Why Seeing Women Supporting Women in the Media is Important

Growing up, many of the shows I watched always had the main character and then the “mean girl” character. From Gossip Girl to Lizzie McGuire to Hannah Montana, this pattern can be seen in the classic television shows of my youth. It was the norm to see women attacking, competing and making fun of each other. I didn’t realize how ingrained it was in me to view women being pitted against each other in the media as normal. As I started to get older, I began to watch more modern TV shows and movies, which showed women supporting women instead of trying to tear each other down. Not only is it refreshing to see women encouraging each other in the media, but it’s also eye-opening to realize how the portrayal of negative female relationships can impact us. Here are some of the implications of being inundated with negative and competitive representations of female friendships in the media.

The harm of young girls seeing women tearing each other down

When I saw TV women constantly in competition over school, jobs, boys and pretty much everything else, I felt like women could not succeed at the same time. Instead, there could only be one at the top or in a position of success. It’s already so hard for women to succeed. To feel like we not only have to fight against men for positions of power and respect but also against other women can be isolating. It can be harmful, especially to young girls, to feel like you can only be best friends or enemies with other women. This is very common in TV shows and movies. Rather than showing women in competition, such as in shows like The Morning Show, it would be inspiring to instead show women being mentors for one another and each others’ guides in the professional field. The goal should not be to push other women down to raise ourselves up. Ideally, women should all have the opportunity to succeed separate from how many other women have achieved success in that same field.

Shows that demonstrate strong female friendships

I recently watched a new show on Netflix called Firefly Lane. Without giving too much away, the show centers around the friendship between two women that starts when they meet in the 1970s and follows them into the early 2000s. However, the dynamic between these two women can be toxic at times, and their friendship does have its problems. I thought at one point while watching the show they were going to end their friendship over a man. For me, it was disappointing to think the show was going to end a decades long friendship over a man. But it didn’t, and it was refreshing to see two women value their friendship over a possible romantic relationship.

Another classic show and fan favorite that shows women supporting one another is Friends. The girls on the show tend to support and be there for one another instead of treating each other as competition. Seeing this positive representation of female friendships in the media shows us it’s possible for girls to be supportive of one another and succeed without having to push one another down.

The positive impact seeing women supporting women can have

If I had grown up watching more positive and healthy female friendships in the media, I wonder how it would have affected the way I view myself and the world around me. I would never try to tear another woman down, but sometimes, I can be cautious about others’ intentions toward me because of the shows and movies I grew up watching. Seeing women supporting women now has helped to counteract some of the negative impacts shows from my youth had on me. With movements like #MeToo, we also started to see women, and people in general, standing up beside survivors of abuse and showing support for them in the media. In recent years, it has started to feel like women can be open and feel supported by other women, instead of feeling like they will be shunned and torn down. If it becomes the norm to see women supporting one another instead of fighting over petty things, I think it will create a culture of understanding and consideration.

Although I still love the shows I used to watch as a child, as I’ve gotten older, I can acknowledge the problematic female friendships they showcase. There has to be a change in the media to help spur a further change in our society in the way women interact with one another. As time has passed, there has been more of a positive representation of women in the media where women are shown as successful in their careers and self-fulfilled. As a young girl, I know it would have made me happy to see positive female interactions instead of seeing women attack and betray one another.