Women Supporting Women: Truth or Myth?

Throughout television history, there have been female friendships that are simply iconic.

Lucy and Ethel. Mary and Rhoda. Sophia, Rose, Dorothy, and Blanche. Daria and Jane. Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe. Leslie and Ann. Liz and Jenna. Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda. Rory and Lane. Laverne and Shirley. Buffy and Willow. Poussey and Taystee. Frankie and Grace. Lorelai and Sookie. Jess and CeCe. Fiona and Vee.

While fictional, these friendships were built on a foundation of support. There was drama. There were fall outs but there was always moments of friendship. Of coming together when things got rough, sitting in wedding dresses on the couch lamenting over failed love lives or getting caught up in yet another scheme that would quickly resolve itself in an hour or a half an hour.

These friendships were rock solid despite being the figment of someone else’s imagination. The characters were often wildly different in personality but at the end of the day, were filled with unconditional support for each other.

So taking the fictional friendships into reality, I’m tempted to ask if this idea of women supporting women is as prevalent in real life as it is in reel life. Please excuse the cliche.

Here’s the thing. I’m on a journey. A journey of self-discovery. I’ve gone through many groups of friends. I’ve been dismissed and excluded from many groups and through this exclusion, I wonder….

Is this idea of women supporting other women a reality or a myth? Is it only a reality on television or if someone follows a certain set of rules? Where does this support lie?

I hear it so often. “I am a woman who supports other women.” It’s become a phrase we can post on t-shirts, statuses….because I support other women.

But do you? Do we?

If a female friend is going through something. If they act in a way that might not be positive. “They act like a victim”, “they have too much going on” or the dreaded, “too much drama”, do you still support that friend or do you distance yourself from them, ignore them and if they text you a question, dismiss it and have someone else answer it?

If you do this, doesn’t this mean you don’t actually support other women?

If a female friend has polar opposite views from you. If they support things that you do not. You’re a vegetarian. They’re an avid hunter. You hate Trump. They love Trump.  You hate UGG’s because of animal cruelty. They live in their UGG’s. Do you block them? Decide they’re not worth getting to know?

If you do this, doesn’t this mean you don’t actually support other women?

If a female friend is trying to find her own voice, trying to break through her own walls and stand up for herself more after years of feeling silenced. Of feeling unheard.  Do you tell her she’s too much and immediately end whatever friendship there was because it’s said in a tone you might not agree with?

If you do this, doesn’t this mean you don’t actually support other women?

If you know a female friend is looking for work and you have something that might be a fit or something might be something of interest and you don’t let her know, don’t follow up and take a first impression and use that as the reason not to provide assistance or help.

If you do this, doesn’t this mean you don’t actually support other women?

What about…..

…..the woman who wrote me telling me I was a desperate and pathetic person not worthy of friendship because I didn’t want to switch to Shakeology.

…..the woman who told me to go kill myself because I don’t fast on Yom Kippur.

…..the woman who decided to end a friendship with me and blast me on social media because I said that her oatmeal did not look appealing, yet at the same time seemed okay surrounding herself with people who have said that she must go out of her way to look unattractive.

Yet, these are women who still stand by the saying that they are women who support other women. Now how is this possible? How can you say the words yet not show it in actions.

I do not support all women.

I support some women.

The women who have shown loyalty, honesty, the ones that listen. The ones that are truthful even when it’s uncomfortable. The ones that check in. That are blunt. That feel our friendship is worth it. The ones that reach out. That appear grateful. Respectful.

I support them. So maybe I can’t say that I am the type of woman who supports all women. I’m the type of woman who supports some women. The ones whom I adore.

Does that mean I’m not a good person or I’m not honest?

Relating this back to the fictional friendships mentioned earlier because after all, that’s what I try to do here. Fictional female friendships are always so interesting to dissect. Usually, they pair together personalities who if they were real probably might not be friends. Through those oddly matched pairings, show examples of true support. True female support regardless of how opposite and how unlikely the pairings may occur in real life.

For example, Phoebe Buffay would never be friends with Rachel and Monica. Ethel might have grown tired of Lucy’s immature antics. Sookie may have gotten angry that everything was always about Lorelai. It didn’t matter. There was a bond. Sure it was fictional, but we can learn a lot from the fictional. The fictional can often hold up a mirror and make us look within ourselves.

How do we show our support? How do we guide without turning away? Without dismissing? How do we hold each other up while we keep growing and if something is said, if there’s a tone that seems to rub the wrong way, isn’t it better to let someone know than to completely dismiss them and disregard them? How can we grow if we dismiss people?

In the world of fiction, problems are always met head on. Arguments, the conflict of an episode, always comes within the midway point. We can learn a lot from these fictional friendships on the true meaning of support.

If it feels uncomfortable, if it’s coming across wrong, if you’re hearing something different….then it needs to be said and needs to be listened to. Dismissing each other, deeming someone no longer worthy of friendship because they said something in a way that did not make you feel good seems far more dramatic than just coming right out and saying it and seems far more hurtful.

So how can we as women, as people support each other better?

Unlike those scripted friendships, there are no words written for us to help us with emotions or witty sayings. We just speak and hope it makes sense and with so many different people out there, how do we know that what we’re saying is right? How do we know if we’re doing it right? Doing life right? Doing friendship right?

Maybe the support comes in helping others see the impact they have on each other. Maybe it comes with listening. Lisa Kudrow said in an interview once that the secret to the chemistry of the six Friends actors is that they never let anything go unsaid and they listened.

“Hey, when you did this….it made me feel like that.”

“Oh, you know when you said that. It made me feel like this.”

Then the person listened, apologized if an apology was needed and moved on. They did this to help create chemistry we saw on screen. That moment of “victim-hood”, “drama” or “spiraling negativity” did not define or end an entire friendship because they couldn’t let it. We saw that closeness on-screen so maybe while we discuss the support of each other, it needs to come with more listening? More honesty? Accepting differences? Accepting different perceptions of the same event and that might mean no one is right, we just come with different perceptions. Maybe that’s how become the types of women who support others?

As there’s no script for us to follow in life. Social skills are learned and changed often. Mismatched friends on screen can figure it out only because people are writing for them. So maybe we write our own scripts? Our own ways of support and hope to find someone else who also fits that support or who gives back in a way that satisfies both? Maybe that’s how we reach the happy ending of our own individual shows.

Acceptance. Listening. Understanding.

And then fade to black.

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