Get Yourself a Girl Squad
Last month, legendary singer-songwriter Carole King was recognized at the annual Kennedy Center Honors. In tribute, Aretha Franklin sang “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a song King wrote for her nearly 50 years before.
During the performance, King—seated next to the Obamas on the balcony—bounced with joy, her mouth agape, cheering with excitement as Franklin belted out the well-known anthem. Her sincere enthusiasm for the fellow singer was inspiring, and the clip has since gone viral.
King and Franklin are the same age, both powerhouse singers from the ’60s and ’70s. Franklin epitomizes our notion of a diva—not only for her talent, but also for reportedly snubbing certain fellow female singers at various times throughout her career. And while the music industry will always have its girl feuds and rivalries, I think we’ve finally started to get over the idea that successful women must be in competition with one another.
Feminist podcasters and best friends Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow coined the term shine theory to describe a win-win approach to female friendship: “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” Friedman posits that it’s time to stop seeing “intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished” women as competition and start teaming up with them. We want strong women in our corner, mutually benefitting from the “associative property of awesomeness.”
In other words, don’t let a successful colleague or acquaintance make you feel insecure. Deliberately seek her out and build a relationship with her. Celebrate her achievements. Learn from her.
Taylor Swift’s “squad” serves as a prominent examples of this, as the pop star recruits inspiring women to hang with and perform with. Some of them are fellow 20-something actresses/singers/models, but others are women she sought out: Girls’ Lena Dunham, Law and Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay, and Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten. Swift isn’t afraid to share the stage with fellow artists; she had dozens of stars join her during her recent 1989 tour, from contemporaries like Lorde and Miranda Lambert to legends like Mick Jagger and Mary J. Blige.
Rather than call out other women as competition, Swift said this to TIME magazine, basically summing up shine theory in her own words:
I refuse to buy into these comparisons, because you don’t see it happening to men. All you seem to see is “Which New Mother Is Sexier?” “Who’s the Hotter Mama?” “Who’s Got The Better Booty?” If we continue to show young girls that they are being compared to other girls, we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice as a society.
I surround myself with smart, beautiful, passionate, driven, ambitious women. Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you and inspire you rather than threaten you and make you feel like you’re immediately being compared to them.
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