On Female Friendship and Solidarity: Why You Don’t Need a “Pick-Me” Friend
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse
It’s 10 pm. I’m doing my usual bedtime reading just before my eyes get heavy and my hands get light enough to drop the book without me even noticing that I did. I’m drawn into the story of Carole, the fourth character in Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. A few pages in and an involuntary “Oh my God!” glides off my lips, causing my heart to stop for a split second. It’s the second time I’m reading this chapter. Yet, I can’t seem to get over the horror of what happened to her. A chill breeze walks through my spines as I flip the book open to the next page. Silence — It’s what I feel deep inside me in this night devoid of moonlight and stars, filtering out the sound of the stridulating crickets behind my bedroom window. For a moment, I forget that it’s fiction — which in most cases, is a vivid description of reality — and it feels as though Carole is me.
13-year-old Carole is gang-raped at her friend’s birthday party and she keeps it to herself because she doesn’t feel safe telling anyone about it — not her mum, and not her friends — because once when it happened to a girl called Sheryl, everyone (including Carole’s friends) said it was Sheryl’s fault for wearing slutty clothes. This sent shivers down my spines. It was like a light-bulb moment; something I’d always known existed in the world of girls and women but was hidden somewhere in my subconscious.
“Is it about the money?” I’d asked a young lady a few months back; days after we spoke about her wanting to get a contract signed before getting married.
“No, It’s not,” she said into the phone “I’m just not comfortable with the whole thing anymore. Everyone seems to be advising me against it. They say it’ll scare him away.”
“No. It won’t” I assured her. “If he loves and respects you, he’ll agree to sign the papers”
“Well, that’s not how it feels” She replied, a hint of resignation in her voice “Besides, my friends have warned me. I’ll have no one to turn to if this whole thing goes wrong…… I pray everything goes fine. As long as I’m good to him, everything will be fine.”
I dropped the phone and sat down looking into nothing. What the hell was going on? Who are the women in her life? These women would not only turn their backs on her if the idea of a marriage contract backfires. They’ll do so if anything ….. anything at all, goes wrong in her relationship with men.
Women Policing Women: Fanning the Flames of Misogyny
Carole’s experience in Bernadine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other” is symbolic of the reality of a lot of women and girls who silently go through gender-based violence because the women in their lives don’t deem it fit to stand together to solidify one another’s struggles; because of the lack of a true sense of sisterhood within some so-called female circles and because the word “we” is quite elusive in women’s communities.
There are women out there who would rather see you sink than hold the other gender accountable; women who would ask you to apologise to your abusive partner even while you fight for your life; women who would throw you under the bus just to be labelled “the good woman”. These women tell you that “love and light” only come to you when you hand over your entire life to men.
Of course, there are genuine female friendships; lots of them — ones where women stand up for each other and have one another’s backs regardless of the situation. But this doesn’t erase the fact that there are still lots of women out there who pass judgement on other women and make them the enemy; women who would neither stand up for you nor stand behind you when the person at the opposite end is a male. In reality, this is deeper than a simple desire for affirmation from men — It’s internalised misogyny! In a world where women are not safe from men, what you do not need is a friend who is a “pick me”.
“Men cheat! Grow up and get over it.”
“Why won’t you get raped? You’re dressed in slutty clothes.”
“If your man buys food from online restaurants, you’ve failed as a woman.”
Does this sound like your friend? If it does, your friend is what the Urban Dictionary calls a “pick-me”. According to The Urban Dictionary, a Pick-Me is a “person who begs for the attention, acceptance and approval of a certain group in different things they do and say. In most cases, it’s to attain the commendation and approval of the opposite sex.”
“Pick-Me(s)” are women who have conditioned themselves to internalize misogyny, modelling their conduct to fit into the narratives of a sexist society. She tries to differentiate herself from other women to make herself appear more attractive to other men.
It is the idea of a woman wanting to raise her head above a sea full of other women and cry for the approval of men with her body and soul calling out “Here I am, pick me!”. She doesn’t hesitate to bring down women who go against the constructs of a patriarchal society, erected purposefully to keep women down. She’s that woman on twitter who jumps into a thread with men degrading women and agrees with everything they say. Her words and actions are carefully chosen to send one simple message; “I’m not like other women” and if she’s unmarried, which she is in most cases, she sends out the signal “I deserve to be ‘wifed’”. She thinks that by downing other women she strategically increases her chances of winning, placing herself at the forefront of the contest to marriage and partnership. She has sacrificed her self-worth and dignity on the altar of wanting to be picked, kicking out liberation and facilitating her subjugation.
How often has your friend bragged about all the sacrifices she makes in her relationship while questioning how you could allow yourself to be so lax in your relationship “duties”. How often does she shame you; centering your identity around your ability to please a man? Nothing is a stronger red flag than listening to your friend say all these nasty things.
The Pick-Me is driven by the wheels of misogyny — the idea that women have to be subservient to men and tolerate all forms of cheating and abuse. And what happens when such women end up rejected and not being picked? They continue to lash out at women who don’t conform: the whores and sluts, and the women who raise their standards. Wherever she is, and whether or not she ends up being picked, her job is to ensure that traditional, misogynistic gender roles always end up punishing women — and you, her friend, are not an exception.
Having a Pick-Me as a friend is like having no friend at all. Because the last time I checked, a friend is defined as someone loyal to you; someone who has your back and is always on your side; someone who stands up for you when others try to hurt you emotionally or physically, doing everything she can to make sure you feel safe. She is someone you can always run to when the chips are down. She is faithful and committed to you! Now, you need to ask yourself; where does your “pick-me” friend fit in all of these?
“The term “good girl” is a reward slapped onto women who do not pose a threat to the status quo. If it makes you feel nice to be called a “good girl”, I want you to sit down and think hard. The women who stood up and voted when it was illegal for them to do so, when it was a “sin” for them to vote, were not “good girls”. They were the bad girls. The women who ran in marathons disguised as men when women were an abomination to sports, were not “good girls”. They were the bad girls. The first female pilot, the first female engineer, the first ever woman who wore red lipstick. All bad girls. Sit down and think hard. If you want to receive rewards from people for falling into their lines, then move out of the way for the women who blaze paths that you will one day walk on.”
― C. JoyBell C.