Hi everyone! It’s International Women’s Day today, so it seemed like the perfect day to cover a bookish topic that is very close to my heart, it’s something I always talk about loving to see in books and I wanted to talk a little bit more in depth today about why that is and why I think it’s so important. That is, female friendships in books, and I think today is a very apt day to do that, since International Women’s Day is all about celebrating the women in your life (yes men, you get a day too, it’s the 19th November).
Part of my reasoning for loving seeing female friendships in books is quite simple and personal: I’ve always had more girl friends than guy friends, even from primary school, all my friends were girls and it’s been that way ever since. I had bad experiences with boys at secondary school and so I’ve always been a little bit wary of making friends with them, I’ve always found it a lot easier making friends with girls than I have with guys because of that. My friends are massively important to me, they’ve been there for me for years, always supporting me and so I love it when I get to see supportive female friendships in books because it reflects the experiences that I’ve had with all of my amazing friends.
I also have a societal reasons for wanting to see good female friendships portrayed in books though. So often society pits women against each other, suggests that we should be tearing each other down instead of building each other up, that teenage girls should be jealous of other girls their age rather than supportive and I think that the toxic messaging that society sends women about other women is completely wrong. We need to see positive female friendships in books, especially YA books to counteract the horrible messaging that society sends girls, that other women are the enemy and we should only be looking out for ourselves because there’s only enough room for one woman in the room. I don’t think fiction should be responsible for exactly reflecting the society that we see, inequalities and all, I think that fiction should be responsible for reflecting the society that we want to see, where everyone is working together to combat those inequalities, since that’s what should be happening in the real world.
I find it so tiresome seeing books time and time again pit women against each other. We don’t need to see the women in the books we read hating each other because they like the same man, because honestly, that’s sexist and at least in my experience, happens a lot less frequently in life than it does in media. That’s not to say that girls can’t be awful to each other, they can be, but what’s not great is when fiction makes it seem like that’s the only kind of relationship that women can have with each other, which is categorically not true.
Female friendships can be so powerful and enduring and intense and often for teenagers, even more important than the romantic relationships that they have in their lives, anyone who has ever experienced a “friend breakup” can attest to how saddening it is when you part ways with one of your best friends. It’s doing women a disservice when books represent their friendships as completely drama filled and toxic and bitchy and not showing the loving, caring, intensely supportive side of female friendships. Women’s friendships are much more nuanced than fiction sometimes give them credit for and we need to have less of the women at each other throats constantly, because that feeds into the toxic bullshit that society sends us that women can’t be friends with other women because the patriarchy knows that when women support each other, we are stronger than ever.
I’d like to give some examples of really great female friendships that I love from books, to illustrate my point and show what I’d like to see even more of in books as I think friendship in general and it’s importance, especially in YA books which is what I mostly read, can be sorely overlooked sometimes.
Elizabeth Wein’s books are amazing for showing the power of female friendships and women working together. There are women at the centre of all her books and all of these women have other women surrounding them and helping them. Code Name Verity is all about Maddie and Verity’s friendship, it shows just how far women will go to help each other and the love between these two girls just spills of the page, it will forever be one of my favourite books about female friendship. Rose Under Fire also centres women’s friendships, how Rose is able to cope and endure her terrible experiences in Ravensbruck because of the friendship of the other women imprisoned with her, and The Pearl Thief shows the wonderful intensity of Verity’s first female friendship before she even became Verity. If you love women in historical fiction, I 1000% recommend Elizabeth Wein’s books.
Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay is also incredible in its portrayal of female friendship. This one is particularly special to me because Izzy and Ajita’s friendship reminds me so much of me and my best friend, they mock each other constantly and to an outside eye that mocking might look mean, but it’s all based on true friendship and you know that they’d just do anything for each other.
The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants was probably my first great YA female friendship book (I loved The Sleepover Club and The Saddle Club for this when I was a kid), Tibby, Lena, Carmen and Bridget were so close, they were almost like sisters and they were always there for each other, even if they were mad at each other.
Throne of Glass also, for it’s many problems, shows some wonderful female friendships, you have the Thirteen who yes, are bloodthirsty witches, but they would rip out the heart of anyone who tries to hurt someone from their coven. Aelin and Lysandra are also a wonderful female friendship which inverts the initial girl on girl hate trope beautifully.
Those are just a few examples of books with amazing female friendships in them, there are so many more books out there that have such positive, wonderful friendships between women and I think the number has only been growing in recent years which is amazing to see. Women supporting women is so important and it’s vital at all age groups of books that girls and women get to see examples of positive friendships between female characters, because we desperately need to counteract the toxic messaging given by so many forms of media that pits women against each other. It’s 2019, there’s no place for that kind of toxic messaging anymore and I desperately want authors to give us the complicated, nuanced, but ultimately incredibly supportive female friendships that we deserve.
Do you like to see female friendships in your books? Tell me about your favourite books that feature awesome female friendships (make my TBR grow more, I dare you!). Let me know in the comments!
I don’t know if I’ll do another Jo Talks post this month, it depends how busy I am, especially with my project deadline coming up, but I will definitely be doing that post on Read-a-thons for you guys! In the meantime, the next post I’ll have for you will probably be my Top Ten Tuesday on yes, Tuesday, so look out for that!