By Shannen Lim (24A01A)
(Written in light of National Women’s Friendship Day)
“Are you okay?” “Yeah, I’ve got my girls.”
This is the opening to one of the many Tik Tok audios under the trend of celebrating girlhood and female friendships. These Tik Tok videos feature many across the world sharing pictures of their gal pals and fun activities they engage in together.
Other examples of this trend include the one to “What Was I Made For” by Billie Eillish, a song from the Barbie movie soundtrack, and the older trend to the song “Scott Street” by Phoebe Bridgers with the fitting soundbite “Nearly everything I know about love, I’ve learnt in my long-term friendships with women” from Dolly Alderton’s book “Everything I Know About Love”. Recently, the importance and uniqueness of female friendships have been highlighted across social media, as girls celebrate what is often regarded as one of the most special relationships in their lives.
However, this was not always the case, especially in popular media. In the past, women were often pitted against each other whenever they were portrayed together in films, with the idea of genuine friendship between them seeming almost impossible. Examples include Mean Girls, a 2004 film that takes a look into “Girl World”, where almost all girls are seen as catty and two-faced, gossiping about their closest friends behind their back.
Women were also often simply portrayed as rivals in love to one another. This was most clearly seen in classic romantic comedies such as My Best Friend’s Wedding, where other women were seen only as a “threat” to one’s happiness in love or as trying to steal another woman’s love interest.
If women were not pitted against each other, then their friendships to each other were viewed only as secondary relationships in their lives, not as important as their connection to a man or their pursuit of romance. Another common trope in many movies is the “Best Friend” who serves only to provide advice or well-timed support to the protagonist when she fell in or out of love, often put aside once the protagonist found her place with her love interest. Their friendship was seen as secondary or even disposable to the female protagonist, especially in the pursuit of all-important romantic love. (For this, see almost any romantic comedy).
Today, there has been a clear shift in the treatment of female friendships in the media and beyond. Female friendships take centre stage as more movies focusing on the adventures of female friends emerge, with prominent examples including Booksmart, which offers an insightful look into growing apart and ultimately growing up together with your best friend.
Television has also shifted gears away from telling stories that celebrate romance as the most important relationship in a woman’s life. Television series such as 2 Broke Girls tell the story of women who mature and go through life together, with romance taking a backseat to their all-important friendship with each other.
Notably, in the long-running series Grey’s Anatomy’s tenth season, the deep friendship between the main characters Meredith and Cristina was sealed with the iconic line: “He is not the sun. You are.”It was made clear to fans that their friendship provided Meredith with the confidence and affirmation she needed throughout her career as a surgeon and in her life.
Beyond Hollywood, social media has seen an influx of trends celebrating female friendship and the uniquely feminine experiences shared by ordinary female friends. Recently, the release of the Barbie movie saw women of all ages flooding the theatre together with their friends while decked out in pink, ready to watch a movie that in itself encapsulates the female experience in a colourful way.
Tik Toks of women attending Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” together have also emerged, with women exchanging friendship bracelets and dancing along to her songs in stadiums filled almost entirely by women.
Rather than being swept under the rug or even demonised, female friendships are being celebrated both on and off screen.
Female friendships have always been unique in their depth and quality, with special experiences that exceed the boundaries of time and space.
It was heard years ago, when women conversed while doing laundry, confined within their roles as traditional housewives and homemakers. It is heard today, when girls have hours-long conversations in cafes with their overpriced matcha lattes, sharing about their ambitions and dreams in life. It was seen when women wrote long letters to each other about the importance of their shared friendship. It is seen when women write loving compliments to their friends in the comments section of Instagram posts. It is felt in fingers laced together and a deep understanding found in mutual experiences shared in a world where women are often not recognised, seen or taken seriously—except, perhaps, by each other.
To quote American memoirist Emily Rapp, “Friendships between women are often the deepest and most profound love stories, but they are often discussed as if they are ancillary, ‘bonus’ relationships to the truly important ones. This kind of friendship is not a frivolous connection, a supplementary relationship. It is love… Support, salvation, transformation, life: this is what women give to one another when they are true friends, soul friends.”
Female friendships are central to the lives of women, allowing them to reclaim and celebrate their femininity with each other and find healing and hope in a society that denies them such opportunities time and time again. It is empowering, but more than that, it is fulfilling.
As one of the popular Tik Tok trends goes, “Oh how I love being a woman.”Sources: The Female Friendship Revolution Onscreen, ‘The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship’ – The New York Times