Love thy girl neighbor : an open letter to all the girls out there

When you think about it, there are a lot of examples of female friendships out there. Women crews promoting the strength of sisterhood, the power and beauty of a female relationship. The music world was marked by numerous girls bands (the Spice Girls, the Destiny Childs..) and we cannot talk about our childhood without mentioning the adventures of the Totally Spies, the Powerpuff Girls and other girls squads whose power lies more in the cohesion that exists between them than in the super powers or gadgets they have. The message was beautiful, it was powerful : together we are stronger, together we can accomplish anything. TV series such as Sex & the City or Girls are true odes to female friendship - no matter how toxic they can sometimes get. And childish fights put apart,  we’ve always managed to love each other and create true friendships with other girls - that varied in duration and intensity. But then, as Leonardo in Inception, an idea was subtly placed in our heads and has, with time, infested our minds. This idea is simple : girls are bitches to each other. And it’s quite crazy to see how easily we believed it. Girls are mean to each other, they screw each other over, they’re jealous and malicious. I’m sure you too must have heard the sentence “I don’t hang out with other girls, they’re too annoying”, and you’ve maybe sometimes approved and agreed. And that’s normal, you’re not to be held responsible since that is the usual perception society gives on girls relationships. As soon as childhood was over, society‘s view on the way girls interact with each other switched - as well as the representation that was given of it. That’s it, Girl power is over, we’re now supposed to have become experts in the art of stealing each other’s boyfriends/girlfriends, talking shit behind each other’s back and practicing unhealthy competition. And that’s something a lot of TV series still show massively.  

If you want to be my lover, you gotta get with my friends” once said the Spice girls. Well,now that Victoria has gone solo, it seems like paranoia has taken over. A paranoia based on the false idea that a girl, the human being that looks the most like you, who knows what you go through every month, is your enemy, an opponent who you need to mistrust. In pair with that mindset, is the deep conviction that a woman is a crazy person, whose behavior is unpredictable and unreliable. This argument is drawn on the belief that as women, we “know how other women are like”. Aren’t we, by spreading that way of thinking perpetuating false beliefs theorized by men who promoted female hysteria? I think we are.

I’m sure you’ve heard her, that girl insulting another one because of the length of her skirt, or making fun of another because she has a period blood stain on her jeans. Or the one who mocks this smart young woman who just got the promotion she wanted for herself. That latent hatred that exists between us, the way we keep looking at each other with this incessant suspicion - it’s not natural nor biological - that’s actually something we’ve been taught to believe in and to act accordingly. In reality, it’s us miming, reproducing the way men look at women in public places. If it’s been socially accepted for men to act like judges when it comes to a woman appearance and behavior, it looks like we’ve learnt to do the same thing to each other. And at that point, Geri Halliwell just lost her crop top.

Shouldn’t we try and get rid of these unhealthy automatisms? Shouldn’t we instead dream of a world where we would be kind to each other? Let’s turn judgement into admiration, mistrust and rejection into acceptance and trust. The current feminist movements have given an impulsion that tends to change the way women are perceived in their relationship to society and men - in everything that is tangible or that isn’t. But all of that has absolutely no value if we don’t work together. So could we stop now please? Let’s stop participating to the spreading of these ideas that do nothing but take us down - we shouldn’t play that toxic femininity game. Would it be too much to say “let’s love each other”?

by Jessica Ayinda, artwork from Isabel Castillo