Long ago, when I watched Parks and Recreation, I remember a celebration of Galentine’s Day. It was to be on the eve of Valentine’s Day, and celebrated platonic friendship among women. It was such an appealing and fun idea then; it has taken on a life of its own and is now celebrated by many as an actual event. A ‘gaggle’ of girls has been considered frivolous or ‘bitchy’ for so long that celebration of women supporting women is a breath of fresh air. When I watched the show, I didn’t understand the import of this; friendship with men seemed as important as friendship with women. I didn’t realise that some experiences are endemic to genders and empathy can only come from these quarters.
Our collective trauma binds us as women. More importantly, we are more powerful and can make more of an impact as a group. We have a responsibility to support each other.
Groups of girls are still incredibly misunderstood. For the longest time, men have held control over gender narratives which has resulted in the perception that girls gather only to gossip, guzzle wine, discuss fashion, and pursue feminine activities such as pillow fights and nail painting. This is simultaneously infantilising and villainising. Women have fulfilling lives and careers, informed thoughts and opinions. Even shows such as Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, which depict women in a very skewed light, highlight the feelings and careers of the women.
Today, women discuss health, sports, politics, scandal, literature, film, and just about any topic that men discuss. They are independent, wise, and informed. Sadly, it isn’t just men who believe these silly tropes – several women shy away from female friendships, choosing instead to be ‘one of the guys’. Here are some reasons that may convince you to find your girl gang:
Every girl gang is different
Sure, there is a group of back-biting, dramatic, gossip-mongering women out there. There’s most likely a group of men who are exactly the same. Your group is what you make it and has nothing, whatsoever, to do with the gender of the group.
It is your choice to surround yourself with like-minded people that matters. Assuming all women will be catty and shallow, and that you are ‘not like other girls’ is very sexist and ignorant. Finding a like-minded group of women is exhilarating – not only will your interests align, your experiences as part of these interests will also be similar. If you are interested in gaming, for instance, another female gamer will be able to relate to the sexism you face, and will be able to provide solutions and support. Shared interests with men do not always translate to shared experiences, and this can get incredibly frustrating.
You no longer have to explain period woes, or avoid period talk altogether. You can discuss the best brands of underwear, the annoying boob-itch, whatever you want without any fear of sexualisation. Complaining about the troubles of being a woman to another woman is liberating because you are united in your experiences and frustrations. You’ll neither be trivialised nor patronised, you’ll instead be wholly understood. It is a safe space free of judgment. If you’re going out for a few drinks, you will have each other’s backs.
The threat of an untoward and uncomfortable display of affection is far lower, and you can have a stress-free time out without ever having to second-guess if the other person is going to hit on you.
It boosts heath
Female companionship encourages the production of serotonin and oxytocin. Both these neurotransmitters are anti-depressants. Hanging out with women can palpably boost your mental health and reduce your stress levels. Of course, you have to hang out with the right women. Discussing health issues can increase awareness and prove to be preventive / curative at times, indirectly improving your physical health as well.
If you build a diverse group of female friends, your reach will be enormous. Women understand the importance of supporting each other, especially when it comes to careers. Having a strong network of women can increase your access to opportunities, and can help you build skills and capability. Seeing other women being uninhibited and successful will teach you confidence and inspire you to follow suit. Men might be allies to women, but may not realise exactly how to build and deploy this network.
For too long, women have been pitted against each other. Comparisons between women are constant and almost a game. Rating women’s appearance, for instance, is a common activity. But it’s time for us to take charge and stop letting these harmful societal forces dictate our actions. We can follow in the footsteps of Taylor Swift whose glam-squad of models seems to be one of the few examples of healthy female friendships in popular culture.
To quote her on the topic – “Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you, and inspire you rather than threaten you and make you feel like you're immediately being compared to them”.
(Edited by Varsha Roysam)