A friend forwarded me an article titled 4 Reasons Why America Is Afraid of Women With Friends which broke my heart to read. The author of the article published in Salon.com makes the case that women who band together threaten the status quo of our culture. She says, "Our brains are bombarded from birth by images and stories of male fraternity and solidarity. Whether it’s school hallways plastered with photos of past presidents, legions of elves and dwarves making their way through Middle Earth, every major animated film made by Pixar, or sports teams that represent their cities, most of our images of collective effort and fellow-feeling are male."
She goes on to talk about how most of our public portrayals of women tend to either show them as isolated in a male dominated world or participating in cat-fight-like interactions.Just reading all the examples she gave made me literally heart-sick for if there is anything in this world I believe in, it's the power of healthy female friendships.
In trying to understand why we put up with this very one-sided slant in our coverage and history, she asks the question that haunts me: "What’s the benefit of telling children than powerful women can’t work together (despite the obvious untruth of this), that women don’t help one another (when they clearly do) and that they are destined to be dependent and peripheral (when they are so clearly struggling not to be)?"
The question cannot be answered by me. And yet, my answer is required. As is yours.
Because we must start telling different stories. True stories of just how powerful, easy, and possible it is to have healthy female friendships. We have to make sure that the media aren't the only ones getting to portray who we are and what we can do together.
I'm weary of the stories of envy, competition, and comparison. Let's tell other stories of truth that are far more prevalent.
My Ode to Powerful Female Friends
This Valentines I stand up with gratitude for all the women in my life who have showcased their power, bigness, strength, courage and transforming love.
I have many stories of us having fun, witnessing each others tears, and being goofy together. But the stories that most need sharing are the ones where we women remind other women that we can contribute to each others lives in ways that help us show up brighter. We need the stories of us working together to make the world a better place.
So, while this ode isn't comprehensive with names, nor complete with all that they each offer, it is a place where I publicly attest that my female friendships are powerful forces that are making the world a better place. (I dream of each of you leaving a comment with the name of one powerful female friend in your life and telling us how it has blessed you!)
To Ayesha for inviting me to speak to your community long before we became friends... for choosing to raise up another woman and give her a platform. And for continuing to do so.
To Kat for sharing your own journey around running a business and leading a movement with such honesty and grace. When you have said, "I have to learn to not leave money on the table" you planted a seed in me to make that same self-promise.
To Daneen, who ate breakfast with me the morning after I woke up with the idea of GirlFriendCircles.com, and leaned across the table and affirmed, "This is a million-dollar idea." I haven't yet come close to that, but your interest in my business all along the way has spurred me on.
To Christine, you intimidated me upon meeting you. I remember you saying, "I am meant to be on TV" and at the time I remember thinking, "Are we supposed to say things like that?" Ha! You were so confident of your calling and message that I was invited to step out of what I called humility but was actually insecurity.
To Kerry, I was gifted a sister who not only humors my big dreams, but rolls her sleeves up to help make them happen. What's interesting is that as a little kid I have memories of mom encouraging me to not paint so that could be your thing, giving me the message subconsciously that I needed to stay out of your way for you to shine. I'm ever grateful that you know how to shine in your way without ever needing me to shine differently.
To Kati, you may be my baby sister, but you mentored me in many ways. You were reading feminism books far before I liked that word, and you have confidently walked your own walk. Your courage to be you, even when counter-cultural, gives permission to everyone else to make their best choices, too.
To Leila, the woman who *roars*. :) You are a force to be reckoned with, the woman that we'd all be honored to have fighting on our behalf. Your guts in stating your opinions still leaves my mouth hanging open, but only because it shows me that there's a piece of me that wishes I didn't care so much what others thought.
To Christine, a woman who could have been a competitor but chose to be a friend, proving again the silly illusion of competition. I credit you, powerful woman, with metaphorically reaching across the table with generosity when I was still trying to figure out if our businesses were competition to each other.
To Angela, the woman who has made famous "Give, give, get" for thousands of women. When I stated that my goal this 2014 was to get a brand sponsor for GirlFriendCircles... your response was a quick "I want to help you get that!"
To Sher for creating a safe place every week for both of us to not only share our insecurities and exhaustion's, but for also making sure it's a conversation filled with us recognizing our strengths and talents. What a gift to not have to play coy with what we're each capable of contributing to our worlds.
There are so many others... women's faces are racing through my mind. Each face attached with memories of how your shining invited me to become more comfortable with my own.
When research came out years ago stating that power and likability are positively correlated for men, and negatively correlated for women, it gave words to my secret fears. I have so long cared that others like me that it would inevitably lead to me believing that I had to play a less powerful game, act more humble, or come across more demure in order to not threaten anyone or incite jealousy.
But you, GirlFriends, I credit you for helping me shine my brightest these last few years. You not only proved that you could love me no matter what power I chose to step into, but more importantly, you modeled standing in your own. You have proven that recognizing we are special not only doesn't make us arrogant, but actually helps us also see how special everyone else is. It's an honor to be in this world watching you each shine your lights in ways that benefit others and energize you.
Stepping into our power together might all look very different. On some of you it looks like increasing fame and/or finances; on others it is a life of politics, becoming a zen yogi, pushing your physical limits, raising amazing full-hearted kids, or starting new businesses. Whatever it is-- you inspire me.
May we keep shining with the prayer that it does for others what you did for me. May the shining invite others to join us.
Please, please practice lifting up your female friends by leaving a dedication to one of them in the comments section. How have you stepped into that which makes you special because of one of your friends? Share with us!