Actress Claire Danes is known for her complex female roles on screen; case in point, her brilliant turn as CIA agent Carrie Mathison in Homeland. But off screen, she used to deliberately avoid real-life female friendships due to a self-confessed “phobia.” For years, she says avoided any meaningful friendship connections with women, due to what she’d experienced and seen as a teenager: the lesser spoken about female “cliques.”
We all witnessed these as young, impressionable women in our school days; the division of girls into groups based on whether you were cool, popular, pretty or cruelly considered none of the above. Think Mean Girls hell. This kind of segregation can have a lasting effect, and in Dane’s case, she let her anxiety go on years. She went to a progressive school with few boundaries, which she says aided these feelings of mistrust.
“I think the kids compensated for [the lack of structure] by creating a really strong social structure. It was cliquey as eff, [and] that was hard for me. I would get targeted; I think because I was a little too myself, maybe? I don’t know, too expressive or something? I just retreated and became pretty isolated.”
She did overcome her worries and relished the women in her life and the energy change from that of male friendship. “There’s an energy shift when it’s all women. It feels so replenishing. I mean, I love men, obviously, but it feels really good. I think we do start talking a little differently. We’re allowed to say we have certain grievances, that we’ve had a hard time because we’re women. And it’s fun too.”
There can be a sense of shame, almost a betrayal when a woman comes out to say, that actually, ‘I just don’t gel with her’. Look at Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. Two women angrily pitted against each other – to a great extent by the media even before they fell out – as if it’s a mortal sin not to embrace every similarly-minded female in your life. Because why would you? In contrast, Swift is still criticised for going overboard with her “girl squad” (a term she didn’t come up with) with the view that close female bonding (to the haters) is something to cringe about.
You never really win either side of the argument but Dane’s comments at least hone in on that point, that you may not always have a girl squad in your life, and this is actually more than okay.