I’m a fan of lots of things (unbelievably unoriginal and absolutely awful alliteration, for example), but one of my favourite things in literature – and media in general – is a good depiction of female friendships.
There’s been a lot written recently about the subject of female friendships, and how absent they are in a lot of media. I’m currently watching series two Gotham, and none of the main female characters seem to have any friends at all (or any personality whatsoever, but that’s a subject for another blog). The same goes for Daredevil – does Karen do anything outside of her secretarial job/journalistic research? Does she meet up with anyone for coffee? Go to a yoga class? Skype with anyone, even?
Of course, the main male characters in popular series don’t tend to have tons of friends, either, but they do have a select few close buddies – while the women have no-one at all (which, I guess, is only to be expected, since their function in the story is often just to be an ambulatory sounding board/romantic option for the men in charge. Crappy character development, what’s that?)
But one area where female friendships flourish is children’s literature. Here are some of my favourite examples.
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, from Robin Stevens‘ Wells and Wong series
I’ve written before about my adoration of the Wells and Wong series, and one of the reasons I love it so much is the friendship between the two main characters. While the plots are beautifully escapist (in one book there is literally a murder on the Orient Express, everyone!), Hazel and Daisy’s relationship is utterly believable, with the squabbles, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and brilliant, electric rapport that make school friendships so special. Hazel and Daisy complement each other perfectly, with Daisy having the flashes of insight that blow their cases open, and Hazel providing the thoughtfulness and caution that actually gets the work done.
Evie, Amber and Lottie, from Holly Bourne‘s Spinster Club series
The Spinster Club series follows three girls in their last years at secondary school, and their adventures in life, love, friendship, and feminism. Evie, Amber and Lottie form the Spinster Club, where they discuss feminist issues and campaign against gender inequality on both big and small scales. Although their feminism isn’t 100% perfect (Lottie’s lipstick “warpaint” in What’s a Girl Gotta Do carried a lot of connotations of cultural appropriation akin to the hipster headdress, for example), this can sometimes add to the realism – no-one does feminism right all the time, and the girls learn and grow from their mistakes. What makes the series wonderful is how thoroughly that the three girls have each others’ backs. Whether the Spinster Club is supporting Evie through difficult periods caused by her OCD, or discussing recently broken hearts, they’re always there for each other, providing cheesy snacks and much-needed hugs. The Spinster Club is a perfect illustration of how deep, fulfilling, and downright necessary female friendships can be.
Kamala and Nakia, from G. Willow Wilson‘s Ms Marvel
Do I really need to add any explanation after this picture? While Kamala does fall into the usual superhero trap of “I will protect my loved ones by never telling them my superheroic identity!”, which threatens to damage her friendship with Nakia, the interactions between the two girls show exactly how much they mean to each other. Kamala and Nakia tease each other, squabble, and confide in each other (about everything except superheroics, anyway). Their friendship is honest and believable, and a perfect example of how, even in a world where teenagers can metamorphose and heal from gunshot wounds, realistic characters are key to making a good story.
Amal, Yasmeen and Leila, from Randa Abdel-Fattah‘s Does My Head Look Big In This?
It’s been a long time since I read Does My Head Look Big In This? (the story follows Amal and her decision to start wearing the hijab “full-time”), but as well as the wit, well-paced story and important points on the hypocrisy of Islamophobia, one thing that sticks in my mind from the story is the friendship between Amal and her two best friends from her Islamic junior high school, Yasmeen and Leila. Once again, the friendship in this book is a fantastic example of ‘girls having each others’ backs’ – the three friends support each other at every turn, whether they’re helping Amal figure out hijab-friendly outfits, or getting Leila through some difficult times with her family (no details because, spoilers).
Etta and Bianca, from Hannah Moskowitz‘s Not Otherwise Specified
Unlike the others in this list, Etta and Bianca’s friendship starts off as one of circumstance, more than choice – the two girls meet at an eating disorder support group, and initially, they couldn’t be more different. Etta is an older teen, black, bisexual, and on her way to recovery from her eating disorder; Bianca is very young, white, dealing with latent homophobia that she’s absorbed from her strictly religious family, and her anorexia has advanced to the point where it’s directly threatening her life. The two girls initially bond over their shared love of dance and music; they both want to go to stage school, and while Bianca supports Etta through her audition prep, Etta is there for Bianca during crisis points caused by her family and her medical condition. Their friendship, like the rest of the story, is beautifully drawn, and leaves you rooting for them both.