This special “Character Tuesday” post is dedicated to all the women out there. For all that I may be impressed by you or irked by you, I am happy that you have a personality, that you exist, that you are alive! Happy International Women’s Day!
In 2013, I went to a lecture in Buenos Aires by Marcela Lagarde. By the time my friend and I reached the feminist cultural center Tierra Violeta, the venue was already packed by women with piercings, tattoos, wearing leggings under jean skirts and keffiyehs. Whenever I think of activism in Buenos Aires, I will always imagine women with these characteristics.
I don’t remember too much of lecture in itself. But what I will never forget is what Lagarde answered to a woman during the Q&A. A woman raised her hand and asked Lagarde what she thought was the most important thing for women to do. Her answer? She believes that what is lacking is sororidad, or solidarity among females. Female friendship. Female support.
And I will never forget how much hearing this impacted me. Her words ring in my ears when I find myself slowly judging what a girl is wearing. Or if I curse a girl for being more “successful” than me. Or if become jealous when a girl is getting male attention. I remember what Lagarde said and know that, there is no reason to put a barrier between myself and another woman. Simone de Beauvoir made a similar argument in 1947: “But the oppressor would not be so strong if he did not have accomplices among the oppressed themselves.”
I do not wish to be an accomplice of the oppressor.
International Women’s Day should highlight the plight women face around the world. It should first and foremost recognize the strength of women, but also make visible the forces working against us and inhibiting us from making advances in our public and personal lives. While I usually feel most passionate about violence prevention, menstruation, body image and female beauty standards, today I celebrate my female friendships. Which, as you’ll read, I am clearly passionate about as well.
I have two sisters, both of whom I consider, besides sisters, to be intimate friends that mean the world to me. Beyond my blood sisters, each one of my female friendships serves a purpose in my life. With each one of my closest female friends, the moment we met we had an instant connection. The giddy, excited feeling I had about being their friend is probably how most heterosexual girls feel when they meet a guy they’re interested in. (I’ve never really felt this, or at least about someone other than the check out guy or the guy whose house I had to go knocking on for charity. Those are isolated cases in which it’s very rare it would work out.) We met in unlikely situations, often rare that a deep friendship would ensue from a library run-in or group Facebook message.
I’ve never been the girl that says “I prefer to hang out with guys. They’re so much less drama” (I’m not shaming “that girl” in any way, by the way!). I of course had drama, as do we all. But I love being friends with girls. I love being constantly surrounded by girls, inspired by girls and laughing with girls. I find so much comfort in sharing my pain and vulnerabilities with other girls. I love girls so much that I often wonder how I can ever make a genuine connection with a heterosexual man (because all men are obviously the same, you know…).
This is my life. My best female friends are always a text, Whatsapp or Facebook message away from always being there for me. My virtual friendships sustain me through every emotion possible. Sometimes after having a good catch-up with them, I feel like I can conquer the world.
Then, there’s the reality of my experience traveling:
There is the issue of small quantity of girls, and the fact that I’ve not made many instant connections with girls I’ve met traveling. Even though it now feels like every girl you went to high school with just quit her job to travel the world, backpacking is still a very male-dominated phenomenon. Last Character Tuesday, I wrote about the hilarious personalities of Southeast Asia. There was only one female on the list. And she wasn’t a fellow traveler, she was a local. But still, this shows how little contact we have with both female travelers and female locals. Knowing this, perhaps that’s why my experience at a Moroccan hammam was one of the most powerful of my life. It was one of the only spaces I’ve ever felt so close to other women. Perhaps that’s why I feel so connected to Argentina; I spent much time surrounded by female activists, including one unforgettable 36 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Posadas. That’s a lot of girl time.
How is it that I can be so energized by other women and feel so complete from my female friendships, but miss out completely from forming female bonds while traveling? Is it a rare jealousy- as in “I’m the special girl?” Is it some subconscious comparisons we are making? Is it because they don’t give me the same attention as a male would? I aim to be more aware of this, and find out why. And, I might add, find out why without blaming the other (as in “she wasn’t very friendly,” or “she didn’t invite me somewhere”) International Women’s Day: Criticize the oppressors, celebrate the achievements.
We -all women, not just women travelers- have to stick together and support one another. Didn’t our obsession with Mean Girls teach us anything? It’s easy to step back and not stand up for someone when you have no connection to them.
Just like buying pink loofah for your mom on International Women’s Day seems trivial, it may seem ridiculous for a privileged traveler to discuss female solidarity when there are child marriages, femicides and forced sterilizations. There is constant violence and systematic injustices women face on a daily basis. But at a closer look, maybe we can be activists in our daily interactions without being overwhelmed by the macro issues (similar to the concept of “Redefining Helping Others“).
Featured photo: My sister and Vina of Gioan Cookery School. We’re lucky to have met that firecracker of a lady!
Missed last year’s International Women’s Day post? Check it out here.
If you want to read more about female friendship, I was completely inspired by Lenny’s special Valentine’s Day newsletter.