Let me tell you about my best friend, Kelly. Kelly is the reason I got through college. We lived on the same floor freshman year, played rugby together, hated all the same people, had an unfortunate incident with a cake, and we’ve been best friends ever since. It took me 19 years to find a lovable weirdo whose endearing eccentricities meshed perfectly with my own, but when I finally did find Kelly, I felt more comfortable in my own skin than I’d ever felt before. Kelly’s been my rock through all my accomplishments, exams, pet projects, mental health crises, TV obsessions, rugby injuries, angry rants, dyke drama, and poor life choices. For the past four and a half years, she’s always been there with a hug, a dark, twisted joke, a pep talk, or an offer to beat people up for me whenever I needed one. I’m sure if she reads this she’ll hate that I’m getting all sentimental on her, but I don’t care, because she deserves every word of praise I can give her.
Let me tell you about my Vagina Monologues co-director, Amanda. I met Amanda in a women’s studies class my sophomore year of college, but we didn’t really become close friends until my senior year, when we took on this huge project together. One of my greatest regrets of my time in college is that I waited so long to become good friends with her. Amanda is an inspiration to me: She is strong, smart, kind, caring, and devastatingly cool. She’s a queer radical feminist who speaks her mind with words as sharp as her flawless eyeliner. And she was the best co-director I could have ever asked for. My proudest moment of college was sitting beside Amanda on opening night, watching all of our hard work come to fruition as our supremely talented cast took the stage to perform Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. This time last year, we were hard at work rehearsing and frantically scrambling to get everything done on time. The show became our baby; the cast and crew, our family. I poured my heart and soul into this project and then put it on display for everyone to see, and the only reason I was able to do something so personal, so vulnerable, so frustrating and time-consuming and wonderful and life-affirming, was because I had Amanda by my side the whole time.
Let me tell you about my sister, Sarah. I am truly embarrassed at how long it took me to realize what a remarkable young woman my sister is. In addition to being a phenomenal singer and one of the funniest people I know, Sarah is also smart, intuitive, charming, and creative, and her compassion for others knows no bounds, but for too long I couldn’t see that. For too long, I dismissed her as some little pest, resented her for getting things I wanted, and really just treated her terribly, when I should have appreciated the opportunity to grow up with this amazing girl. For almost 21 years now, Sarah has always been there, and she has taught me so much about love, acceptance, friendship, and growth. Growing up, my parents gave me a lot of the things I asked for: violin lessons, summer camp, a biography of Caesar Rodney, an ill-tempered stray Chihuahua–but the best gift they ever gave me was a sister to go through life with.
Why am I telling you about Kelly, Amanda, and Sarah? Because thanks to Parks and Recreation, today is Galentine’s Day, a day to celebrate female friendships. Kelly, Amanda, and Sarah are just three of the many wonderful women in my life whose friendship has shaped who I am today, and who deserve to be celebrated not just today, but every day of the year. Internalized sexism wants us to believe that other girls are our competition, that female friendships are inherently catty and volatile, and that “cool girls” prefer to hang out with guys. To that, I say: Bullshit.
True friendships between women and girls are not catty. The volatile, gossiping, backstabbing Mean Girls style of female “friendship” definitely does exist, but it’s been hyped up by television and movies because it sells, and because it discourages women from forming stronger bonds with each other than they do with their male partners. In reality, female friendships–good female friendships–are a source of stability, not drama. They’re a way for women to celebrate each other and celebrate womanhood. They’re a way for women to build loving, supportive, understanding communities outside of the traditionally “female” realms of home and family. They’re a delightfully subversive way for women to affirm their value and their independence while eating brunch and watching Netflix.
There is an incredible power that comes from women supporting, uplifting, and loving other women. As women, we face daily microaggressions, objectification, and barriers that cis men don’t have to deal with, and it is through our friendships with other women that we realize we don’t have to fight the patriarchy alone. It’s through our friendships with other women that we find support, comfort, understanding, and love. Our female friends help us find confidence and strength within ourselves, and we nurture it and bring it out in them. It’s a truly beautiful thing. My female friends have helped me find my voice and use it to stand up for the things I believe in. They give me the confidence to take risks and step out of my comfort zone. They encourage me and challenge me to learn and grow and be a better person. They celebrate my successes and support me through my failures. And, yes, there are men in my life who support me, encourage me, challenge me, and love me, and I am extremely grateful for them, but you just can’t beat the sublime, inspiring power of women supporting each other.
I would not be the woman I am today without strong female friendships. Today, on Galentine’s Day, I want to say to all of my female friends: You are beautiful, wonderful people, and I love you. Thank you for being in my life.