Modern Love: Female Friendships in A New Day

It hit me with tsunami force: a wave of remembrance and longing, as deep as a craving, for the comfort of a particular female friend. In my mind, she could break the drudgery of my day by steeping a pot of tea, offering a smile and a warm scone. These are not simple free associations, but activities we shared often when we lived around the corner from each other. Both entrepreneurs, our youngest children the same age, we had many things in common. I don’t need to use the past tense, and yet I do. Since I moved 64 miles and an entire stretch of ocean away from her, our time together is either abbreviated – the 2 hours before my ferry leaves to return home after a work trip – or digital. There is always a sense of loss in this communion now.

Female friendships are powerful forces we too often take for granted in the hustle of our everyday lives. In “What Women Find in Friends That They May Not Get From Love” writer Rebecca Traister calls her female friendships “replenishing.” It is a “fill-my-cup” kind of nurturance that is unlike romantic love. She goes on, “Female friendships are not a consolation prize, some romance also-ran. Women who find affinity with one another are not settling. In fact, they might be doing the opposite, finding something vital that is lacking in their romantic entanglements…” (Source).

I believe female friendships to be vital currents through which we re-define the very nature of love and community, as well as ourselves. In communicating with another woman, in sharing pieces of your life and emotions, you learn not only about her, but about yourself, the world and your place in it. Further, female friendships are the glue of society. When this kind of bonding was the norm in cultures, women came together in the name of strengthening civic and familial ties. Think church groups and fundraising circles, communal baking and childrearing.

And yet in the backdrop of all female friendships is the cultural dark side that casts woman-to-woman connection as some kind of sinister practice – plotting against the patriarchy, a male fantasy lesbian love scene. Emily Rapp writes in “Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship”, “people diminish and poo-poo the real power and strength of female friendship … which is either supposed to descend into some kind of male lesbian love scene porn fantasy or be dismissed as meaningless or be re-written as a story of competition. Here’s the truth: friendships between women are often the deepest and most profound love stories, but they are often discussed as if they are ancillary, “bonus” relationships to the truly important ones, Women’s friendships outlast jobs, parents, husbands, boyfriends, lovers and sometimes children.” (Source).

Research also shows that friendships, for both men and women, reduce stress. Women, however, are more likely to seek companionship as a stress response. This “tend and befriend” response has been well-documented in the research by Shelley E. Taylor. She writes, “…women more reliably turn to their social contacts in times of stress, responses that are, as just noted, protective of health and longevity. The fact that men may be somewhat more likely to cope with stress via fight or flight and women to cope with stress via tend and befriend may help to explain the world-wide gender gap in mortality.” Her theory is fascinating, and seems to be upheld in real-life examples of men and women demonstrating different responses to stress. She cites the Soviet Union in 1989, when the social environment of Eastern Europe left many people unattached. Women often came together during this time in informal groups to share the daily management of tasks. Men were more likely to seek substances and aggressive encounters with other men. (Source.)

Today feels like an apt time to discuss the power of women coming together to heal, soothe and strengthen. Women in the United States of America are organizing to march on Washington and many people here in our own country of Canada are planning to do the same in solidarity. Memes are popping up around the internet expressing with seriousness and humour the desire to take over the patriarchy.

There is in this revolution then the very foundational need for women’s friendships. On one level, women coming together provides the mass and the message needed to leave an impact. On another level, the finding of intimate spaces for women to lift each other up, nurture and strengthen provides the individual impact we all need in order to live full, rich lives that include achievement of our highest potential.

If friendships have dangled when life has evolved alongside your role within it, now is the best time to pick up the phone, send a text or write an email. Making a step toward contact, repair, rejuvenation and yes replenishing the well of female love is the way forward right now. For each of us.

Storytelling Challenge – December

News Release

For Immediate Release

December 1, 2016

Contact: Karen Bannister and Taslim Jaffer

Her Story

250-616-3444 | karen@herstorymedia.ca

Storytelling Challenge Gives Voice to Women’s Experiences

From December 1 to January 15th, women across Canada are invited to interview another woman-identified individual in their life, and to share the story told in this exchange on their blog or Facebook page. The movement is to create more stories about the lived experiences of Canadian women, and to encourage bonding over the holiday season.

The challenge comes from two storytellers, Karen Bannister and Taslim Jaffer of Her Story, a magazine and podcast launching in 2017 to tell the stories of Canadian women and raise awareness for women’s rights and social concerns.

According to Karen and Taslim, “Sharing and telling stories makes all the difference in the world when we are trying to bridge gaps between people. Storytelling creates a shared space between speaker and audience where reflections of ourselves can be found in the other party. What happens when we find ourselves in someone else? Their story becomes our story, their pain becomes our pain, their joy becomes our joy; the separation between us diminishes. This is the basis for Her Story, and it is a community effort.”  

If you would like to participate in this challenge, you can interview another woman and record her story in video, audio or print format. You are asked to post your story to a blog or Facebook page by January 15, 2017. Please tag #HerStoryMedia to encourage sharing. Every storyteller will be entered into a draw to win 1 ticket to the Her Story launch event happening in Vancouver in March, 2017. For more information visit HerStoryOurStory.com

Here are some story-starters for you to choose from, but feel free to use your own ideas, too:

1. What is a favourite childhood memory?

2. What message do you have for a woman 10 years younger than you?

3. What was your favourite thing to do when you were between 10 and 12 years old?

4. How do you remember your mom?

5. What would make you laugh out loud today?

About Her Story:  

Her Story is a platform for sharing the lived experiences of Canadian women who have faced marginalization or injustice. We create awareness for important social issues through media campaigns and through our own media platforms: Her Story, Our Story magazine and Her Story podcast. We use the power of story to empower and incite other women to stand up, join together and be bold and brave in asking for what we need.


Why Her Story, Why Now

“There’s nothing to see here, folks.” says the man as he lightly pushes people behind the yellow tape, drawing his own shoulders back in an untamed display of authority and cautionary aggression.

We huddle, only half-hearing his warning, unable to tear our eyes from the wreckage in front of us. We are a sudden community of onlookers, all with an innate desire to bear witness, pulled as we are to acknowledge suffering and then wonder aloud, “What can I do to help?”

I have no specific story to attach this scene to, though you might imagine me at the side of the road watching with horror as lives are changed instantaneously. You might imagine me walking in chain formation through thick fields of grass and weeds that crunch and split beneath my feet earnest and hopeful as I search the ground, calling the name of a child lost quietly, violently only days before. You might imagine me huddled with a friend in the lobby of a police station, as she uses my sleeve to dry the flood of tears that can’t be dammed since he tore inside of her. You might imagine me drawing the curtains around a woman who wails for God to take her too; there’s too much pain left in the wake of her child’s death.

We cannot turn away. We cannot shelter our eyes and our hearts to what is happening in our communities, around the world, in the homes of friends, neighbours, loved ones maybe even our own.

There is a lot to see here, a lot that others may not want you to see. But our innate desire to observe is linked with our innate desire to stretch our arms around the wounded to shelter with love, kindness, understanding and community. It is our innate desire, that must be tapped like a wellspring and channelled into marches and movements that send clear messages to the lawmakers who have the power to stop and protect: we aren’t going to take this anymore.

We must first bear witness.

We must second take action.

When the idea of Her Story first came to me – as a strong desire to tell the stories of women – I became enamored with the following African Proverb:

Until the Story of the hunt is told by the Lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

The master narrative which glorifies is told by the white man.

I thought at first I wanted to travel the world and find the untold stories of women: in the hovels of Egypt, war-torn villages of Afghanistan, the laneways of Haiti. Then I realized, these stories – the lived experiences of women living with tremendous injustice and emotional pain – are right here in my own backyard.


We are a progressive country with national health care, a self-declared Feminist Prime Minister, warm examples of an inclusive immigration policy and a first world economy.

1 in 7 Canadians live in poverty.

Women who work in Canada earn about $0.72 per every dollar earned by a man.

1 in 3 women will experience some sort of sexual violence in her lifetime.

There are currently 582 cases of murdered or missing Aboriginal women in Canada.

We have communities living in our country’s borders without adequate clean water.

Death by suicide amongst aboriginal teens in Canada is 5-6x higher than it is amongst non-aboriginal youths.

Look beyond the statistics: there are real stories standing behind you in the grocery store line, they are collecting their children from the same playground you stand beside after school. These co-workers and school parents, teachers and friends of friends their eyelids hide tales of prosecution, persecution, discrimination, and suffering. And when I started looking for these stories right here in my own community, I was painfully startled by how easy they were to find. I only needed to become aware. I only needed to stop and listen.

Taslim and I began to speak about our shared passion for storytelling, women’s issues and social change. She told me something beautiful. She loves to write and she’s good at bringing her own story to paper. What she wants now is to listen.

I am ready to listen too.

And I am ready, as I hope you are too, to not just huddle, to bear witness to the wreckage but to bear the weight of responsibility too. It is up to me. It is up to you. It is up to us all to create the world we want to live in.

This is where I start: Her Story, Our Story magazine and podcast dedicates itself 4x annually to telling the stories and exploring the issues that matter to Canadian women. We give ourselves over as captains of a ship sailing social media campaigns that raise awareness and shine the spotlight on the good work of social service agencies fighting for a difference. Hope you join us.