When I was growing up, I always, always referred to myself as ‘one of the boys’. More specifically, I prided myself on ‘not being like other girls’. As a result, to nobody’s surprise, I didn’t have many female friendships. The ones I did have, we always felt like we were competing with each other — for attention, for acclaim, for boys.
I blamed it on being ‘too abrasive’ or ‘too different’ to be able to develop those kinds of friendships and relationships. But really it just took me a while to realise how valuable and important it is for women to have other women in our lives. Not only that, but also to realise that we need to be building each other up, not fighting and competing.
I know a lot of women resonate with this, because it’s not just a question of my lived experience. This is something that we’re all conditioned to feel, through movies and pop culture, and we’re pitted against each other each step of the way.
But why is that? There are fewer opportunities for women in male-dominated industries. There’s a lot more stigma over being the best looking, the smartest in the room, the least hairy-legged human. There’s an immense pressure to be thinner, smoother, smarter, more ‘cool’ than other women.
And I cannot stress enough how important it is for transgender women and gender-diverse people that they have support networks including women to help them navigate a society that isn’t as inclusive as it should be.
For me, things turned around when I got older and started to surround myself with people who actually supported me. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had truly life-changing female friendships and mentors, who encouraged me to look beyond societal standards.
There are so many supporting factors for why I believe women need other women in our lives, but if I had to boil it down, there are three core reasons:
1. Female friendships let you share similar experiences
We’re all dealing with similar bull that every woman faces each day of her life. From being overlooked for promotions to being catcalled on the street, we’ve all copped it. We’re all dealing with different kinds of body confidence issues and dating dramas. We sympathise because we have that personal understanding of how it can be.
I asked the women in my life what they thought, and my friend Cat said:
“I think we need women around to have a relatable support network. It opens up communication when we have someone we can relate to especially if the issues are female identifying based, relationships. work problems, interests and even hobbies. It’s nice to know that other women go through the same thought processes and experiences and I have people to reach out to for help or to have a chat.”
2. We’re all working towards the same cause
Ultimately, we all want equality. We have a vested interest in building each other up because it will only benefit all women in the long run. The more female CEOs, the more recognition that women can thrive in leadership instead of being ‘bossy’. The more women earning millions, the harder it is to justify a pay gap.
My friend Liv agreed, saying:
“There’s a lot of discrimination against women in the world, and our voices are often softer than that of men. For us to fight against it, we need to band together to be louder than the voices of those who oppress us, and be part of the change.”
3. Sometimes you just need your gals around you
Honestly one of the biggest things for me is how incredibly supportive women can be with each other. My close female friends are there for me no matter what I’m going through — from breakups to clothing disasters, they are there and available every step of the way because they know I am for them too.
According to my pal Emma:
“Female friendships are some of the most powerful bonds in my opinion. We are fierce in our friendships. We support, console, laugh, cry, guide, lift up, ground. Also, in an age where dating is SO hard to navigate, we need our female friendships to keep us in check.”
Now that I’m in my mid-20s, things have changed. I am fortunate enough to have a support network filled with talented and supportive women. I’m program manager for a mentorship program that actively seeks to give women a seat at the table in gaming/tech. My best friend and I can talk about literally anything with no boundaries.
And if someone refers to me as ‘not like other girls’, I don’t feel one shred of gratitude or pride. Because I know that’s not a compliment. It’s never a compliment if you have to drag everyone else down in order to bring someone up.
So gather your gals. Reach out to some if you don’t have any close to you right now. Your mates, your mentors, your colleagues, your sisters, your fave barista.
Develop those friendships, because we are like all the other girls, and that’s absolutely fine.