In 4th grade, for fun, my girlfriends and I would play a game called "Roses and Thorns" in which we would sit in a circle and tell each other one good thing about the other's appearance (the rose), and then several bad things (thorns.) It would go something like this:
Lacy, you have pretty eyes. But your thighs are big, and your nose is crooked, and Matt Houghton said during 3rd period yesterday that your breath was really, really bad. Oh, and you need to shave your legs.
I don't know if this happened beyond Los Angeles private schools, but I imagine that it did.
This wasn't something that we did to be mean, this was something that we did for fun. In an effort to bond with one another, we cut each other down, tore each other apart, and pointed out one another's flaws.
In Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay says, “Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.”
Truth is, I've hated women pretty much my entire life, up until a few years ago. And I realized-- I don't actually hate them. I'm afraid of them. I'm intimidated by them. I'm worried about having to get vulnerable with them and convinced that they won't like me. Guy friends are much easier: you can just joke around with them and never dig below the surface. I have survived for several years off the playful, 2 minute conversations I have with my male friends when I come to them with my life problems.
Roses and Thorns.
Since as early as I could remember, I'd been subconsciously trained to hate women. I was to compete with them, compare myself to them, do what I could to tear them down.
We love to watch women fail. We like to see them be embarrassed. A break up, a weight gain, a sex tape, a nip slip. When The Craft came out in 1996, a few girlfriends and I made a coven who did spells focused exclusively on making the most popular girl in school, Lauren, trip during soccer games. When she finally fell after several weeks of spell casting (as one is bound to do when playing soccer,) our coven of 4 elementary school girls got in a fight over who was the most powerful emerging witch, and parted ways.
Girl on girl crime is probably why The Bachelor gets approximately 10 million viewers per episode, and has been on for 20 seasons. We get satisfaction from women looking beautiful but acting crazy. It feeds the stereotypes: see, I told you they were like that. Not to mention that they are competing for the attention of a man, which is not surprising, since evolutionary psychology actually suggests that women do indeed biologically compete with one another out of desire to be impregnated by the opposite sex.
Why do we compete?
Psychology Today reports that when competing, "women tend to promote their youth and physical attractiveness (feminine traits favored by men). Women criticize the age, appearance and character of their opponents."
It's not only in our heads. In a study done at Florida State, women's testosterone levels went up when they took a whiff of t-shirts of ovulating young women (without their knowledge,) "presumably in preparation for aggressive competition."
We are biologically and psychologically conditioned to compete with one another.
So now, more than ever, how do we turn it around?
Female Friendships are important
2016 seemed to be the year of the Girl Gang, started by Taylor Swift and her squad of multi millionaire singers, actresses, and models. (Eye roll). Supporting women, instead of tearing them down, became "cool" and could be seen from inspirational Instagram account, to Beyonce's "Lemonade," to celebrity friendships, to female driven websites such as Amy Poehler's Smart Girls and Reductress.
We live in an age where the word Girl Boss has become common in our vernacular while the government simultaneously threatens to take our reproductive rights away. More than ever, women need to be on one another's side.
Below, some celebrities weigh in on the importance of female friendships.
Jemima Kirke (Girls) on female friendship: "There’s no way a man can understand you like a woman, and you’re a guy’s girl because you’re threatened by other women....I love women now, and I didn’t before. Because I was scared of them, because they understood me.”
Tavi Gevinson of Rookie Magazine says of female friendships.
Kate Hudson, and her mother Goldie, on the importance of women.
So instead of Roses and Thorns, let's stick to teaching our daughters, or our friend's daughters (if you're afraid of having kids like me) to build each other up. Women are our sisters, not our competitors, and there's enough room for all of us. Oh and also, bitchy is a compliment.
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