Gratitude for my female friendships

May 14, 2024

Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

Ramlah Abdulahi gives thanks to the sisterhood bonds helping her through life

Since being on a gap year, I have been recently reflecting on the concept of friendship and the value it brings to our lives. Whether it was in the lunch hall, the playground or other sites where many of us forged our first friendships, not now being in constant proximity with others of my age has been a new and challenging experience.

When there is no incentive to nurture platonic bonds, what are the relationships that last and why has that been my female friendships?

However, it has not always been this way for me. In fact, navigating friendships with other girls was a minefield in primary school, each misstep and blunder caused by my own internalised misogyny.

My views of other girls as more emotional and frivolous was perpetuated by the media and its depictions of female friendships as catty and competitive. Think of Mean Girls and every other film that has stereotypes of women being pitted against each other. This was the media backdrop that I grew up with and consequently I suffered all the more for it.

We were there for each other as A-Levels loomed and we confided in each other about the pressures of diet culture and beauty standards

By seeking validation from my male peers, I shunned many opportunities to grow closer to the girls in my class. It was a fruitless pursuit constantly being on the periphery of these exclusive friend groups of boys.

With the foresight I have now, I see that situation as only microcosmic of the ways women wait to be granted access to male dominated corners of society that still exist, desperately hoping for approval and status.

When I got to secondary school, it was the first time I had finally settled in within a friendship group. Far from being short-lived and competitive, like I had once imagined, my friends provided me with support I needed through the tumultuous years of my adolescence.

We shared our revision notes, we lamented about teachers, we were there for each other as A-Levels loomed and we confided in each other about the pressures of diet culture and beauty standards. This implicit understanding about the shared struggles and difficulties of being girls formed the network of female friendship I had throughout school and sixth form.

In a world that is still masculinist, retaining bonds with women is revolutionary in itself

Although there were moments in which some of those friendships fractured and splintered away, their incredibly meaningful nature was the catalyst for confronting the contempt I had for girls in the first place.

This internal hatred for anything relatively ‘feminine’ is a sentiment shared with other women who report rejecting ‘pink’ as a formative childhood experience. Under patriarchy, children already subconsciously associate inferiority with girlhood and womanhood.

Just as my views on relationships with women and girls have evolved, popular media has thankfully also changed to show more nuanced and complex portrayals of female friendships in films such as Ladybird (2017) and Rocks (2019). In particular, Barbie being the biggest film of 2023 felt like a marked shift in bringing female friendships and feminist ideas to the big screen.

Watching it in cinema with friends was an incredibly gratifying experience, with its themes of sisterhood and community amongst women at the forefront. Seeing the Barbies band together against the implanting of patriarchal structures in Barbieland, was a reminder to me that in a world that is still masculinist, retaining bonds with women is revolutionary in itself.

In the transition that I make from girlhood to womanhood, I am eternally grateful for the friends I have now and the future female friends I will no doubt make.

Ramlah is on a gap year currently. Her interests lie in analysing media, culture and politics through a critical lens. In her spare time, she enjoys visiting bookstores and hopes to study English Literature.

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