There’s Nothing Else Like Women's Friendship


by Steph Hebdon

I used to frequently hear myself proclaiming: ‘I just seem to get along better with guys!’ To an extent, it was true; ever since I denounced dresses aged eight and assigned myself the role of local tomboy, I felt somewhat excluded from the close relationships formed within the realms of my own gender. I felt like an outsider; a geek; an imposter. 

It was as if everyone knew a secret that I had not been privy to, and I adopted the fateful proclamation as a form of defence; deciding, as I’m sure many women have done before me, that I just didn’t really understand other girls. Or rather, they didn’t seem to understand me. It was not that I didn’t have some girl friends, because I did – it was more that girls in general could be downright terrifying. What if they didn’t like me? What if they laughed at me behind my back for the turtle costume my mum had spent hours labouring over? What if, horror of all horrors; they didn’t like my new trainers? 

It was only with maturity that I realised my oddness had more to do with pre-teen awkwardness than it did ostracism from my own gender; and I have never been so relieved to be proven wrong. 

It’s gut feeling. It’s the stab in your stomach that prompts you to look up in nervous pre-emption of your friend’s tears. The gentle hands guiding you to the toilets before you even realise you’re feeling nauseous. 


Because, however you phrase it, and however cynical you may be, it remains that there’s something exceptional about the friendship shared between two women. Something distinctive. Anyone who has found themselves borrowing lipstick in the girl’s bathroom at 2am is aware of its irrefutable existence. It’s comparable to a piece of music continually playing in your head - impossible to describe, difficult to name, but absolutely, and inescapably present. It’s gut feeling. It’s the stab in your stomach that prompts you to look up in nervous pre-emption of your friend’s tears. The gentle hands guiding you to the toilets before you even realise you’re feeling nauseous. The reassuring glance exchanged between women walking home alone, keys between our fingers. 

As women and girls: our relations with one another are different, and with recent online trends leaning toward the celebration of anything and everything ‘femme’; this is something we are reminded of almost daily. Young women are the “power users of social networking” and as a result, we are endlessly surrounded by women-centric phrases and slogans of support. Every day we are encouraged to support one another, lift each other up, protect our own. Women’s friendship is a force to be reckoned with. 

Within this kind of friendship lies empowerment. It is evident whether your lived experience as a woman is due to your identification as is a cisgender female, a self-identifying woman or a trans woman. It is applicable with friends you’ve had for twenty years, twenty minutes or even with the nice lady you ask to watch your bag while you run to the counter and grab a coffee. We are indelibly joined in the understanding of what it means to identify as a woman, and the awareness of both the positives and negatives that this brings. I truly believe that the women in my life are some of the most astonishing humans on the planet, and I am infinitely thankful for their presence.

Women are incredible. Both in their external achievements, and the way we support each other; influence each other. Even the way we challenge each other. I know that each and every woman in my life has been, in varying degrees, responsible for making me who I am, and who I will grow to be. They inspire me, support me, and provide the safe spaces from which I am able to progress, make changes, and grow. 

One friend, who I’ve known more or less my whole life, displays such insurmountable kindness and compassion that it still astonishes me some twenty years after we first met. She was there when I had few others, and has been responsible for the letters and flowers that landed on my doorstep at just the right time, adding a little light to my very worst days. 

The things I admire in other women are largely the attributes I aspire to myself. But this is something to be celebrated. We can learn from each other; look after each other, and be proud of achievements that are wider than our own.


Another is, in many ways, my absolute opposite - but we balance each other out; and I am continually both in awe of her ambition and drive, and grateful for the way she pushes me constantly to embrace more of her trademark spontaneity. She acts as my confidence on the days I have none; and ferociously supports absolutely everything I do. I genuinely think she has both shared and cried over every single word I’ve written, and so many of my achievements have been possible because she coaxed me into them in the first place. 

I have a friend who speaks languages fluently and effortlessly, and who never seems to stop challenging herself. I have a friend who works 12 hours a day in the largely male-dominated world of Law, and lives to tell the tale. I have friends who use all their spare time and energy on their artistic pursuits, simply for the love of creation. I have friends who are pragmatic, self assured, and endlessly thoughtful. One friend recently left her job, went away for a month and came back to a pay-rise; a display of such profound fearlessness that it had me cheering from the side-lines. Some of them possess a work ethic I can only aspire to, and others have lived through such challenging circumstances that I struggle to comprehend how they not only function day to day; but do so with a level of compassion and integrity that I will never stop admiring. 

There are also the women I write alongside for Aurelia. Women who produce work that is at once intelligent and poetic, and who are wholly unapologetic in their employment of the unique voices and experiences they have been given.

There’s my mum, who has always, without fail, fought for me – often when there was no one else. There’s my sister, who is undeniably headstrong - and in the best way. There’s the sixth form English teacher who introduced me to feminism, and fuelled my ardent love of words. My housemate, who is hands down the most empathetic and insightful person I know, and who channels almost everything she learns into creating incredible music.

There are my colleagues, who I have watched gain confidence, support each other, and care for each other in a way which feels far more familial than professional. And there’s everyone else. The mutual follows on social media. The women whose words I read, or art I consume. The women I meet in bathrooms. Incredible women surround us inescapably. They are brave, creative, and sensitive all at once, and I am willingly susceptible to the influence of every single one. 

We understand each other. We empathise. We have been the subject of the same derision, and the same degradation. When together we allow ourselves to be ambitious, to be driven.


We are all different. The things I admire in other women are largely the attributes I aspire to myself. But this is something to be celebrated. We can learn from each other; look after each other, and be proud of achievements that are wider than our own. There’s something so enriching about being surrounded by women who are bold, passionate and determined to absolutely always ask for more. Moreover, there’s something about being around women who are simultaneously different and the same. Because they encourage us to be more than ourselves. 

Every woman is, in her own way, indescribably powerful. But when we work together, alongside each other, in harmony; we are even stronger.

There is something uniquely uplifting about watching other women succeed. We understand each other. We empathise. We have been the subject of the same derision, and the same degradation. When together we allow ourselves to be ambitious, to be driven; we begin to learn that each and every one of us is deserving of more space than we are typically given.

The greatest realisation is one that comes with the belief that other women are not intimidating, but inspiring. They are fighting against the same pressures, the same expectations, and the same worries that keep every single one of us awake at night. And within this coalition, there is power. Because, in a world that can be terrifying, suffocating, and overbearingly patriarchal – the greatest strength we have is each other.