Virginia Woolf, a 20th-century English writer, wrote in one of her speeches: “Chloe liked Olivia.” It seems obscure. It seems trivial. But she hit the nail on the head.
The thing is, women liking women is a novel concept. According to the male voice, according to every male author of a female-protagonist YA novel and according to so many of the journalists that like to
So Woolf standing at a podium and telling an audience that ‘Chloe liked Olivia’ was a figurative slap to the face. Imagine that. Two women, getting along. The wild thing was how normal they were. They had families, they had jobs, they had livelihoods, and still they got along like a house on fire, they were good friends.
Though Woolf did specialize in exaggerated yet subtle satire, the idea of Chloe and Olivia is so trivial within the grand scheme of her novel (you can find the speech from which it came in her novel, A Room of One’s Own. I read it for a Literature class and didn’t hate it, so that’s my vote of confidence for you). But that’s what makes it impressive. It’s such a small detail, but the fact that it can be picked apart like this and applied even to today’s society shows us that we haven’t fully recovered from the centuries of lasting misogynistic damage the patriarchy has left us with. Hundreds of years of men standing around women, with hungry gazes, as if we are no more than entertainment – as if we are the minority. Pitting us against each other.
I heard a friend of mine say something interesting in a class discussion once – she said, when a man fails, it’s because he wasn’t good enough. If a woman fails, it’s because females aren’t good enough. And it summed up the point superbly well in just two sentences. The sad truth.
The takeaway from this, from Chloe and Olivia, from the lasting damage we’re still feeling the aftereffects of, is that women need to support women, now more than ever. Twentieth century feminist literature has to satirically state that two women are friends, because we are so used to seeing women act like other women are nothing but competition. We see cat fights, we see snarky insults. We see I’m not like other girls all over the place. But what’s so wrong with other girls?
We still see women who say “we don’t need feminism.” But without feminism, despite being half the world’s population, we would still be treated like the minority.
If Chloe and Olivia can be friends, so can we all. Support your sisters, your mothers and your daughters, your best friends and girlfriends. We need all the support we can get.