, in Las Vegas my girlfriend Alex and I talked in depth about the rejection I felt in a city focused so deeply on beauty, and about the support I needed from her in turn. We both came to important revelations, cried, told each other we loved each other, and got just what we need because we cared enough to do so and have a tricky conversation.

Moreover, the rebirth of one of the most important female friendships in my life (the same friend I’ve known for 15 years and say “text me when you get home” to) came from communication. In college we had a falling out, completely lacking in communication. We didn’t speak in a meaningful way for a year. And one night I called her crying, devastated by a break up and huge betrayal. We spoke for hours about our own betrayals of one another, acknowledging the pain we’d caused, and offering ideas for change. No surprise, our friendship is now stronger than ever.

The female friendships in my life now are filled with deep love, care, and authenticity. I feel supported and enlivened by the women in my life. And this feels important to me. Because…

A year ago, in a new relationship, I listened to a different podcast where women in their mid-forties, newly married with toddlers, spoke about their deep appreciation for the female friendships they cultivated in their 30’s. And ya’ll I was terrified.

I was terrified I would never have the time and space to truly dive into the female friendships I was building. Terrified I would never have the opportunity to dive into myself and my own journey. Because I would be stuck. Stuck putting my relationships with men above my relationship with women and myself. I was falling into a trap.

But that’s why I love podcasts, why I love strong female voices making waves and taking up space in our society. Because they pull you out of the trap, they remind you to reach out to the other strong female voices in your life and prevail.

So, months after I listened to said podcast that terrified me, I left my relationship with the support of my girlfriends and I set out to travel this wild world solo.

And on days like Friday when venture deeper into the wild, when I need support and encouragement I call my female friends and soak up their support.

After listening to Unladylike on Friday I called my sweet friend Alex and we spoke for two hours about the importance of my journey, remaining solo, about our dreams of success in the blogging world, and about our love for one another.

So, here’s what I really want to say:

  1. Listen to Unladylike, PUHLEASE

  2. Call Your Girlfriends - they love you

  3. Trust that when you cultivate strong female friendships, those women will support you harder than anyone else you’ve ever been in a relationship with!

I’ll leave you with the Virginia Woolf quote read in How to Be Girl Friends.

I try to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. And how small a part in a woman’s life is that? - Virginia Woolf

With love,

Annalise