Having only a few female friends doesn’t make you a bad feminist
This isn’t Mean Girls
Popular films like Mean Girls depict the cliquey and catty nature of women that unfortunately, tends to ring true for many. Most women have had Regina Georges in their lives. This behavior doesn’t stop in high school either, as there is something known as “Queen Bee Syndrome” which is prevalent in the workforce.
The Wall Street Journal reports, “A 2011 survey of 1,000 working women by the American Management Association found that 95 per cent of them believed they were undermined by another woman at some point in their careers. According to a 2008 University of Toronto study of nearly 1,800 U.S. employees, women working under female supervisors reported more symptoms of physical and psychological stress than did those working under male supervisors.”
Thanks to the patriarchy, women are socialized to be in competition with each other constantly. Because of how ingrained this idea is in our consciousness, even women who identify as feminists might still perpetuate this internalized misogyny in their day-to-day lives without realizing it. Consequently, there are many women who simply don’t gravitate towards other women socially out of fear of this potential drama.
Not having many female friends does not make you a bad feminist.
You can still believe that women should have equal rights and opportunities without having to like each individual woman on a personal level. The idea of sisterhood within feminism is idealized and not a reality.
I had my feminist awakening in the spring of 2014. Since then, I have become friendly, and then had these friendships end, with two different groups of women who also identified as feminists. In both cases, I was “kicked out” of these friendship circles in petty ways due to disagreements on how I chose to handle certain personal issues.
The first instance was over a feminism group on Facebook I was a co-admin of with a team of women older than me. I admit, I made the mistake of booting someone from the group without consulting the other admins first, which caused them to resign as admins though they still remained in the group. I recruited five other members of the group to become admins in their place.
A couple months later, I was the victim of cyber harassment by a group of “Anti-Social Justice Warriors” due to my feminist beliefs and being an admin of this group, which they were trolling. During this time, the new admins and I booted over 100 troll accounts from the group and stopped accepting new requests to join. I did my due diligence and created a poll for the members to decide if they wanted the group to remain closed or become secret, and thus unsearchable to Facebook users not already in the group. Since the group’s inception, I wanted it to be as democratic as possible, and I intended to keep it that way by creating this poll.
Despite this, the old admins sent me a long, hostile message telling me how I have a god complex and how I should have immediately changed the group’s privacy settings, regardless of what the other members thought.
Getting this message from fellow feminists while I was going through such a hard time already was a shock to my system.
The second time this type of conflict happened was more recently. A few feminist writers and activists began the hashtag #ShoutYourStatus in light of April being STI Awareness Month. I, too, am a feminist writer with herpes who talks a lot about combatting the stigma of this benign skin condition, so naturally I participated in the hashtag. Pretty soon, there were more anti-feminist trolls posting hateful messages to the hashtag than there were women participating in it positively. And those of us that did participate in it, including the creators, were soon the targets of harassment.
Because of the upset, and a disagreement about wanting to write about it, I was quickly ostracized by this group of women, even though I did end up agreeing not to write it and apologized for upsetting them. I was blocked on both Twitter and Facebook by all of them, removed from an unrelated herpes support group, accused of plagiarizing because I wrote an unrelated article that was similar in style to something one of them published, and removed from other projects I worked on with them in the past.
What hurt the most to me was that one of these women was someone I was friends with in real life. Over this issue, she ended our friendship via text message. “This is why even though I’m a feminist, I don’t tend to gravitate toward women,” I told her.
Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging. But sometimes, like in the instances I experienced, that can turn into a mob mentality. Twice in the last few months, groups of women who a) considered themselves feminists and b) were supposed to be my friends were quick to turn on me and remove me from their circles, as opposed to rationally talking things through the way friends are supposed to. This isn’t to say that I don’t have any female friends at all, because I do, and they tend to understand where I’m coming from with this perspective. Like me, my female friends have had similar experiences with women, understand, and don’t believe it takes away from the legitimacy of my feminist activism.
“You’d think, in feminist communities especially, women would want to support one another, to lift each other up, not tear each other down. And I never thought I’d see a group of so-called feminist activists silence another sister,” says my good friend Alex about what she saw me go through.
“What feminism means to me and how I choose to participate in my feminism can be totally different from the next woman. So I stay focused on myself instead of getting bogged down in unnecessary drama,” Alex says. “And perhaps most importantly, I always remind myself of the difficulty in being a girl, the discomfort and anger that sometimes comes with the female experience. I try to recognize where some of the other girls’ anger comes from and remind myself why I’m there in the first place. I just wish we would stop taking that frustration out on each other and stop feeding into the catty depictions of female relationships.”
I’m not opposed to close friendships with women, as I do know from experience how amazing, loyal, and kind some women can be, like my friend Alex, for example. I’m just opposed to the cliqueness that sadly, many female friendship groups tend to evolve into.
Just as men can be shitty, women can be shitty. Mean behavior knows no gender.
If feminist women are serious about abolishing patriarchy, we must end the infighting and catty behavior among ourselves, as it just winds up tearing us apart. We don’t have to like each other personally, but we should remain amiable and professional for the good of the movement.