• The Feminist Times

ON THE VILIFICATION AND ROMANTICIZATION OF FEMALE BONDS

Updated: Apr 17, 2021


Recently there was a lot of buzz created around a demeaning comment

by Kangana Ranaut, she in an interview had called Urmial Mantodkar, a

‘soft porn star’. And once again this instance added more substance to

the already glorified tales of female rivalry.

I couldn’t help but reflect upon something so simple and beautiful;

something I wish I didn’t have to write about yet knew this had to be

addressed. I’m taking about female friendships. Those of you who have

been lucky enough to have strong female bonds in their life know what I

am talking about. Ain’t nothing like the power of your girl gang, right!

Psychological studies have proven that female friendships are more

nourishing than male ones; and women agree that the level of support,

criticism, love and contentment female bonds provide can’t ever be

matched up to with anything else. The sad part however is that most of

us learn this the hard way. Since childhood, the trait of competitiveness

is ingrained in all of us. When it comes to boys it is in professional

contexts, to get a better job, a better salary, consequently a better bride

than the other one. But when it comes to the girls, it is usually to be a

better prospect, for these suitable grooms. It is conditioned in women

very early that the men will marry anyone they want after settling, so

when the time comes, the girls have to be ready with proper training of

cooking, maintaining household, fitting to conventional beauty

standards to be the best option. Being an option here means being

compared with many others. Here is the ultimate rivalry we were taught

and inherited, something we didn’t realise but were conditioned to-

being better than other girls. Always viewing them as competition. Many

would say that things have changed, and women make choices for

themselves but you have to confess that the foundations of criticism

and competition remain intact.

We are given this conditioning through all sorts of medium, nothing

might be better than taking cinema as an example. The popular movie

series ‘Mean Girls’ perfectly shows how girls would judge each other,

leave no opportunity to put each other down and very intriguingly fight

over the same guy. The guy in all such movies is depicted no less than

‘angelic’. However, one girl would always be the villain. Female rivalry is

fed quite young to us. And then without realising a lot of us become a

part of this bias & even perpetuate it.


I’ll give you very basic yet illogical everyday arguments. How many

times have you heard people (mostly girls) say,

‘I have more guy friends yaar, there’s less drama with them’

‘Gosh yaa, these girls look so fake na, always gossiping’

‘You know girls do a lot of bitching, that’s why I don’t make many girl

friends.’ And the best one that girls proudly take as a compliment, ‘You’re not

like other girls’. In this institution we call patriarchy, the path wavers and decision

makers might always be powerful, upper caste men, however the

soldiers that keep the citizenry in check will always be the women.

You’ll easily find women policing other women and young girls who

dare to differ by which I simply mean, who don’t adhere to the laid out

gender roles and norms. Women unconsciously absorb beliefs about

their rightful place, and those messages show up in how women judge

each other. This further leads them to mistreat, underestimate and

distance themselves from other women, to increase their power while

standing amongst men. It’ll be the women in your colony keeping an

eye on you, or judging you when you wear crop tops or shorts. In

retaliation such women will be judged by girls & will be called the colony

ki ‘aunties’, who have nothing better to do with their time. But don’t you

think this further fuels female rivalry in a way? These women, whom we

refer to as aunties were taught that they weren’t good at anything else

than looking after the family, making sure their kids didn’t put a toe out

of line but secretly make fun when others did. In fear of this

embarrassment all women would make sure their kids would adhere to

patriarchal norms, else these aunties would bitch. And when you see it

from afar you realise that this is nothing but a shrewd way of

perpetuating gender.

You remember Ms. Sharon Norbury, the calculus teacher in Mean

Girls? In the last few scenes when that diary was found with insults of

every girl, she said something really powerful- “ You girls have to stop

calling each other sluts and whores! When you do that it becomes okay

for the guys to call you that too!”


Maybe that’s how we can stop people from vilifying female bonds and

overcome this stereotype that women can’t be friends. I personally feel

sad for those who overshadowed by this bias never get to feel the

warmth of female friendships. No matter how small your win, these

cheerleaders will never fail to glorify them all. And then, hysterically,

people complain that these women supporting women is too dramatic.

But you know what is more dramatic, deeper and insanely stupid?

Patriarchy. And this age old tradition of pitting women against each

other & morally policing each other. So if one finds your female bonds

to be a little extra, fuck it! You do you, girl! Uplift each other as much as

you can, make sure no one amongst your friends label other girls in a

derogatory manner. Stop your grandmothers, aunts and mother when

they speak ill of some other women deciding for herself, be it clothes,

friends, having a relationship, or getting a divorce. Either the entire

community upgrades their mind sets and progresses, or there is no

progress at all! Pave a path for each other, help each other through

mentorship, advocacy and creating opportunities. And the next time that

smarty pants compliments you for being different than other women,

ask that PhD scholar what are women like? Stop a sexist joke at its

onset. You know, most of the times it’s not that people are not willing to

listen and understand; it’s just that they were never made to look

beyond their privilege and consciously made aware of their own biases.


-Kuhu Srivastava

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