ALISA SANTIKARN

From Gossip Girl’s Serena and Blair to the endless alleged celebrity frenemies and feuds, female friendships in the media are rarely portrayed as simply supportive, empowering and healthy. They’re full of jealousy, comparison and resentment and, in most cases, it’s the women involved that are blamed for it – they’re catty and spiteful, instead of being the product of the long history of pitting women against each other in every context.

We’re taught from an early age to compare ourselves to other girls instead of embracing our different strengths and weaknesses. In an environment like Cambridge, where being ambitious and competitive is encouraged and often expected, it might be easy to fall into that pattern, but over the past one and a half years, the female friendships I’ve experienced in Cambridge have been some of the most healthy, nurturing and supportive I’ve ever had.

I’ve found my friendships in Cambridge to be compassionate and encouraging 

How happy I am in Cambridge is in large parts due to the positive and empowering friendships I have been able to form with strong and confident women who inspire me every single day. From getting each other through work crises with food and coffee to celebrating each other’s (academic and personal) achievements together, I’ve found my friendships in Cambridge to be compassionate and encouraging, not competitive or spiteful.

In theory, a lot of Cambridge friendships could be prone to competition and comparisons simply due to the situations we are put in such as having supervisions together or doing similar extracurriculars. However, I’ve found discussing essays before supervisions or working on extracurriculars together to not just be an opportunity to spend time together in the hecticness of Cambridge termtime – where everyone is busy at all times – but also as a way of deepening friendships and being able to grow closer.

It’s easy to feel intimidated because everyone in Cambridge seems to be doing so many impressive things all the time – whether its vacation scheme applications, endless committee positions or academic successes. What I’ve appreciated most in my friendships is the point you reach when your friends are willing to let you see past that facade – celebrating each other’s hard work but also opening up when things aren’t going well. I’ve found the unique experience of the whirlwind that is a Cambridge term to be incredibly valuable in forming deep bonds that rest on mutual understanding when it comes to essay crises, work piling up or week five blues.

Sophie Weinmann

Most self-help books or advice columns will tell you that you can’t love someone until you love yourself first – we attribute that to romantic relationships because that is what we understand love to mean predominantly. But the way I see it, a lot of healthy (female) friendships depend very much on being at peace with oneself and one’s flaws – it’s insecurities and self-consciousness that give rise to jealousy and envy in friendships.

Going back to the image of catty and superficial female friendships, often the reasons women are pitted against each other or portrayed as envious and jealous are centred around men and the heteronormative and mononormative understanding of love. Similar to the idea of superficial or unhealthy female friendships, the need for a romantic relationship is put into our minds early on. When it comes to building an emotional connection with someone, with assurance and support, and having someone you can completely rely on and trust, we are taught to seek out romantic relationships. However, in reality, which of those things are we unable to find in platonic relationships?

Often, we spend so much time thinking about romantic relationships that we forget the value of platonic ones. Emotionally, aren’t they just as fulfilling? We feel the need to distinguish between romantic and platonic relationships when, in reality, they’re fundamentally both about building emotional connections. In many ways, friendships are less restrictive and put less pressure on us than the traditional idea of exclusive romantic relationships. The idea of monogamous romantic love creates the expectation that we need to have one person to lean on in all situations and contexts, whereas platonic relationships leave room for varying interests and different types of friendships.


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Mountain View

From Auckland to Cambridge

Why is it that we allow for these different needs to be expressed in different relationships when it comes to friendships, but we perpetuate the mononormative idea that we need to find “the one” in a romantic context? Personally, it is my female friendships that I have found most fulfilling in my time at Cambridge – fundamentally they haven’t just brought me my happiest moments, they’ve also gotten me through my lowest points, and I wouldn’t want to swap them for anything.

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