Press & Reviews · Something Rhymed: celebrating female literary friendship

Double-Page Spread in the Independent on Sunday

‘Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway’: This was the headline of the feature on female friendship that I co-wrote with Emily Midorikawa for the Independent on Sunday.

Why would such a celebratory subject attract this kind of headline?

We focused specifically on friendships between feminists, and we’ve come to think that perhaps intellectual, political, and creative collaborations between women were historically considered taboo.

The more research we’ve done for Something Rhymed – our blog about famous female writer pals, the more intrigued we’ve become about why these relationships have been written out of history, or else distorted.

After all, many great male alliances have become the stuff of legend: Coleridge and Wordworth, for instance, Shelley and Byron, Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Why do we know so little about Jane Austen’s female literary friendship, or George Eliot’s? Why have Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield been misremembered as foes when they considered themselves close friends?

Katherine Mansfield (Creative Commons License)
Katherine Mansfield (Creative Commons License)

We are glad to see that the National Portrait Gallery’s new exhibition on Woolf will feature several of the feminist writer’s friendships with other women.


Virginia Woolf (Creative Commons License)
Virginia Woolf (Creative Commons License)

Thankfully, such relationships are openly celebrated by today’s feminists. We interviewed Laura Bates, for instance, author of Everyday Sexism, who was keen to share some of the credit for the success of her campaign to her fellow author and activist, Lucy-Anne Holmes.

Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, friends since their university days, actually co-founded their feminist e-zine The Vagenda and co-wrote their book of the same name.

Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism, supporting Lucy-Anne Holmes's No More Page 3 campaign (Creative Commons License)
Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism, supporting Lucy-Anne Holmes’s No More Page 3 campaign (Creative Commons License)

These women have been subjected to vile online misogynist abuse, including rape and murder threats, making their support of each other particularly crucial. This just goes to show that intellectual collaborations between women can be just as subversive as ever, making the Independent on Sunday’s headline appropriate, even for such a celebratory topic as friendship: ‘Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway’.

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