“On today’s episode of girlfriends”
The worst kind of woman is the one who devalues female friendships and parrots sexist stereotypes about women’s relationships. “One of the boys™”. Many women went through a phase in their adolescence where they felt the need to distance themselves from all things “girly”, including other girls. It was a cool character trait to turn our noses up at the colour pink, dolls and even friendships with other girls.
Unfortunately, many women carry this mentality beyond their teenage years and even into adulthood. They crave proximity to men and adulate their relationships with men over women or even go out of their way to avoid friendships with women. We’ve probably all heard “women are women’s worst enemies”, “women don’t support women”, “female friendships are problematic” and such countless times. The fact is, the women who hold these views are typically the embodiment of these hostile behaviours towards other women.
“We raise girls to see each other as competitors
Not for jobs or accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This behaviour stems from the fact that society pits women against each other, usually in competition for male attention, occasionally; just a general stoking of needless conflict. These practices encourage women to dislike and feel disconnected from one another. Married women are constantly told to avoid other women, especially unmarried women and are generally discouraged from having friends post-marriage. This separation is insidious because it cuts women off from possible support systems that may be of help should the marriage turn out to be abusive.
Constance Wu says that pitting women against each other “helps the patriarchy stay in power” and we wholly agree.
This is neither to infantilise women nor to strip the legitimacy of women who have been harmed by their fellow women, but to continue to tell this single story as a hallmark of your hatred towards your fellow women while men continue to rape and kill women at an alarming rate is a red flag.
I recently saw a video of a woman in a car with her male friends captioned “having a hot girl summer with my homeboys because I don’t like females”. The first bias to note is the language disparity; “homeboys” but “females”. The recent trend of referring to women as females and in the same breath, using words like men or in this context, “homeboys” is a glaring indication of the user’s perception of women.
A Twitter search of the words “homeboys and females” in the same sentence was particularly revealing. There wasn’t a single tweet with those keywords that wasn’t questionable at best and outright sexist at worst.
The glorification of female friendships over male friendships and the sexist stereotypes that inspire it are unfounded and untrue. The wealth and beauty of female friendships are invaluable. And sure, men can be good friends but, a man cannot fully understand how it feels to be a woman living in this intrinsically sexist society we live in and empathy goes a long way but empathy can only do so much when all men benefit from this system that serves to oppress women.
Movements like the Market March and the Abuja protests against police brutality against women have shown that no one mobilises and comes through for women like other women. This applies to friendships too.
To be cut off from the benefits of female friendships, safe spaces and the power of intracommunity mobilisation is deliberate and more dangerous than we think it to be.
As a matter of urgency, women need to unlearn the internalised misogyny instilled in us in our upbringing and socialisation that makes us averse to female friendships. You don’t have to be friends with women just because they are women, but you certainly can’t loathe women just because they are women.