So, I was swinging through Alloy.com today..
Yes, I'm 35 and I shop there sometimes. What can I say: I'm short and compact. I'm active and I hate soccer mom clothes. Their stuff is inexpensive and I live on a tight budget. And that is the extent to which I'll defend myself.
I was really distressed, enough to send them a note about it, when I saw some of the banner ads they had running.
This is a site for young women. Sure, it's surface fluff, for the most part, but it's always seemed benign enough. The ads that had to do with girls and boys? Were pretty much all about ways to get boys to like you (this lip gloss, this wondeful boyfriend, etc.).
The ones about girls and girls?
Were all about whether or not one could really trust one's best friends, leading to a forum called "BFF or Beeyatch!" One banner suggested your best friend would be talking behind your back, another that she'd be a backstabber.
What the heck, man? The meat of my letter to them was as follows:
I work with young women daily and advocate for women of all ages in many aspects of my work and life. In opening your page here, I just hit the banner which has two female friends. The first screen says something to the effect of "she says she's your best frind to your face," and the second, "but what's she doing being your back?" These lead to a third screen which reads, "BFF or Beeyatch?"
This troubles me. Young women are so constantly pit to be in constant competition with one another, to distrust each other, incessantly (and the same is not the case with the message sent to young women about young men), everywhere we look. I've never had an objection to Alloy before, and it saddens me to see that even at a site apparently tailored for teen girls, directed to them, they're getting those same sexist, women-hating messages here. They're being told to be suspicious of their closest female friends, but to do anything they can to net boyfriends who are, by default, wodnderful. (The clear comparison being, more so than their close girlfriends.) Why are young women being encouraged to call each other bitches, moreover?
Might you reconsider sending this sort of message, as advocates for young women? Might you consider honoring and valuing their close friendships? I think they'd benefit a lot from a rest from those messages in a place that's supposed to be for them.
What do y'all think about this, and the messages you get elsewhere in this regard? What do you think about cultural messages which tell you that someone romantic relationships are more valuable than your close friendships? How do you think they do (or don't) effect you and your friends; how do you think they effect women long-term, their relationships, and their ability to form close relationships with other women?
What do you think of any borad messages which tell women to trust men first, always, value them first, and to not trust and value other women in the same way?
This is something that has really been getting under my skin lately mainly because in many ways I don't understand it or how it came to be. When I first started seeing girls around me act this way it merely annoyed me. "How shameful. This is what they're making the rest of us look like." I thought. I take it more seriously now.
What disturbs me about this sort of attitude that's been spreading lately is the hazards it poses to the health of relationships between female friends and between couples. An attitude like this could cause girls to stay with and even engage in physical altercations with other girls(which, unfortunately, I see nearly every other day) for a boy who wasn't even faithful to them. It would probably even encourage a girl to try to "steal" (a ridiculous term IMO. No boyfriend or girlfriend is "stolen" unless they want to be.) a friend's boyfriend without a second thought since she doesn't place nearly as much value on her friend as him and believes she can't be trusted anyway.
Perhaps this means "Mean Girls" and Lifetime's "Odd Girl Out" aren't just adults' exaggerations and caricatures of the jabberings of hormonally intoxicated teenagers as I figured. Did art imitate life here? Or did life imitate art? Where exactly did this come from?
------------------ You catch more flies with manure than you do with honey.
I admit that this is something I find puzzling as well. I've never been particularly skilled at cultivating and holding onto female friendships, though I've always had one or two close female friends, because many of my interests are often shared with more men than women (roleplaying games, computers, history and religion, politics) - the last few times I went to a pub with a mixed group, I noticed the women drifting to one end to gossip and while I sat with the guys at the other end of the table talking about who would national borders and security, or what would be the nastiest drink someone could order at the bar. I simply found those kinds of topics more interesting than the gossip.
Only recently have I managed to hold onto a female friendship that hasn't hit any kind of rocky period because of some love interest. I've lived in university residences for the past three years, and they're notoriously small and fishbowl-like living quarters. So it was natural for students to get in each other's faces and rumour wars to happen, and males and females alike were involved.
Have I had my trust misplaced by female friends who spread lies and malicious gossip? Yes, but male friends have equally betrayed my trust before. I see no reason to malign the concept of having friendships with women simply because some of them viewed me as competition for a guy when I was neither interested in, nor expressed a desire to date. There have been conflicts with women over when they were 'really truly over someone' and I was dating that person, and suddenly it was betrayal of the worst kind, but I've had male friends pull that too. It's equal opportunity pettiness, I think.
I choose my friendships more carefully now, I think, but not just with women - with men too. I've made a few more female friends that I trust this year, than I have in a long time, and I think that's because I've finally met some women with similar interests and hobbies as me, as well as similar experiences and backgrounds. We've bonded based on mutual respect and life experiences, and have both defended one another and comforted one another against crappy situations. I really treasure all my friends, but I agree that female friendships are given a bum rap. Consider the examples in the media - sure, the Sex and the City ladies were all good friends, but they were mostly bonding over their experiences with men and dating! I really don't think young girls are given enough good examples of women who bond outside of family relationships in recent times, and that's pretty sad.
Lizenny, I don't know about the other show (I don't own or watch TV), but I do know that Tina Fey wrote "Mean Girls" purportedly based on her experiences in high school. Take that as you will.
But I do think it's a matter of social and cultural conditioning, of media conditioning, a lot of this stuff. I think back to books I read growing up, books like Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Judy Blume books, Bronte sisters books, Little House on the Prairie, etc. and I saw a lot of examples of strong female friendship and sisterhood, most of it NOT circulated around men or seen as substitute for men. Heck, there used to be a lot more media examples of lifelong partnerships between women that were platonic: now, when we see that, it's either given or implied that those partnerships either must be or should be sexual to be lifelong, to be parnerships.
I also know it took me a looooooong time to really learn how to cultivate and nurture female friends, and same for those friends. There are just so many pervasive messages, mores, and modes of behaviour which encourage women NOT to bond, or only to bond over or around men (the Sex and the City example Jane listed is a good one fof that). One big life lesson for me the last handful of years has been learning that I can have close relationships with other women even when we don't have a lot of common experiences: us both being women usually is enough (and that alone, especially in this culture, usually provides a lot of commonality already). That has been HUGE for me, and has made such a difference in how I relate to other women. That I can bnd with, say, fundamentalist women, corporate women, stright women when I'm the polar opposite is seriously eye-opening and really changed my life.
I also think some of what you're seeing, Jane, in your first paragraph, is cultural conditioning: women pretty much acting as they're told they do together, not talking about deeper issues, etc. I always find it amazing, for instance, that I have to sometimes explain to male friends of mine that when I'm out with my women's community, even when there are a lot of hetero women in the bunch, that we don't talk about men very much. We may talk about patriarchal culture, sure, or individual relationships, but most of what we talk about are overall politics, what we're reading, our families, travel, our creative work, and more than anything, we just sit and share our life stories.
At this point in my life, even a week without some sort of women's community leaves me feeling like something completely vital to me is missing. When I stay with my partner in Seattle, for instance, it's an all-male household with all-male community -- immediate and extended -- and when I get back here I am all but RUNNING to my circle of women friends, not because the guys are just that terrible, but because my women are just that wonderful and without them, it's like being without family.
Copyright 1998, 2013 Heather Corinna/Scarleteen
Scarleteen.com: Providing comprehensive sex education online to teens and young adults worldwide since 1998
Information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant to and cannot substitute for advice or care provided by an in-person medical professional. The information contained herein is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication. You should always consult your own healthcare provider if you have a health problem or medical condition.