Oh, if only I could go back in time to my fifteen-year-old self and deliver a sharp right hook to her cheek for ever suggesting that “hanging with boys is so much better than girls; they are just so much drama.” (I also thought fingerless gloves and lace edged leggings were acceptable in broad daylight, so really what did I honestly know?) Seven years on however from such a poisonous philosophy, and my ideologies surrounding female friendships could not be more divergent, thank God.
Over the past few years the conversation about female empowerment has become increasingly widespread and topical, along with the birth (and rebirth) of the movements of girl gangs, squads, and girl power.
However, the concept of a ‘girl gang’ has become so trivialised and commercialised that society has lost sight of what the notion actually emblems. A girl gang is more than just a slogan slapped on a clutch or neon tee at Supre, a hashtag exhausted across Instagram , or a statement Taylor Swift can parade at an awards show; it’s a movement that fosters the support, love, and care from one woman to another. Don’t be mistaken, girl power is an incredibly strong force, and we need it; especially against a societal mural that pits women against each other in a continuation of the negative rhetoric surrounding female relationships.
Society has developed a paradoxical relationship with the concept of female friendships.
One that entitles them to label a tumultuous relationship between two women as juvenile and ‘high-school’, all while simultaneously not being able to look away. The infamous ‘bad blood’ between Katy Perry and Taylor Swift acts as a prolific figurehead for this collection of beliefs, as the media continues to sensationalise their feud and perpetuate the ‘immature yet entertaining’ nature of female emotions.
What is potentially more damaging than the repeated stereotype of the uncontrollable and ‘catty’ acts of women is the growing appropriation that tearing down another woman is an accepted and endorsed attitude within society. This posture of antagonism roots far deeper than the noxious feud between two celebrities; it can be traced back to early modes of childhood development where young women are bombarded with narratives that perpetuated roles of victimhood and villainization. One they should inherently aspire to emblem and the other they should actively collude against.
Anthropologically speaking, women are programmed to seek out other women.
They need to be nurtured by their own gender before commencing the search for a mate; a vestigial act from our earliest ancestors passed down millennia later into the schoolyard and staff room. Women tend to bond through sharing experiences, which sociologists call ‘face to face’, where men are more inclined to connect with other men ‘side to side’. Women tend to discuss intimate personal details with their friends, while men prefer quite the opposite. The bonds women forge between each other can be like nothing else; built upon the empowering respect and support to see one another persevere and overcome the obstacles that our suffragette ancestors had been campaigning in favour of for decades.
Growing up in the 90’s with two older sisters it should be no surprise that I modelled myself in the silhouette of one the greatest forces of millennial girl power – The Spice Girls.
More the anything, The Spice Girls represented five women that possessed an impervious bond and propagated ideas of empowerment, independence, strength, and sisterhood. As a young girl it should be easy to understand why that was so captivating in an era where women were only perceived as sidekicks or love interests in narratives that were exclusively misogynistic. But the message of the Spice Girls was inherently clear; there is power and strength when women come together to support and care for each other.
The truth is, however, we need other women in our lives.
And we need to have strong healthy female friendships, not just an instagram or #girlsquad friendship. Many studies have actually discovered that female friendships are beneficial to both our physical and emotional health, and that an absence of those relationships can be as detrimental to our health as obesity or smoking cigarettes.
Not only do these friendships add to our lives paramount, they actually have proven results in lowering stress; which in a domino effect lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, chances of heart disease, and predisposition to mental illness—so keep this in mind the next time you debate whether you deserve that Sunday champagne brunch with your girl gang.
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