Collaborating with Friends: A Feminist Act

We’ve had it with the term “catfight” and all other popular culture references to female infighting. The truth is, women are each other’s greatest allies in everything from love to career to family. One of the best ways to figure this out—and harness the feminist power of female friendship—is to collaborate with women you know, trust and admire. The founders and editors of this website turned their friendship into a business partnership eight years ago and we’re still going strong—in business and in friendship. Here are some stories of more women who’ve changed their lives for the better through a collaboration with a female friend.

‘Rock Star’ Is a State of Mind

Even now, in the days of Gwen Stefani and Pink and Carrie Brownstein, women in rock are seen as an anomaly — see Rolling Stone’s Best Female Rock Albums list or the special annex at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame dedicated to female artists to witness the ways we’re still ghettoized from rocking out. That might be why it seemed so ridiculous that my friend Melissa and I decided to start a rock band.

Or maybe that was because we were over 35. Or maybe because she’s an opera singer, but wanted to play the drums while I sang, and I’m a writer who took like six months of guitar lessons.

In any case, two years ago we decided it made perfect sense, despite all of these impediments, to start a band. Hey, if teenage boys can do it, we can, right? Turns out it’s not quite that easy — respect to you, teenage boys who do this! (Also, caveat: Teenage girls can totally do this, too. Teenage boys just seem to me the absolute opposite of Melissa and me, two old broads.) We had to learn not only to work together, but to work with each other’s mistakes — we are, truth be told, mediocre rock musicians at best. We know that, we acknowledge it, but it can be harder to take in a duo situation. Half the time you’re wondering why she can’t get it together when you practiced so hard. The other half you’re feeling like an idiot for sucking so bad when this other person is counting on you.

The biggest problem with being in a band that it takes time, which makes sense, because teenage boys probably have a lot more time than employed, professional adult women. So there was the scheduling issue to overcome, and it was not easy. We called ourselves No Ambition because the idea was to make it a fun, low-pressure enterprise. No one wanted to get a record deal here. We just wanted to play covers of ’90s songs and occasionally force people to listen to us do it in public. But, see, you can’t have absolutely no ambition. Because then you’re not doing anything. So we were forced to make a schedule(ish) and stick to it(ish). Perhaps more than anything, being in a band together has taught us to work with the ebbs and flows of our lives, and of our relationship with each other. It’s also kept us bonded, essentially forcing our friendship into our busy schedules. I probably wouldn’t want to go running out to happy hour at 4 p.m. every Friday just to drink too much wine with Melissa — that would feel irresponsible — but leaving behind my freelance work to go practice with her and then drink wine seems perfectly reasonable. And that’s one thing those teenage boys don’t get to do.

– Jennifer Keishin Armstrong


Women In Arms, With Open Arms 

In 1950, the percentage of women in uniform was just 2%. Today, the fastest growing cohort of military veterans is women. In 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs put the number of female vets at 1.8 million, about 8% of the total.

When the women return home they are, as their male counterparts, often jobless, but they are four times more likely to be homeless. The military skills learned don’t translate into civilian life.

Enter Linda Franklin, founder of Shining Service Worldwide, Trish Rubin, marketing and communications expert, and Kate Post, President of Aurum Staffing in NYC. One of the goals of SSW is to aid returning female vets by making services they can use available. With Kate’s 35 years in the staffing industry, Trish thought her friend could help bring some new ideas on interviewing and training to her client Linda. Says Kate, “When I met Linda and learned more about her organization, it was clear she wanted to do more than just provide on-line training resources.”

Rally the troops. With the help of some of Kate’s pretty terrific women friends in the business arena, Nancy Schess, Esq. of Klein Zelman, Debbie Lindner, President of Boulevard Marketing, Heidi Kahn, CEO of Kahn Architecture, Rosalie Edson, CEO of Meadows Furniture, Marcia Golden, Partner at DJD/Golden and Anne Katz, a VP of Capitol One Bank, the ladies launched a small fundraiser.

With Kate as Event Chair,the first fundraiser for SSW was held in the gorgeous and generously donated Haworth Furniture showroom on Park and 42nd, during Fleet Week on the actual Memorial Day and in the month of Mother’s day. The female power raised $26,000 toward the purchase of a multiple-family house to be used as interim shelter while vets worked their lives back into jobs,etc. Before the event, a group of returning female vets delighted in free spa treatments and makeovers. Girls being girls, and loving it.

–Margaret Rodriquez


Fun With a Friend Yields Business Idea 

Camilla and I sat at the front of the gondola, bare feet perched on the edge of the boat to catch the cool splashes from the canal.  We chatted idly with the friendly gondolier as he oared us slowly down the waterway.  This was our second date, the first had been a polo match at Will Rogers park.  We’d sat on the beautiful green grass sidelines eating our picnic lunch and watching the horses gallop from one end of the field to the other.  We were collaborating on a website which provided two fun, new date ideas every week for couples in LA. We’d been friends for years, so technically we’d been on dates before, but these dates were much more exciting than dinners, drinks, and mani-pedis.

By the time we launched our website, we’d gone on gondola rides, taken in a polo match, carved pumpkins, played bingo with drag queens, camped, kayaked, and discovered some of the more glamorous bars in our city.  Not only had we collaborated on a fun project, we’d become the go-to girls for the people in our circle for things to do in Los Angeles, and having that knowledge was very empowering.

–Kristin Tschannen


We’d love to hear your stories of friendship, feminism and collaboration. Join our discussion below or on Twitter @thesexyfeminist

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