A journalist examines the nature and impact of the friendships women form with each other.
Society traditionally views female friendships as competitive and transitory. Schaefer argues that more women than ever are actively working to reclaim their relationships with each other from negative stereotyping. Drawing from popular culture, interviews with a wide range of successful female professionals and her own life, the author suggests that current trends stem in part from generational changes. A product of mid-20th-century culture, Schaefer’s mother lived during a time when adult female relationships with anyone beyond children and husbands were considered “nice, but not essential.” On TV and in film, bonds between women—e.g., those between the main characters of the 1980s blockbuster show Dynasty—were characterized as catty and vindictive, with women ruthlessly fighting each other over men. In the 1990s, developments like the Riot Grrrl movement and films like Thelma & Louise attempted to inspire female empowerment, but “mean girl” stereotypes—which the author found herself playing into—continued to flourish and undermine more positive depictions of female bonding. As a young career woman in the early 2000s, Schaefer, who preferred male friendships, was uninterested in “helping any other women through their lives.” Her awakening came in her early 30s when she decided against marrying a long-term boyfriend. She realized that her strongest allies were other single, motivated women who were also “striving to do good work.” Looking around her, she saw young women like singer Taylor Swift and Olympian Kim Vandenberg extolling female friendships and social media trends like #squadgoals and #girlsquads honoring the help and support women could give each other. Though the author focuses mostly on bonds between white females, it is still a welcome reminder during a time of political backlash against women that females are continuing to insist on “changing the rules themselves.”
A hopeful celebration of women’s friendships.