believe it or not it’s possible to have a group of friends who don’t actually bitch about eachother at every turn who would have known
Something strikes me about a woman who is not interested in being friends with another woman. Something in my head clicks off when I meet a woman, of a certain age, who says, “I don’t mess with a whole bunch of females.” Insert a crazy emoji here? I’ve learned, through not that many trials, that being a friend to a woman is one of the best things I could do. Having the solidarity of gender is comforting, rewarding, exciting and enduring. Women of any sexuality. Women of any race. Women of any social standing and cultural norms. I’ve found that there is something particularly special about being friends with women. One of my best friends! And I’ve hit the jackpot. Ever since my failed high school friendships of the late 90s and turn of the century, that ended in catfights and some girl sleeping with a guy I’d been crushing forever, I realized that the gift of discernment was key in creating mutual respect in adult sisterhood. When I went away to college, I met many of my best girlfriends in my first two or three months. I entered college and created meaningful relationships with women I shared countless hours with talking about absolutely nothing. I learned the power of sisterhood as I moved to being an emotional wreck, melodramatic, deeply gendered, fearful of life with girls who were too. We ate, we pinched our waists, we watched one another put on makeup, we gossiped, and we kept one another in check. We got on each other’s nerves. But we seemed to move through life seamlessly with one another, always checking in, always filtering our thoughts to ensure we weren’t hurting one another. We took breaks when needed. We sat in silence together. We cuddled one another through breakups and sat silently in intimate spaces waiting for humorous interruptions that never came. And then we grew up, and out, and on. And though graduation staggered for many of us, text messages saved us. We laughed out loud. We sent one another pictures. We stayed loyal to the history of our sisterhood and whenever we got back together we picked up where we left off. Homecoming was always great. Even when it was bad, it was great. The best part of it all was that I got to spend it with people who knew me. I didn’t have to remind them that I slept walked. I never hid myself when I undressed. I never coded my words to sound more intellectual. We slept in bed together, as late adult women, updating one another on our love lives. We shared makeup and roamed one another’s closets. I feel like I’m with myself. I feel normal, and safe, and free. When we are around one another, I want to stay forever. One of my great adult friends! They are for me a retreat and I wouldn’t know life well, without them. And then there are my adult friends. The funny, festive girls I met when I arrived in DC. We all shared a love for our people. A love for sacrificing. To see the greater good met through politics and government action. We weren’t particularly young in our minds, but old in our spirits. They talked me through many of my most notable decisions in life. They’ve kept my spirits high. They counseled me like no one else ever could. They remind me of a secret saliency sisterhood. They are like the navy seals. They do it all, they get it done, no applause needed. They reinforce my hope in the world. They are amazing human beings who do amazing things that no one will ever know about. They are humble, and sweet, and supportive. They are cheerleaders and humility seekers. They are funny and pretty. They get petty and throw shade. And we don’t know every detail of each others lives. We all have other friends. But when we get together, we share something that is unique, kind, and familiar. And I wouldn’t know life well, without them. And then there are the many other, sprinklings of women whose friendships have tremendous meaning. The girlfriend who tells me to go for it. The girlfriend who helps me understand that teaching isn’t about getting a fat check, but a daily struggle with little rewards. And then there’s the girlfriend who rewrites my resume and pushes me toward every amazing opportunity she has access to. And then there’s the girlfriend who texts me every now and again just to see what’s up. And then there’s the girlfriend who loves to brunch. The one who catches me up on her life for hours. Then there’s the best friend. The girlfriend who’s known me since I was a girl scout. Who manages to pull every secret I’ve ever kept hidden deep inside? Who manages to keep me thinking, smiling, and growing in our friendship every year and in better ways. And so I’m glad I don’t know what it’s like to know life without them. I’ve really had the pleasure of meeting some of the very best girls. They’ve impacted my life. Every square inch of it, in ways that matter impeccably. And I don’t see any of them every day. But they make me believe in the power of amazingly healthy, productive female relationships. I’d recommend those relationships to all women. One of my college friends I prefer not to be friends with women who don’t like or find something special about being in relationship with other women. Sure, women can be catty and all the other stereotypical things that people say of women. But I find that if you lack the emotional understanding to be in relationship with another woman, I just don’t trust you. If you have, as a woman, warded off women as some subspecies, then I’ve got no time for you. I’m not interested in women who’ve had bad experiences with other women which clouds their judgment of the whole gender. I don’t want to know a woman who is so emotionally dishonest with herself that she’s separated herself from other women. After all, you are internalizing your own self image and should do some serious soul searching.
Most girls are relentlessly told that we will be treated how we demand to be treated. If we want respect, we must respect ourselves.
This does three things. Firstly, it gets men off the hook for being held accountable for how they treat women. And secondly, it makes women feel that the mistreatment and sometimes outright violence they face due to their gender is primarily their fault. And thirdly, it positions women to be unable to speak out against sexism because we are made to believe any sexism we experience would not have happened if we had done something differently.
I cannot demand a man to respect me. No more than I can demand that anybody do anything. I can ask men to be nice to me. But chances are if I even have to ask he does not care to be nice. I can express displeasure when I’m not being respected. But that doesn’t solve the issue that I was disrespected in the first place.
I can choose to not deal with a man once he proves to be disrespectful and/or sexist. But even that does not solve the initial problem of the fact that I had to experience being disrespected in the first place.
As a young girl, I wish that instead of being told that I needed to demand respect from men that I had been told that when I am not respected by men that it’s his fault and not mine. But that would require that we quit having numerous arbitrary standards for what it means to be a “respectable” woman. It would mean that I am not judged as deserving violence based on how I speak, what I wear, what I do, and who I am.