Why Women Need, But Struggle To Find, Female Friendship

On social media, I’ve seen people make ludicrous claims insisting that friendships among women can not possibly be genuine because female intrasexual competition assures that they’re always subconsciously competing with each other. This is a bleak and immature musing. Female friendships are indispensable, but they need to be properly cultivated, and you need to vet the people you befriend so you don’t wind up wasting years of your life trapped in a cycle of toxic relationships.

By Jaimee Marshall5 min read
Pexels/Mikhail Konetski

Puberty, heartbreak, motherhood, feminine anxiety – women should not walk this world alone. And they don’t have to. That’s what sisterhood is for. If you’re an adult woman in her twenties or older, and you haven’t developed deep, close bonds with a female social circle, then you’re robbing yourself of a necessary life support system. You may feel a little lonely, a little unsupported, less understood, perhaps even crazy without a fellow woman’s perspective.

At Evie, we talk a lot about the irreplaceability of men, and rightfully so. They are the yin to our yang. They balance our neurotic tendencies, lead us, and are largely the backbones of society. However, while men are, on the one hand, the antidote to our feminine chaos, it’s other women who can offer us camaraderie, compassion, empathy, and understanding in a way a man never can.

Why You’re Wrong If You Think You’re Better Off without Female Friends

Why should you want female friends? Well, why should you want to experience love, taste a delicious meal, witness a beautiful sunset, or have meaningful conversations on a late summer’s night? What’s the alternative – meaningful friendships with men? Close friendships with men are questionable to begin with, especially if you’re an attractive woman. Most men would be interested in making a move on a female friend of theirs they find attractive, which is, well, most of them. This is why female friendships specifically are indispensable. 

For one, you eliminate the question of authenticity in their investment in your well-being and life (save for the genuinely predatory sociopathic women you need to avoid). Secondly, they have lived experiences as a woman, so they can relate to you in a way men cannot. They can truly understand the way you think and feel. Men tend to be problem solvers and have little patience for venting or talking out problems ad nauseam – the exact opposite of what most women seek when faced with a problem. Women use communication to connect and promote positive emotion, while men are more outcome-oriented. You fundamentally view the world through different lenses, and so will arrive at radically different conclusions at times. 

Women are social creatures, and as much as you may love and confide in your boyfriend, the reality is, even if he’s an extrovert, he has a reduced capacity for verbalization compared to women, so you might be talking his ear off, driving him mad, when you could be chatting with your girlfriends who will only be energized by your conversation. When men hang out with their friends, they tend to partake in an activity together without necessarily talking at all – something almost unfathomable for women. The activity is the bonding experience, whereas for women, talking is the activity while you may be doing something in the background. These are innate gender differences. 

Healthy female relationships can help re-energize and invigorate you because they reciprocate your energy and conversation.

Since women have a high need for socialization, we energize and inspire each other. When you’re with your man, you’re nurturing him, supporting him, and helping him reach his potential. It’s a beautiful complementary relationship, but it can be draining because you’re constantly funneling your energy into him. Nurturing, strong, healthy female relationships can help re-energize and invigorate you because they reciprocate your energy, conversation, requests for advice, shoulder you need to cry on, or space to vent. In the past, women were more connected through the community. They helped raise each other’s children, cooked together, and were around each other all the time.

However, society has drastically transformed and the community has disintegrated, leaving many women isolated, separated from a community of like-minded women to help her out with the endless housework, childrearing, and mental load she has to bear on her own. This is why I implore you to go out and seek companionship through common interests, values, and chemistry with other women around you. Not only will female friendships nourish your soul, but they’re also crucial for your overall health. Research shows that women diagnosed with breast cancer who had more social ties had higher survival rates than women who did not. A UCLA study showed that when women experience stress, they release the hormone oxytocin, which produces a reaction called "tend and befriend" that causes women to nurture those around them and seek connection with other women. 

Why Friendships Between Women Get a Bad Rap

Women are constantly pitted against each other. It’s in our entertainment and social media, and we’ve probably dealt with a few women in our personal lives who have not had our best interests at heart. The archetypal female friendship, as it’s portrayed through media and the broader culture, is one of catty vindictiveness, jealousy, manipulation, and backstabbing. Look at the plot of any major teen movie that takes place in high school – Mean Girls, Jennifer’s Body, The Craft, Thirteen – these movies center around the trope of fake female adolescent relationships.

While these films portray a certain female relationship dynamic, that doesn’t mean that it’s the sole dynamic to exist. What these films capture is, in many ways, female sociopathy. Sociopathy or sociopathic tendencies present much differently in women than men. While male sociopaths tend to be more physically aggressive, women are more cunning and subtle. The, for lack of a more apt term, “alpha female” of a social group will enforce isolation on her victim through social exclusion, reputation destruction, gossip, verbal attacks, and innuendo (appearing polite while actually insulting their target – think Regina George “complimenting” Cady’s bracelet). This is perfectly represented in the movie Jennifer’s Body, with Jennifer being the popular, beautiful, manipulative, toxic friend and Needy (appropriately named) perpetually trying to please Jennifer, always falling into the palm of her hand.

These brutal, conflict-centric dynamics make for great film and television, but it’s about as common as men getting into physical fights – common enough but by no means the only mode of interaction our gender has with one another. An immature, underdeveloped, or insecure woman with antisocial characteristics will not outgrow these toxic behaviors. These are the sorts of women you need to look out for. Steer clear of them at all costs because not only are they incredibly destructive, but they are, worst of all, socially sophisticated and skilled at pretending to be harmless.

Some red flags to look out for: Do they try to infect you with negativity? When you bring good news, do they seem upset or disappointed at your good fortune and instead try to bring you down? When something goes wrong, do they revel in your misery and possibly even try to amplify it? These are major red flags. Some of the cardinal signs that a woman is a saboteur in the friendship include jealousy, possessiveness, talking down to you, berating you, being untrustworthy or unreliable, making you question yourself, always competing with you, or trying to embarrass you.

Pick Me, Love Me, Choose Me

Just as I warned of the genuinely toxic sociopathic female friend, so too must you be wary of the “I hate girls because they’re too much drama” women. Spending all day online signaling how much you can’t stand women, how much better you get along with men, how you’re not like the other girls, and exhibiting other standard “pick me” behaviors are all major red flags. While accusations of being a “pick me” are liberally launched at women, often as a bullying tactic to peer pressure them into social conformity, it’s not without its basis in reality. Female intrasexual competition is a real evolutionary tactic ingrained in women, though you can rise above your cavewoman instincts and grow into a more mature, fully developed human being. Men compete with other men for female attention in specific ways, as do women with other women for male attention. 

Women really covet male attention – and this subconscious desire is often not proportionate to a woman’s interest in the men themselves.

The only difference is women really covet male attention – and this subconscious desire is often not proportionate to a woman’s interest in the men themselves. The idea of the “male gaze” is not mere feminist fantasy, but a real observation of the female tendency to view herself in the third person – as an object of worship and affection through male eyes. I reject that this is the only way a woman can experience the world, but it’s certainly easy to fall into this trap as a default mode of being as a young, single, attractive woman. If a woman insists that all of the women she has ever encountered were all too much drama, the common denominator there is her. 

This type of woman is deeply underdeveloped mentally, emotionally, and socially. Where female friendships are supposed to provide camaraderie and support, this type of woman will only secretly sabotage you to achieve her ultimate goal: male attention. You can mitigate your risk of interacting with these types by seeking women in similar life paths as you. Seek out women who are warm, nurturing, and uplift other women. This is called being a “girl’s girl,” which is a major green flag – a woman who doesn’t see other women as inherent competition but as peers with shared burdens, interests, and experiences.

Learning the Art of Companionship: Make Friends at Any Stage of Life

You don’t need a large circle of friends if this feels unnatural to you. I’ve kept a very small circle of close friends dating back to elementary school. We’ve been able to maintain close, meaningful relationships through the years despite distance that has come between us through moves and life changes because we formed bonds in childhood based on fundamentals – things like a shared sense of humor, similar values and upbringing, having things in common or shared interests. We also have compatible personalities, hence why we were able to spend nearly every second together through our childhood and teenage years without wanting to kill each other. 

It’s easiest to make friends when you’re young and in school because you’re constantly thrust into different contexts where you’re surrounded by other kids your age. You will never have more in common or more shared life experiences than you will at this stage of life. However, it’s never too late to make new friends. It may take a little more time, effort, and putting yourself out there, but you’ll thank God that you did. Try to join a social scene, a sport, a club, or a hobby with peers of a similar age. Always start with similar interests and passions, and build from there.

Closing Thoughts

As a woman, you need to be friendship-maxxing. You need to be cultivating deep female friendships built on mutual respect, love, and admiration. You may think you can get by without this companionship for a while – but you would be mistaken. To lack this essential component of life is like believing you can forego hydration. It may be bearable right now, but it won’t be long until you can’t live without it.

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