It’s called Women of The Hour, and it’s a mini-series about ladies living their lives and dealing with everything from sexism, to periods, to friendships.
Normally I wouldn’t be compelled to write a review of a podcast. I listen to at least a dozen podcasts off and on and hardly ever feel the need to speak up about them. But something about this show stuck with me, and for better or worse Ms. Dunham jumped onto the podcast scene and leap frogged her way to the top.
For a first podcast episode this series didn’t have to look far to find its voice. But Lena Dunham’s voice echoes through the internet like a tiger’s roar*. With a set up similar to NPR podcasts, having different segments intercut with Dunham explaining each one in turn, it jumped back and forth with literally only one connecting theme. Friendship.
Three segments not to do with Dunham herself are all weaved into a narrative about Dunham and an internet friend she made, writer Ashley Ford.
The bits that didn’t work were, well, all the rest.
Amy Sedaris and her best friend Todd Oldham share the things they love about each other… I think? I listened to the podcast less than a week ago and I couldn’t tell you a single thing** about that segment other than they talk about how and why they’re friends. Dunham also included the story of friendship between two other women who’s names I don’t even remember, that’s how interesting it was. Emma Stone and June Squibb give advice, that is both good and confusing and terrible all at once.
Honestly, it was interesting in the moment, but it didn’t stick with me the way Ford & Dunham’s story of friendship did. The shining moments of the podcast were this story about Dunham finding a confidant and friend in Ford around when Dunham started work on her memoir.
They took turns reading emails they sent to one another in late 2012 and into 2013, and share the thoughts they had writing the emails as well as reflections on their friendship. It gave an emotional and raw look at what it’s like making a friend on the internet, and why having a close female friend is so important.
It’s this part that I connected with so strongly because my entire life was shaped by my female friendships. My friends now are strong, supportive, independent, and basically amazing. But peer to peer friendship (much like file sharing) can get into some dark and dangerous territory.
In elementary and middle school I encountered the type of girls who think it’s funny to fat shame you over instant messenger, and find it just down right hilarious to tear you down while you’re at your most awkward phase to date. Before this we were sort of friends, but we were by no means enemies.
Then further into middle school and into high school my closest female friends and I started butting heads, fighting back, and bashing each other on the internet. To this day a vague, passive aggressive, social media post sends my skin into goosebumps and my stomach starts doing cartwheels like it’s entered a cheerleading competition. The memories of those long, long, IM chats and pointed MySpace posts will haunt me until I die.
College proved a much smoother road for female friendships. But I’m still scared and scarred by these experiences. Like an abused dog learning to accept love again, it’s going to take some time for these wounds to fully close, and they may not ever close. But that doesn’t mean the female friends I have now aren’t the most amazing group of women I know.
Society teaches girls many different things about friendship, and the dynamics and rules of it. Pop culture portrays women as harpies, ready to pounce on the weakest link of the group. They’re encouraged to shit talk their friends and build themselves up by tearing others down. See: Heathers, Mean Girls, Princess Diaries 1***. But it also teaches them female friendships are a bond stronger than anything. It shows that building each other up brings way more personal and social satisfaction than being a terrible person. See: Clueless, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Sex & the City.
So sifting out the grain from the gristle becomes difficult when the examples from your own life aren’t the best. I assumed all girls lied about what they were doing so they didn’t have to hang out with you. Bringing it back to Dunham’s podcast, in her bonus episode her and her best friend of 20 years, Jemima Kirke, discuss their friendship and the many phases it’s been through. They dig into the time period where neither felt like it worked, and considered taking a break from each other.
Listening to this episode alone in my car it struck a chord so powerfully I vibrated. Everyone’s friendships go through awkward periods, and eventually the tension gets so high someone does something about it. There’s always going to be stuff that annoys you about the people you love. But that’s part of why you love them, and part of loving them is letting them be who they want to be.
I think where this podcast succeeded was in reminding me of all that (over look small annoyances, talk things out when they become an issue, and always build your friends up because they want you to succeed too). If every episode has a small nugget of honesty and truth about being a woman in this ridiculous world I’ll keep listening.
*Tiger’s are the ones who roar in the big cat family, so all that roaring in Lion King was actually tigers.
** That might be the large cup of coffee and fruit by the foot talking though. My hands are shaking and I feel like a pinball. WEEEEEEE!
***Mandy Moore only wanted to be Mia’s friend because she was a princess. Lesson learned, don’t be a princess.
P.S. This was far from brief because I have a lot of opinions on female friendships, so sorry for misleading you but thanks for reading to the end!