More on Women's Friendship

Scientists tell us that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. Yippee! Someone finally gets it. But why is "hanging out with our friends" the last thing to happen in a busy week? And why does hanging out with friends feel exhausting sometimes?

This second musing on Women's Friendship will focus on obstacles to women's friendship. Let's start with a blog-paced recap of an incredible fairy tale of women: Cinderella.

Cinderella is a motherless daughter living with her stepmother and her two stepsisters. Cinderella is neglected by her father (perhaps his grief immobilizes him?) and is left to be unjustly treated by the brutish women of the house. Throughout the beautiful tale we watch as Cinderella toils. Ultimately, it is magic, a man, her beauty, character, and a strong connection to nature (remember, birds made her gown), that allow her to escape in spite of the shame, physical torment, and dark loneliness engulfing her.

We could talk about the symbols here, and whether the prince is for real, but I would prefer to focus on why it seems so unremarkable to us all that Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters despised her . This is the key to any good conversation about women's friendship.

Why is it so easy to capture the evil stepmother and stepsisters in short prose? Because they are culturally sanctioned archetypes of every woman's destructive side. Those awful beasts are actually alive within each of our own psyches ... and don't tell me you don't know what I mean ...

How common is it to see this dynamic play out in groups of women? Haven't you been on both sides of the table in your life at least a few times? How have you handled power, wealth, and competition? Have you brought young women along on your ride if you sensed they needed it? Or have you done only what helped you run "the business called you"? It is a private conversation but chances are that you have played Stepmother, Stepsister, and Cinderella in your life.

It is helpful to view the "stepmother" and "stepsisters" as aspects of ourselves that have become disconnected from nature and absorbed in artificial notions of power, money, and control. They manifest as competitive, unloving, spiteful, and harshly judgemental personality traits. What's more is that they are usually socially respectable on a level, so rendering them as "evil" gets a bit dicey because we don't want to live alone.

And as my daily toil beckons, I'll close with a reminder that Cinderella's second family was prominent and socially connected - that's a strong statement from the Brother's Grimm on outward success.


  1. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. Clearly, friendships help us survive. But it's true, too, that we sometimes turn against our friends (and potential friends) in order to get ahead. Are we unnecessarily competitive with other women? Or is this just part of our survival-of-the-fittest instinct? Can we change our ways, or is this just the nature of the beast?

  2. Hey, Lauren. Thanks so much for reading and posting. I wish I could say why but instead I'll just say that certain stages of a woman's life are more apt to bring out each of the aspects. Our job is to slowly integrate the aspects into a coherent whole, a loving and compassionate and accepting person who is minimally evil. This is old-fashioned stuff, but still provides a compass for "self" over time.