Content Warning: sexual assault (briefly mentioned, no details given)
I’ve told myself for a long time that I wasn’t cut out for female friendships. I never thought I’d have a Cristina Yang or a Lane Kim. I didn’t have the best track record with many of my relationships with women, so I didn’t see the point in trying to form new ones.
When I was in middle school I was bullied by other girls. My “best” [girl] friends turned on me, I don’t even remember why. In high school I was told I was selfish by a close girl friend. I felt as though I was competing or comparing myself with many of my female peers. In college I was raped by a woman, a friend of mine. I was called a liar when I asked for support from another close female friend. As an adult I had many female friendships end epically, awfully. I didn’t think I could maintain another close, healthy, happy friendship with another woman.
Recently I met a woman who changed that narrative for me. She allowed my vulnerability, and it brought us closer together, despite being an ocean apart. We became fast friends. I opened up to her about my history with women, and she recognized and acknowledged my fear. She saw me.
When I started feeling this fire in my belly about capitalism and the twisted narrative it feeds women in order to maintain its profits, I expressed my rage to this new friend. It unlocked something within me; sharing my frustration and anger about being a woman in 2020 with another woman was the key to embracing the female power within me, and feeling kinship and recognition in others. I suddenly saw all that I was missing by avoiding close relationships with women.
Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the friends in my life, regardless of gender. My partner and one of my closest friends are both men. And there is something to be said about sharing anger about an experience that is specifically female with another woman. My bestie and my partner both can empathize—and they do, quite well—but they will never truly understand my experiences without being a woman themselves.
I think I’ve subconsciously ignored aspects of my femininity for a long time. I spent most of my time with men, and never felt drawn to the interests of other women. I didn’t want to be like the women who hurt me. I didn’t want the feminine parts of myself that were judged or objectified to be seen by anyone, including myself.
I’m beginning to understand that hiding myself, any part of myself, is a disservice. Women have a history of being strong and powerful, and I am a contributor to that lineage. Now, instead of shying away from my feminine identity, I am choosing to step up and join hands with other strong and powerful women.
It’s time I step into my female power. It’s time I allow myself to share and listen and lean on women who are also aligned with my values and experiences. It’s time I channel my frustration and anger about the patriarchy and capitalism into passion, to enthusiastically lift up other powerful women and emphasize the strengths of being a woman that many in our dominant, patriarchal culture have ignored or dismissed for so long.
I’m proud to be a part of an amazing sisterhood of strong, beautiful, powerful women.
As I wrote this piece, I remembered a poem I once wrote about the women on staff at my eating disorder treatment center. Read it here.
I also want to recognize the amazing women I’ve met through Eat Breathe Thrive in the last few months. You all contributed to the inspiration for this post.