Being in the academy, I get the whole “women are lousy mentors” line–constantly. Old women, you know, are so catty about younger, prettier women. It’s just true. Unlike the bros. They’re so cool with each other, bros are. Unlike women, who just don’t do things the right way because of their weakness and need to compete for men. (Gag).
Recently I overheard a man say at a yoga class, “Yeah, well, you get two women together and it’s like bitch central.” I could have told him he only needed one, in fact, and that would be me, but it also made me realize how much people diminish and poo-poo the real power and strength of female friendship, especially between women, which is either supposed to descend into some kind of male lesbian love scene porn fantasy or be dismissed as meaningless or be re-written as a story of competition. Here’s the truth: friendships between women are often the deepest and most profound love stories, but they are often discussed as if they are ancillary, “bonus” relationships to the truly important ones. Women’s friendships outlast jobs, parents, husbands, boyfriends, lovers, and sometimes children.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have both male and female mentors, and all have been wonderful. But it’s very, very hard to be supportive of other people when you are constantly told you are nothing, and where your supportiveness is both expected (because of your gender) and unappreciated (because of your gender).
The essay also contains a wonderful riff on being an older, single woman:
The Wrinklies weren’t spinsters or old maids and they were not “failures” in any way. They were free. It was I who failed to see them, until later, for who they really were: educated, hugely intelligent, fascinating, financially independent. Women who led rich lives full of meaningful work, deep and lasting friendship, sex when they wanted it, time with the beloved children of their family and friends, conversations about politics and art and literature, culture, travel to remarkable destinations where they did not journey as unconscious tourists but as guests in people’s homes and hearts. Despite these full lives they owned their own time, they owned their days. I did not. I was too busy trying to find someone who would spend the days with me, as if this would validate my presence in the world.
H/T to Dorothea Herreiner