As a blogger I'm frequently cruising social media looking for content to share on my page. When I find myself nodding in agreement or thinking "Amen!", I know that content resonates with me and likely will with my readers as well. In my scrolling though I've noticed a certain category of motivational memes & quotes lately--the "females empowering each other" brand--that, while nice in theory, have just felt...well...inauthentic. Ya know, ones of this nature:
Don't get me wrong, I'm wholeheartedly in agreement with the concept, I just feel like, as women, we're not really walking this talk--that what we're saying we believe isn't quite lining up with our actions. Of course that doesn't pertain to all of us and I highly doubt anyone would read a quote like this and say "Na, I think tearing each other down is the way to go". I'm just sharing my observation that, while I see words about empowering each other being liked and shared by many of us, I think in large part there's a discrepancy between what we say we believe and how we actually behave toward one another as women.
In my opinion, what kills female friendships aren't outright acts of "tearing down", but rather more subtle behaviors that "chip away". Not obviously aggressive betrayals, but those hard-to-define transgressions like
and body language that says something very different than the words coming out of our mouths.
The types of behaviors where you're fully aware you're being cut down or insulted but it's so subtle that, if confronted or called out, it can leave you--the recipient--looking like the crazy person rather than the person making the jab. And, sadly, I've seen it just as much amongst adult women as I have amongst the young girls I teach.
This kind of behavior is, to me, much more concerning than direct confrontation because it involves a level of mental and emotional manipulation that is totally unnecessary and crazy-making. On the whole, men tend to be much more direct with one another in their friendships and, while their jabs at one another can be tough to hear, they at least don't leave the other person trying to guess where they stand because they tell it like it is. Which raises the question: why is this SO hard for many women?
The "Me-too" movement and the fight for equal pay in the workplace have helped us move forward as a gender but what I see as holding us back the most isn't the opposite gender but each other--our passive-aggressive nature toward one another. Because a group that's not united can't make forward progress, and we can't be united when we're not telling the truth to one another.
Perhaps it's so ingrained in us to be seen as polite and non-confrontational that we're willing to take playing mind games with one another over telling the truth directly. I don't know how to fix the problem and that's okay because it's not my job to. My job is to do my part within my own circle of friends to be as honest and straightforward as possible, to communicate directly and to do so with love as much as possible.
As I near 40 and life becomes more busy, I simply no longer have the time or energy for anything other than transparency. I find that I value a small handful of friends carrying no pretenses over a dozen that, after our interaction, leave me guessing where we stand. And those friends who can be real not only in appearances but in their communication with me, they're freaking GOLD.
As for these girls coming up--the young ones learning for the first time how to navigate their female friendships, how to work out conflict--I'm going to keep fighting hard to teach them not to do it the way our generation has. I hope to help them learn what many of us didn't--that it's okay to use your voice and tell your girlfriends the truth, directly, with love. I hope to teach them that breaking a glass ceiling takes strength and there's a hell of a lot more strength together than separate.