Whenever the latest female-centered comedy comes out, it's somehow supposed to be a revelation. As if to say--see! Women are buds, too. They clown around with their pals, drinkin brews! Gettin into she-nanigans. Just look at all the press Leslie Mann and Cameron Diaz have been getting for "The Other Woman." Look, women!, the world seems to scream, This is a movie FOR YOU. On a political level, whenever a woman decides to run for any public office, her platform suddenly becomes something that needs to represent all women. Have you noticed that? Well, I hate to break it to you, but Cameron Diaz bugs the shit out of me and Sarah Palin can go to hell. Er, Russia. We'll just say Russia. The point is, my foxy friends, no matter what A-list actresses or politicians have to say, the realities of what-it-means-to-be-a-woman are more complex, unusual, and awesome than the media would have us believe.
Feminists know not all women fall into the same categories. We don't all like the same box office movies, we don't all vote the same way, and we sure as hell don't agree about everything. But one thing that seems to be universal? How we feel about our friends, and how terribly misunderstood this is by the mainstream media. We can't have successful friends, because we must be in competition with them, right? Or pretty, talented ones, because we must secretly hate them? If you're most movies/television shows/etc you probably convey this message on a semi-regular basis in a pretty overt way.
But not everyone gets it all the way wrong. Broad City, for example, has been a beacon of light lately in a world that would rather choose to believe female friendships consist of weird sex triangles with Kate Upton (The Other Woman) than going with your friend to her sad art opening that's really in a sandwich shop (Broad City.) Another hopeful example? The comediennes pictured above. In Tina and Amy we see an example of smart, funny, gorgeous women who look out for each other. And here at SATF, we happen to know a lot of those women in real life. So we decided to have an open dialogue with them about what female friendship really looks like. Our fabulous contributor Kayla Parks wrote an honest essay on sisterhood, and we held an open forum on the subject by asking some of our foxy friends a few basic questions. Here's what we learned:
What makes female friendships so special?
You reach a level of comfort with a female friend where nothing is held back. I went almost 2 years without seeing a friend I used to live with (we remained friends through being roommates--it's real). We laid on her couch all weekend catching up, watching TV, and it was like we hadn't seen each other in a week. The most important factor in all of my female friendships is the lack of judgment. I never feel judged by a girlfriend for going back to the shitty guy who's blown me off a million times or cutting my hair off even though they know I'm going to hate it in a week. When building a new female friendship, I always keep an eye on whether or not they raise an eyebrow at what I say.
Womanhood is an incredibly complex and amazing concept that only other women truly understand. I think women's intuition, emotions and the core of our womanhood is fueled by other females...we need each other to grow and learn. As much as I love and appreciate my male friends, from an emotional perspective, there's only so many ways we can relate to each other.
How do you think female friendships are portrayed in the media?
I see them as being hyper-dramatic. Reality TV has pegged females against each other because ratings...duh. I've had my fair share of fights with girlfriends but never as frequent/psychotic as some portrayed on TV. If I fought with a girlfriend half as much as some women on say...Real Housewives...I would give up on the relationship.
When I think of female friendships in the media, my brain immediately goes to the classic side-kick friendship (Leslie + Anne; Lucy + Ethel). It's silly, surface and fun. With the exception of a few blowouts that always get resolved, the female couple is ALWAYS together, ALWAYS has each other's back. Or, you get the "guy's girls" who have very few female friends (think Robin in HIMYM who's best female friend is at times sexually attracted to her). TV has a hard time in 30 minutes getting below the surface. In essence, it never gets too deep or feels too real. Real female friendships have many facets and most women don't have a single, "go-to" girl because your female friends fit different roles in your life. Some are for going out together, some act as your therapist, some are your friends only because of childhood connections. And if you do have a "go-to" girl, there's a lot riding on that friendship and it takes a lot of clear, open communication to remain best friends forever.
The media has a tendency to fall short in the portayal of female friendships. So often we are shown as only having catty or competitive relationships. (Gossip Girl, anyone?) Friendships based on being there for each other, no matter what's happening or how much time has gone by, are too few and far between. Don't you miss Lorelai and Sookie or Mary and Rhoda?
Who have your role models been for how to maintain successful female friendships?
My biggest role model on how to have successful friendships is definitely my mom. She is so extremely loyal to her friends and sisters. She and her best friend from childhood--who she still talks to on a daily basis--have a bond that is everlasting. They "talk" on the phone multiple times a day. And when I say "talk," I mean they leave voice-mails to each other sharing the smallest and biggest details of their every day lives. Sue has three daughters around the ages as my sisters and I, so a lot of their conversations revolve around what is going on in their daughters' lives.. I remember getting so annoyed being in the car with my mom and hearing her talk to Sue about my life experiences, like when I had my first boyfriend and what he was like, or when I first got my period and how I dealt with that... But that is the beauty of the friendship they have--nothing goes unsaid.
My mother has had the same group of female friends forever, she still talks to her best friends from high school, college, and later in life-- a testament to her ability to openly communicate and move through the good times and the bad.
My mom is numero uno when it comes to who I look to for healthy female friendships. She stays far away from checks and balances; if someone needs a favor, they need a favor and that's it. In general, she's kind of the anchor for all of her friends. She's always been an ear for friends and doesn't tell them how to deal with a, b and c. She's definitely taught me that support is one of the most important aspects of a friendship. My mom has always had tons of girlfriends from different parts of her life, kind of like she's been collecting and compiling forever. I think I'm mimicking that in a way by collecting gems as I go through different stages in my life.
What do you love most about your girlfriends?
I love different things about each friend but I think the most important thing is LAUGHTER. And we don't take each other too seriously. If I can get a laughter ab-workout with my homegirls, all is well.
Each and every one them inspires me in a different way and makes me want to be a better person. I love all of my friends and feel so honored to be in each of their lives because they are all such fabulous, intelligent, beautiful, compassionate women.
What makes a female friendship lasting?
My girlfriends make me laugh and do crazy silly things, but they are also there for me when life is difficult and you’re not sure what you’re doing. No human is static--we're constantly evolving. So to make a relationship last, you have to allow for change.
Being there for each other through the good times and bad is what makes a friendship last a lifetime--when nothing goes unsaid or unsupported.