For Thanksgiving this year, I drove down to Cape Cod to spend some quality time with my mom’s side of the family. After a week of complaining about work, longing to go home, and gossiping about girl problems, I was glad to get off campus. Stuck in traffic mid afternoon on Wednesday, however, I realized that this year’s Thanksgiving was totally girl-heavy, as most of my male cousins, my brothers, and my uncles couldn’t make the trip this time around. Immediately, I began to panic that the low-key weekend I had hoped for would become an estrogen filled drama fiasco. It was not yet Winter Break—when we spend the holidays with my dad’s all-female side of the family—and I was not mentally prepared to play psychiatrist with a group of chronically agitated and insecure ladies. Leaving Bowdoin, I needed a real break. Pre-vacation stress (proportionally related to the amount of pre-vacation work assigned by holiday-hating professors) had set tensions into full-gear during the days and weeks leading up to Turkey Fest ’11. As usual, the consequent biting remarks, hurtful rumors, and terse exchanges left everyone unsatisfied.
This Thanksgiving break, I have spent a lot of time giving thanks for the great girlfriends I am so lucky to have. When I asked Laura Armstrong, female senior and a student director of the Women’s Resource Center, about the gossiping girls problem at Bowdoin and the strain “girl-bashing”—to use her term—puts on female friendships she said, “Bowdoin is a small school, and therefore many of us know each other and share common spaces on a daily basis. In many ways this is a great thing, but in others I fear that it generates a lot of pressure for women to compete and/or compare themselves in a non-productive way with each other. Competition can take many forms: socially, academically, what clothes we wear, if we date, if we hook up, who we do this with, if we do not do it at all, if and how we work out, what we eat… the list goes on. This may not be true in all or most cases, but often Bowdoin women compete for each other (rather than with other genders) in these categories, and even if we do not compete, it is hard to not at least compare.” She is right. Often at Bowdoin, the sense of competition—especially during stressful times like finals week and before vacations—can completely overwhelm friendships.
I was pleasantly surprised that my family’s Thanksgiving was totally drama-free, despite the abundance of women and teenage girls. While we could have criticized each other and brought up countless no-win conversation topics—usually resulting in tears—we all made a conscious decision to preserve the tradition of Thanksgiving, a time for pie and beers (not crying and tears). I am very grateful to have such wonderful female cousins and aunts, but although we’re family, we still need to make an effort to show our appreciation for one another and to keep criticism to ourselves. As friends and roommates, we should also do the same at school. Laura explained, “I fear that once ‘girl-bashing’ begins, it tends to snowball. Is it a way of making us feel better about ourselves? Even if you make a conscious effort not to do this, it is easy to slip up. We’re only human and sometimes we all need to complain to our good friends. But it is specifically within groups of good friends, or good girlfriends in particular, that we need to and can try to stop girl bashing, using other girls as scapegoats and holding them up to unfair standards.” At the end of the day, we should give thanks for our friends and give girl-bashing gossip a rest.