Journalism junior Alexis Williams’ friends growing up were always girls. The older she gets, the more she realizes how important those friendships were — and still are.
Those girls were her sisters, her people, the ones she went to for advice. They were her biggest supporters growing up, and she doesn’t know what she’d do without the community they provided, Williams said.
Having a support system of women and valuing female friendship can be key to navigating the experience of being a woman.
Nursing freshman Brianna Potts said she values female friendship because she’s able to completely be herself around other women.
Female friendship gets a bad rap because society likes to put women in competition with one another, Potts said. But her own friends are her support system, and she’s grateful to have them.
Women can sometimes be very competitive with one another and not realize it, Potts said. Society’s expectations can promote damaging comparisons, like which celebrity is the prettiest or skinniest, which bleeds into normal people’s everyday life.
Female friendship is also often portrayed unfavorably in movies and shows. Stereotypes like women only gossiping and discussing men, clothing and make-up are some negative ideas female friendship has been associated with in the past.
Williams said she doesn’t care about how other people view her friendships as long as she knows those friendships are genuine.
Additionally, putting down other women for the sake of male approval is something that should be avoided, she said. Women should seek friendship in other women instead.
“Speaking down on your own community does not make you shine more, it does not make you more appealing,” Williams said.
Two ways Potts believes women can support other women in their daily lives is by not being overly critical of others and by being as genuine as possible.
A simple compliment may not seem like much, but it can go a long way because you never know what someone might be going through, Potts said.
“Never be afraid to give credit where it’s due and help make another person feel happy about themselves,” she said.
Understanding the importance of female friendship, support and community came at an early age for Williams, she said.
As a Black woman, Williams makes it a priority to surround herself with other Black women who share her experiences and struggles and be understanding and encouraging to them.
Still, Williams believes being a better friend and supporter of women begins with going outside of one’s bubble and reaching out to women who aren’t like yourself. Learning different women’s experiences helps foster understanding, she said.
Williams knows that as a Black, heterosexual and cis-gendered woman she’s not going to go through the same things as a white woman, a lesbian woman or a transgender woman.
Taking the time to befriend people from all walks of life can show whether someone is supporting all women or just those like themselves, Williams said.
The feminist movement in the early 20th century was focused on supporting women, but only the ones who were white, straight and Christian, Williams said. Society might be moving away from that idea, but many people still seek out only those who are like them.
“You can’t say that you support women and only just support some women,” Williams said.
Music education sophomore Cereza Juniper Tovar said she’s always had an easier time making friends with women, and they have always been more accepting of her.
As a transgender woman, having a community of women to lean on allowed her live her truth, Tovar said.
“Having female friends really opened the door for me to the life that I’ve always felt like I should have been living,” she said.
Female friendship is important to Tovar because it’s a sisterhood of support, and without her friends, she wouldn’t be where she is in her transition, she said.
Growing up having both female and male friends gave her insight into the experiences of cisgendered and transgendered women alike, she said.
Tovar remembers the misogynistic jokes and comments her male friends said about women. The men she was friends with believed all women did was gossip, be overly emotional and two-faced to each other, she said.
However, this was not her experience. When she’s with her female friends they discuss their struggles and personal experiences, and it’s not the surface-level friendship some would think, Tovar said.
For Tovar, supporting women in daily practice looks like having an open mind and not centering one’s personal experience when getting to know others, she said.