Last week, I was expressing my discouragement over the immaturity of the men I interact with to a mentor of mine and was met with advice I’ve heard time and again, “While you’re waiting for a good guy, invest in your female friendships.” I completely see the merit in saying this, but I also stand by my reply to this woman: “Yeah, well the problem is that those are pretty crappy too.” Those words have continued to ring true in my life since I spoke them, so I figured I would share some of my brewing thoughts on the subject, as intimidating as it is so broach such a personal – and political – subject, where it’s so easy to say one wrong thing and set all of social media ablaze.
As much as I’ve agonized over the poor treatment I’ve received at the hands of men over the past few years, I would say that the hurt I’ve experienced at the hands of female friends has been equally, if not more, devastating. I spend a good chunk of my time lamenting with other women about the lameness of guys — how on and off again their affection is, how judgmental and condescending they can be, and how they can fixate on another woman who isn’t as good of a person as you. But if I think about it, I’ve experienced all these same types of betrayals by many of my female friends as well.
As what I predict might one day be called a Third Wave of Feminism has exploded in the past several months, it’s been interesting to see how some women I know will post photos at marches and then cut me down in a text a few weeks later. I’m a big believer in the mantra that “actions speak louder than words” — as much as I love words and the power of written language, if your actions contradict your fine phrases, your declarations really mean nothing. I’ve seen a lot of what my sister dubbed “Instagram Feminism” in the past months; women who make a show of decrying institutional injustice, but return to real life, if you will, the next day and cut down, ignore, and mistreat their fellow woman. What is especially baffling to me is when women pour their efforts and energy into the men in their life at the neglect – or even expense – of supporting their female friends and coworkers.
I’m not one to say that I’m super happy to be a woman or anything — I’ve had my period too many times for that. But I will say there is something special when you get together and really bond over the shared experience of the uniqueness of the female life cycle (including a good complaining session about the menstrual cycle.) We all have some common ground in terms of our experience and outlook on life that men will never understand. I think there’s something really beautiful that happens when we come together and open up about our hearts and lives and embrace and support one another through the unique trials and triumphs of womanhood, helping each other find our way and our identity as our own perspectives shift and the world around us evolves.
I know I’m as guilty as anyone of the aforementioned critiques. I’ve never been much into politics, and I’m guessing some women I know have judged me at one point or another for not marching or sharing op-eds on social media or ranting about the news. I’ve had my share of anger about the comings and goings of this election cycle and its aftermath, but I’ve ultimately decided that it’s not worth risking my mental health to get worked up about things I feel I have no control over. I’m not judging others who do, but I will say I’ve found more fulfillment in looking around me and seeing the individual needs of the people in my own life and doing what small things I can to try and support them.
I can do even more in this regard, but I think this is how change happens — little actions and words of encouragement. Asking people to meals. Forming small groups of friends to create solidarity to support one another in the face of both larger political and cultural trends as well as the “small” barrages of life. I’ve experienced some tough crap in my life, and it’s only been made worse when my fellow women have not stood by me, or have even judged and mocked me.
I’m not saying you have to be best friends with every woman you meet; you should evaluate people based on their character and actions and break off friendships that are more toxic than uplifting. But if you call yourself a feminist (or even if you don’t), take time to consider how well your actions and attitudes align with that label. Think about how you can better support other women. If we believe that we are not treated fairly by society, then we need to be the first ones to set the tone by treating one another with respect, appreciation, sacrificial kindness, attentiveness, and dignity.