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The portrayal of female friendships in pop culture

by Susmita Aryal

One of the benefits of being a part of pop culture today is that it navigates through all the unconventional structures of society. Pop culture helps to explore different kinds of relationships apart from romance. It explores many forms of relationships that are not so common between us. For example female-female relationships. In Harry Potter, Harry’s best friend is Ron but Hermoine quite significantly does not have such friendship with other girls. Her female friends are shown Lavender Brown and Parvati who constantly is seen giggling around boys' matters and are connected with only hostility, that too for her intellectuality. Because so much emphasis is put on romantic relationships, we fail to believe that some ‘other kind’ of relationship is also out there.

Female friendships have come under negative light ever since classical times and the way they used to be portrayed in literature. Virginia Woolf in the book, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ depicted how female friendships are defined by only relationships with men and not by female friendships, noting that they are too simple. This book was written in response to defying such norms. In a society that values more romantic relationships, to be the be or else the end of it all, it is so difficult for females to be elusive. Often the majority of the films fail to pass the Bechdel test which measures the representation of women in films. One of the main reasons women feel challenged is the competitive factor where they put too much effort into getting love and approval from men. Because society is conducive to men and female relationships, one stifles the potential for genuine connection.

The teen comedy, ‘Mean Girls’ includes female friendship which nests around the storyline and gives an important edge to feminine relations. There is so much talking behind, gossiping around, and ditching men issues around the girls, the storyline is consistent with the brighter side of girlfriends as they enjoy sisterhood. In navigating through life, women are more willing to share things with female counterparts, this often makes them prone to gossip, and when they break up, or are tagged often as catfighting. However, this statement can never obscure the possible rewards that female relationships can shower us with.

Roxane Gay explains in Bad feminist, ‘abandon the cultural myth that all female friendship must be bitchy or toxic.’ Gay said, ‘This myth is like heels and purses-pretty but designed to slow women down’. They might come off as complicated, but they are worth being with. At times, when a great deal of emphasis is put on how much strength you have it in, vulnerability can take a toll on and a lot of us do not find comfort in sharing, not even to those friends who are close to us. In those times, it’s easier to tune in to the same gender who inclines with the same physical, and emotional aspects as much as we do. Because gender alike usually understands better, it is obvious that women understand women better as men to men.

Women's solidarity is an incomparable force to be reckoned with. Of course, there has always been a struggle to get women's rights as equal to men. However, the biggest fight we can do to raise our standards as women to women relationships is when we start to lift each other up, at times of failure, success, and vulnerability and by normalising the traditional narrations as women are backstabbing, liars, jealous or hysterical. While pop culture has shown us ways to embrace female friendships, it has flaws of its own. For instance, Hermione had Ron Weasley and Harry Potter but she wasn’t much seen with female friends until Ginny Weasley came her way and so, Ginny too, wasn’t the same being as having friends of her own. Although we can see a loophole here, there is always potential room for growth in representation.


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