Theirs is a story of friendship despite the odds. Proving that women can indeed lift one another up and be better for it. Anita Ramaswamay and Annie Mazzarella have shared experiences throughout their lives, the 2016 campaign season, and the women’s march, reminding us of the importance of female friendship in the larger context of the women’s movement. It is, in fact, a sisterhood.
Anita, on her friendship with Annie:
Annie and I have been thrown together in competitive environments that can often pit women against one another, even if not intentionally. We became friends through our shared experiences competing in Speech and Debate in Arizona, which can sometimes get pretty heated, but we chose to support each other through these trials rather than giving in to the pressure of competition. But it’s not just the Speech and Debate community that posed challenges to our strong female friendship. Societally, female friendships often take a backseat to the prevalent media narrative that pressures young women into “finding a man.” Stereotypes of girls as catty and dramatic don’t help either, and the internalized misogyny girls can absorb from these stereotypes can sometimes be strong enough to damage friendships.
Annie and I enrich each other’s lives in a way that I truly feel is unique.
Through every obstacle, Annie and I have emerged stronger, and I attribute much of this to the fact that we are constantly learning from each other. We’ve informed each other’s activism through our political discussions. Annie’s fervent support of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy helped shape my political, and personal, views throughout this brutal election cycle. And, on an everyday level, whether it’s through sharing self-care strategies, sending each other reassuring messages, or exchanging interesting articles via text, Annie and I are always enriching each other’s lives in a way that I truly feel is unique to strong female friendships. Gender inequality affects us every single day, some days more subtly than others, and keeping up the fight can get exhausting. Annie and I remind each other to stay strong in our activism and our solidarity, even when we are overwhelmed. Throughout the campaign season, we’ve grown both as friends and as advocates, and realized that we are truly stronger together.
Annie, on her friendship with Anita
Anita is one of the best women and advocates I know, so I knew I would need her support and company as I prepared to engage in challenging and impactful movement–the Women’s March in Phoenix, on January 21st. I woke up and it was grey and cold, which is a rarity in Arizona. I usually skim the news upon waking up, but I that day I chose not to. I didn’t want to read anything about the inauguration or about President Trump and his family. I texted Anita telling her I would be heading down to the March soon, armed with girlfriends and meeting my dad and brother there. She replied excitedly that her dad would be attending the Phoenix march, too, and how we should be proud of the men in our lives for standing with us in solidarity. I put on my sky blue “nasty woman” shirt and pink Planned Parenthood button. I met up with my friends and we ventured to downtown Phoenix alone, excited and nervous and angry all at once.
…surrounded by such positivity, love, and unity, I shed a few tears while I was marching.
We walked several blocks to reach the capitol, where we instantly fell into place amidst a swarm of like-minded people. People of all different ethnicities and genders surrounded us, though we were all united by our commitment to resist our new president’s misogyny and administration as a whole. Marching alongside twenty thousand people was one of the most profound and emotional experiences of my life. Surrounded by t-shirts, signs, and chants with powerful messages, I felt energized and passionate. While I definitely felt safe and supported being surrounded by such positivity, love, and unity, I shed a few tears while I was marching. In part, they were sad tears. I was sad–for Hillary Clinton and for the future and safety of our country. But I was also happy, I was happy at how many people were surrounding me in Phoenix, and how many people I knew were marching both nation and worldwide. Personally, I had close friends participating in Tucson, Seattle, Spokane, Austin, and D.C. My thoughts and feelings on the day, and the happy tears I cried, can be summed up in a text I received from my dad after the march, saying “Remember there are more of us than them and we will prevail.”
On why we must uplift each other, in sisterhood to move forward:
A simple act of friendship between two women may seem like it has little to do with feminism, but when our basic rights are under attack, it’s evident that the current power balance of the system is skewed against us. The best way to combat this is by banding together, and by leaning on each other for support and solidarity. There is work to be done on many fronts, but this work cannot be undertaken unless we all take the effort to reach out of our comfort zones and connect with other women to learn, listen, and understand.
The march was an inspiring, amazing gathering of people who demonstrated their courage and commitment to women’s rights. But the fight does not end here. You’ve heard it before–we must take action beyond the day of the march if we want to protect our rights over the next four years, as well as in the future. We believe that encouraging and engaging in mutually supportive female friendships is one good, albeit small, way to start.