BEB: In Praise of Female Friendships

By Leina Hsu, Artwork by Charlotte Böhning

For years, I have mystified women. It started harmlessly, a misinformed middle school phase—I’m “not like other girls” without really knowing what “other girls” are like. I don’t remember what I was looking for—male approval, maybe, or just to feel a little less insignificant. All I know is that eventually, when that mindset left, the female friends still did not come. I hadn’t realized by then that I had entrenched myself within a self-perpetuating cycle. As surprising as it may seem, it is very possible to be a woman yet have an incomplete picture of what women are like. When your only reference to womanhood is yourself, it is easy to project your own shortcomings onto other women. As such, I judged their insecurity and imageconsciousness, not knowing until years later that there are women much different, much better than myself. Without female friendships, you develop this kind of shallow understanding of women, and it is no wonder that later, when you try to connect with them based on that misunderstanding, that you fail.  

That is why I am eternally grateful to the women who overlooked my judgment and my tactlessness and gave me their friendship. Something I discovered is that female friendships influence in the most subtle of ways, yet can reverberate and redefine all your other relationships. The women in my life have been particularly adept at noticing the things I want to be noticed, whether that be a new lipgloss or an anxious smile. They have stopped me from simply substituting my desire for male approval with female approval, guiding me instead to find worth in community. Consequently, they have taught me to be kinder to myself. For me, even everyday interactions with them demand self-reflection, as through their eyes I am able to critically look at my own presentation of womanhood. By the slow unraveling of their complexities, their behaviors I have modeled and internalized, I am a walking composite of all the women I have come to admire, a creation of their female friendship.  

Samantha Freedman