Passionate, intense, and yet light-hearted and airy, the sisterhood is as dramatically embedded in our DNA as the bro code.
For this Women’s Day, let’s take stock of our girlfriends. How many women do we, irrespective of our own gender, know? In our personal and professional spheres, counting backwards to kindergarten, there is a long serpentine queue of absolutely wonderful, unforgettable women till the eye can see.
For boys, gay or not, these are women special for their warmth and wisdom, for their very presence, for just being there. For girls, the bonding is perhaps more urgent and immediate, mostly platonic though romances are rife among them too, and most often lifelong.
For the average heterosexual Eve, the sorority is what helps her through the hiccups in life. There is no aspect - as she makes her largely preordained and somewhat biological way through the years, with childbirth and one-way relationships and inner empowerment painfully engineered – where she doesn’t come into contact with other women. Women are everywhere. Not counting the functional women in your life, like mom and nurse and airhostess and the clerk who hands you the cinema ticket, a large number of them are there purely for talking to and walking with.
From Dead to Me to Unbelievable, Netflix keeps us hypnotised with fiction and nonfiction on the subject of female friendships. No one dares to call it chick flicks anymore. Not since that last scene in Thelma and Louise, when liberation and death are all rolled into one moment of despair and enlightenment. Over the cliff they go, these two smart lively women, to escape us, a world of boorish men and macho rules. Who can blame them? Certainly not the women in the audience who were so moved they forgot to clap.
The power of sisterhood
Between women the going is as complicated and layered as it is in any human ties; but it is the emotional element that keeps it all going. Passionate, intense, and yet light-hearted and airy, the sisterhood is as dramatically embedded in our DNA as the bro code. And dare we say, superior to all that testosterone-driven boozy yakking between men. They have to escape nothing – only high-five each other and backslap. Women are into a more intuitive teaming, where they recognise a certain burden without it being spoken, nuances that come with the territory. The ensuing resonances are imbued with the wonder of sharing.
Which is why mansplaining is an endearing habit only men have. Women start with presuming other women know. The emotional architecture of Shaheen Bagh points to that, a movement that’s taken everyone by surprise with its texture of togetherness. Women for women.
For people like me, born without blood sisters, friends are all the female siblings we get. We may call each other bro and dude, but the handholding that keeps us going from one day to the next is as rooted in the sameness of gender as it is in the comfort levels thereof.
As Fay Weldon makes it clear in her 1971 novel Down Among the Women, low is no place for women, whether homemaker or working woman. Up is where the new address is for our sex – together on the top.Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.