I’d like to invite you to imagine a scenario in which two women meet. Now tell me, what happens next?
Do they smile meekly and introduce themselves? Do they size one another enough up for weaknesses, deciding how to best neutralize the other as a threat? Do they identify how attractive the other is (and by what standards)? Do they squeeze in a little tighter to their boyfriend, to make it clear where the relationship stands? Do they talk about their husbands, or their children, or their work?
As humans, we depend on our culture to tell us what happens. We turn to our own experiences, to media, to our leaders to tell us how to act. So the idea of women as friends doesn’t seem all that foreign. We know what it looks like; we see women having friends all the time. In coffee shops, at the salon, venting about men. We see them become jealous of one another, “scam” each other’s boyfriends, tear each other down (“How many of you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George?“). Or, conversely, we see them as overly hype feminine warriors who also manage to be super sexy and *possibly* attracted to one another.
And then we, as women, do the same. This is, of course, how women are. This is what women do.
Today, I’d like to challenge that. Not because these things either are not or can’t be true, but because female friendships can be so much more. In fact, like a good partner, friendships between women can help with self-esteem, feelings of accomplishment, and stress management.
I have been the fortunate beneficiary of many such friendships. In my experience (although anecdotal), I have seen other women encourage me through affirmation, support me in my ventures (even going out of their way to help me by leveraging their experiences or networks), and allow me to come to them with real, deep issues without ever wielding my secrets as a weapon against me.
After my daughter was born, an entire tribe of women emerged to help me mother her. Living far away from family, it was instead a community of friends who stepped up to offer to fold laundry, sort clothes, or take my baby so I could nap. They told me comforting stories of the (first) time their kids fell down the stairs, or going to work with vomit in their bra, or about going back to work and the readjustment to this new-version-of-me-who-also-held-the-title-of-“mother.”
Professionally, a network of female mentors and friends have allowed me to vent, to brainstorm, and to map out where I want my career to go. On top of that, they’ve been willing to help, putting me in touch with their resources. My success is, in no way, a threat to their own (and vice versa).
At the gym, it was Alivia Carroll who invited me to participate in my first fitness book. We took her incredible body weight exercise regimen and partnered it with my yoga + mindfulness experience. Through our collaboration, we released Better: 100 Days to Making Health a Habit.
In writing, it was two female friends, Blair Lisle and Michelle Sunde, who helped me initially conceive the story that has become Wild Things. Another female writer, R.Q. Woodward, taught me about the social media community available to (and the hustle required of) new writers. She also took her time to walk through my first few chapters, offering me editing tips that were critical to the development of the story and my writing. My darling friend and upcoming famous blogger, Sarah Stubbs, was the first to finish my draft and her positive feedback gave me the confidence to take myself seriously.
Other female beta readers like Nicki Ingram (childbirth educator and doula extraordinaire), Erica Torres, and Mirelle Onukwube, have reaffirmed my confidence, going so far as to help me broaden audience interest and put me in touch with industry contacts. L.M. Riviere, who I met through Twitter, offered me an editing glance and confirmed my hopes: the story has a place in the literary landscape, and my messages were received as intended.
And this particular list is in no way exhaustive.
I say none of this to discredit the men in my life who have been overwhelmingly supportive (see: my husband) or volunteered their time to help me professionally or with my stories. Men (and male friendships) have their own equally important place. But over and over again, my life has been filled with women stepping in and stepping up, proving that these caricatures we see in media are just that–exaggerations. But they are the ones we see over and over again… and it’s time to change that.
In her article, “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the “Women, Cattle, and Slaves” Narrative,” Kameron Hurley discusses the way we portray women and the effect it has on writing female characters. She explores the ways in which real women break our molds every day, and yet portraying them in media in any other way than how they are traditionally rendered is, well, unbelievable. (The article is long but it’s absolutely worth every minute of the read).
This brings me to the importance of female friendship. For main character Liv, Wild Things Will Roam begins as many stories do for women. As a female and a child when the Collapse began, she has been taught to protect herself… but also that she needs caring for. Because a woman roaming the wilds of the world alone seems unreasonable or, dare I say, “unrealistic.” Naturally, this way of thinking brings her bad juju (expect an upcoming post on character flaws).
But Liv is learning. As we move into the second book (looooosely titled “It Comes Bearing Hallowed Things” but who knows, really), one of my main focuses is constructing a solid, foundational female friendship for Liv. Why? Because there’s no reason she should do it alone. Because we can learn a lot about loving ourselves through loving someone like ourselves. And because there is room at the table for all of us to be champions, and to lift one another up, both in our stories and in our lives.
What do you think? Is there a woman (or women) in your life who’ve had a major impact? Share your stories in the comments below!