Why is the friendship between women so complex?


Nishita Mukherjee

In a present day society that marks women up to be simple minded, there are true complexities that reside within their relationships with each other.

Catfights, teen drama, jealousy and feuds over men is, in society’s perception, the core of a female friendship, especially when compared to men, or anybody else for that matter. Over the years, society has generally portrayed a simplified version of true bonds between women. Through stereotypes and classic media portrayals arose an issue in how the public labels or views relationships and the love that is “appropriate” between two people. Inevitably, significantly downplaying the reality of how women connect and how deep their connection really is. 

A classic oversimplified example would be Regina George and her female clique in the movie “Mean Girls”, in which female companionship is boiled down to be totally reliant on status and looks alone. Throughout their friendship the only thing keeping them together is popularity and drama. Providing the stereotype that most female relationships simply occur due to similar circumstances and a need to network to be better than others.

Even with jealousy and competition in the air, many female friendships still thrive, even in places some people think they wouldn’t. In a simple explanation, women appreciate effort and commitment. They seek the same qualities in a friendship that they would want in a relationship: understanding, compassion, support and loyalty. In some ways this can create friendships that are more fulfilling than romantic relations. This closeness has been represented in the media for years, as iconic duos as some would say. 

In the popular TV show, “Gossip Girl”, the drama between Blair and Serena is iconic as they are close. Through all their issues and traumatic experiences, the girls always seem to find their way back to each other. Blair describes the relationship with Serena by saying “ We’re sisters; you’re my family. What is you, is me. There’s nothing you could ever say to make me let go.” Showing this level of commitment and understanding that is akin to what one would find in a romantic relationship, which most would contribute to women’s natural inclination to emotional expression.

A major factor of why the bonds are so complex is the communicational habits of women. The emotional side within women is much more pronounced than men and not because men have less emotions, but due to decades of societal norms of how specific genders should act. This self-awareness lets women understand exactly what they need in a relationship and be more open about those needs. This allows the communication between women to be smoother as there is a similar approach.

The emotional side within women is much more pronounced than men and not because men have less emotions, but due to decades of societal norms of how specific genders should act

This deep connection also stems from a general understanding between women when it comes to similar struggles with discrimination and representation within society. It is key to understand the underlying pressures and extra work needed to prove themselves, providing yet another area of connection between women in topics that aren’t discussed as much in public.

In the long-standing tv series “Grey’s Anatomy” the well-known workplace besties Meredith Grey and Christina Yang bond over similar issues of trying to make a name for themselves in high pressure work environments. As used to describe the two’s dynamic friendship “They are each other’s person, even when they’re thousands of miles apart.” There are many problems that the pair go through together and even when they don’t talk they understand, because of the deep emotional understanding between them.

Deborah Tannen, professor and author of the novel “You’re the Only One I Can Tell” explains through her research that because women are innately emotionally intelligent they are able to be much greater companions and not only give advice, but also comfort. Unlike many men, they can view and comprehend small gestures and simple emotions in a much more meaningful way that creates a connection deeper than just a surface level relation. 

An extremely powerful example of that is within the Netflix series, “Sex Education”. During an episode, a group of girls are put in detention together for the suspicion of executing a misogynistic act, and they are meant to bond as an unlikely group. The entire episode is an homage to “ The Breakfast Club” but with a much more focused look at womanhood. They end up sharing stories about their sexual assault and harrasment experiences. Amy, a prominent side character, opens up about a recent incident on the local bus which she can not travel in anymore due to the mental implications. This unlikely group of girls decides to travel on the bus with her to help her overcome the trauma she experienced. This very simple and miniscule gesture shows a much greater understanding in the way women comfort and take care of each other, regardless of circumstances.

Nevertheless, the connection can bring out the best and worst in women. It causes an emotional dependency and can open up a girl’s insecurities and identity. This on-the-edge balance can create an extremely destructive and hurtful friendship “break ups” because just as much as friendships fulfillness you, they can also take away a part of you in the end. 

The competitive nature of women is often overlooked, but is easily explained by research that it stems from the protection of a woman’s genes and their ability to procreate. If another person, specifically a woman, gets in the way many ladies have the urge to get rid of their competition. Looking at it from a societal lens, women have been shaped by society to want to appeal to men, but with other attractive and intelligent women in the game, competition is inevitable. This competitiveness can be a key problem in the sustainability of female friendships everywhere. 

However, fragility in a friendship is also strongly determined by their overall compatibility. Just because women have strong connections with each other does not mean that all women get along. Gender aside, we are also humans with morals and personalities that can clash with another’s character and sometimes it really is as simple as two girls just do not get along. 

Even with drama and all the complex reasonings around situations female friendships endure so often, it can also be a naturally rewarding experience too. In the popular TV drama, “ Sex and the City” the character Samantha says to her friend group, “We made a deal ages ago. Men, babies, it doesn’t matter…We’re soulmates.”

In an understated summary from Samantha, female friendships will never cease to be simple. There’s much more to it than drama and similar circumstances, despite being understated and misunderstood in the media; platonic connections between women can truly be as fulfilling as finding someone you would choose to spend the rest of your life with. A girl may never find herself a groom or bride, but she sure as hell can find a maid of honor in the best of her friends.