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Why don’t we give female friendships the attention they deserve?

Why don’t we give female friendships the attention they deserve?

Growing up in the 2000’s and 2010’s, all of the media I consumed had convinced me that female friendships were always the subplot. Especially in the movies about growing up. The real plot is the hot guy enters a bet with his friends to see if he can change the girl from mousy to sexy (She’s All That).
Or the smart and grounded protagonist is degraded by archetypal “popular girls” with no other character traits than a 22 inch waist (Mean Girls).
Or if the film is “progressive,” it’s a young feisty female facing the world alone (Election). 

Recently, I’ve come to the realization that the deepest, fiercest, most raw relationships in my life have been my female friendships. It is the closest thing to true love I’ve ever felt – but I’ve been conditioned to believe these relationships are supplementary, not foundational. 

If the female best friend is always the sidekick, am I the sidekick?
And if I am, who’s the main character of my own life? 

It is with the recent emergence of media like “PEN-15”, “Booksmart”, and “Lady Bird” – notably all written by women – that we’re beginning to see female friendship as the main course instead of the side dish in coming of age movies.*

These stories function solely around the connection between two young women learning to navigate the messy and wonderful world of female adolescence.

I have to believe that I have already experienced the great loves of my life within my female friendships. It’s the 2am silence during a sleepover after you’ve just laughed so hard you thought you might puke; laying next to each other, staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars on your childhood bedroom ceiling, the absence of sound that clearly and unabashedly says:

“I just want to sit here and be with you just the way you are.” 

Writer and star of PEN-15 Anna Konkle recently wrote:

“Female friendships are often portrayed as thin and fun and vapid. They missed it. It’s as serious as love and war…These relationships, these vital things, are utterly serious, actually. Hits of levity, devoured like cake, within it.” 

The most resilient kind of human is the thirteen year old girl. The one growing into her body and mind and just beginning to know who she is and who she wants to become. It is her instinctual drive to live through the discomfort. And if she’s lucky, she’ll find a partner in crime also trying to figure out what the hell a training bra is and why her boobs need to be trained in the first place.

That’s the love story I want to see on the screen – the main course.

___________________________

*Editor’s note: Focused on a completely different genre and demographic, these were grounds that Sex and the City might have broken, back in 1999.

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  • Dear Alex: Such an insightful, unshielded, and welcome essay on what I truly believe to be among the most fierce and beautiful of human relationships. As a generally awkward and shy elementary girl, I could be most relaxed and real with my fourth grade friend Cindy; many were the times, walking (or more like staggering) home from school, laughing so hard about who-knows-what, that we–yep–wet our pants. More than once. And now, at 71, I consider my sister, Marlene, 68, one of the greatest gifts of my life; we still laugh till we’re staggering, cry together over cruelty, injustice, and (more and more) loss of loved ones, have a secret language, and tell each other everything. love, marilyn

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