25 Famous Women on Female Friendship

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Photo: Getty Images, BFAnyc

This week the Cut explores the messy, loving, spiteful, supportive, competitive, joyful, and funny sides of friendship.

While some female friendships can be enriching, edifying, filled with adventure (see: Taylor Swift’s “Squad”), others are insanely complicated. Any combination of snubs, slights, misunderstandings, or betrayals can disrupt the status quo — and a rock-solid bond can seesaw into feelings of exclusion and abandonment. The Cut brings you a roundup of words from famous women — from Oprah to Gloria Steinem, J.K. Rowling to Greta Gerwig — on the realities and complexities of female friendship.

Jane Fonda. Photo: Derek Storm/Corbis

1. Jane Fonda
“I think that is one reason why women live longer than men. Friendship between women is different than friendship between men. We talk about different things. We delve deep. We go under, even if we haven’t seen each other for years. There are hormones that are released from women to other women that are healthy and do away with the stress hormones … It’s my women friends that keep starch in my spine and without them, I don’t know where I would be. We have to just hang together and help each other.” —Vanity Fair, January 2015

2. Lena Dunham
“I love the friendships that you see in Nancy Meyers' movies, but for me, that kind of friendship is elusive. I feel like a lot of the female relationships I see on TV or in movies are in some way free of the kind of jealousy and anxiety and posturing that has been such a huge part of my female friendships, which I hope lessens a little bit with age … I think about my best friendship — which the Marnie-Hannah friendship in Girls is based on — as like a great romance of my young life.” —Interview

Zadie Smith. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

3. Zadie Smith
“A lot of women, when they’re young, feel they have very good friends, and find later on that friendship is complicated. It’s easy to be friends when everyone’s 18. It gets harder the older you get, as you make different life choices, as people say in America. A lot of women’s friendships begin to founder. I was interested in why that was, why it’s not possible for a woman to see her friend living differently and just think, Oh, she lives differently.” —PBS NewsHour, October 2012

4. Claire Danes
“I do think that women need each other in a way that men might not need each other. I don't want to make any gross claims, but we do have a kind of intimacy. There is almost a kind of romance in female friendship, and I don't know if it's the same for men ... We have that one friend, and we practice with each other in preadolescence, and then we kind of move on to having a more mature version of that with a man. And then those relationships have to implode before you can kind of meet each other again and renegotiate your friendship as adults.” —Interview

5. Jemima Kirke
“A woman will always be my best friend. I'll never have a best friend who is a man. It just doesn't work that way. So many times young girls will be like, ‘I'm a guy's girl.’ And I'm like, ‘No, you're not. There's no way a man can understand you like a woman, and you're a guy's girl because you're threatened by other women.’ I was like that. I was only men. But that's because I felt special around men, and with a woman I can really be put in my place, and I'm on the same level as them. That's the way it's changed, is that I love women now, and I didn't before. Because I was scared of them, because they understood me.” —GQ, April 2012

Nora Ephron. Photo: USA Network/Getty Images

6. Nora Ephron
“The thing with friends when you get older — I mean this is not anything I haven't written about — is they can't be replaced. When you're 30, you accumulate friends and you shed friends and you get closer at certain moments to some than others. And you have a huge bench of friends. And then that's just not true.” — Salon, November 2010

J.K. Rowling. Photo: Derek Storm/Corbis

7. J.K. Rowling
“The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I’ve used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for prime minister.” —Harvard Commencement, 2008

Tavi Gevinson. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

8. Tavi Gevinson
“Girl hate is not hating someone who happens to be a girl, it’s hating someone because we’re told that, as girls, we should hate other girls who are as awesome as or more awesome than ourselves. That there can ever only be ONE cool girl, ONE funny girl, ONE smart girl, etc., in a circle of people ...  I’m close friends with a girl I used to have some serious girl hate for. Recognizing what a wonderful person she is not only made me realize how idiotic I was being before, but it really did make me feel better about myself. Sometimes we can convince ourselves that pointing out flaws in others makes us feel good, but ultimately, those moments of pleasure are fleeting. In the long run, they get you in the habit of looking for flaws in everyone, including yourself.” —Rookie, September 2011

9. Lisa See
“I have a friend that I've known since high school, and when you have a real close friendship like that ... this is someone who has, in a sense, known you your whole life … When you have those kinds of relationships that go back that far, these are people who knew you before you've become a fully formed person. They see you for your essence, they see you as you were at that young age, purely yourself without having fully developed into an actual person … They knew you before you became successful or a failure, or whatever … I think sometimes as an adult, you take people for what they do, and what they are now, instead of the whole picture of their lives. But the old friends who have known me forever, they know that part." —the Huffington Post, July 2011

10. Greta Gerwig
"In college and right after college, there's this sense that your friends are your family. It's really painful in your late twenties when you realize that they're not your family, and they're going to make their own families.” —Village Voice, May 2013

11. Colette McBeth
“In adolescence when everyone is a riot of hormones and insecurities a group of close girlfriends is fertile breeding ground for resentments, unspoken competition, simmering jealousies. Your best friend can send your spirits soaring one moment and crush you with a word or gesture the next. She can do this in a way no one else can because she knows what buttons to press and boy does she push them. Like an itch you can’t scratch she has a way of getting under your skin … What I realise now in hindsight is that there is a natural ebb and flow to friendships. There are times you think there’s nothing left between you, that you’ve hit the bottom, but the special ones survive, find ways of restoring themselves.” —the Telegraph, July 2013

Margaret Cho. Photo: F. Sadou/AdMedia/Corbis

12. Margaret Cho
“In comedy, it’s such a male-dominated field ... there’s not enough women to support each other’s work and so there’s so many fewer of us. I think because of that that female comics have a really intense, close friendship with each other. And sometimes intense rivalries between each other because there is a feeling that there is not enough of us or that if you acknowledge another woman’s success, your success is unexceptional. It’s a weird thing when you are a minority, all of the in-fighting that happens.” —Big Think

13. Sarah Jessica Parker
"I think so much reality television — and the women that dominate culture today — are pretty unfriendly towards one another. They use language that's really objectionable and cruel and not supportive. I like to remember that Carrie and the other women in Sex and the City were really nice to each other … [Carrie] was a really good friend. That's why they can forgive those very apparent flaws and [selfishness]. She was a deeply devoted friend, and I think women really respond to that kind of connection. I think we all want it, we all work towards having it, and we're not always the very best friends we can be." —Harper’s Bazaar U.K., April 2014

14. Emma Watson
“I still have friends from primary school. And my two best girlfriends are from secondary school. I don’t have to explain anything to them. I don’t have to apologize for anything. They know. There’s no judgment in any way.” —Seventeen, August 2011

Mindy Kaling. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

15. Mindy Kaling
"One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about. We never needed best friend gear because I guess with real friends you don’t have to make it official. It just is." —Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, September 2012

Chelsea Handler. Photo: Donna Ward/Getty Images

16. Chelsea Handler
"No man is capable of being your best friend ... A best friend is someone who goes to get their nails done with you." —Cosmo, February 2011

17. Oprah Winfrey
"If friends disappoint you over and over, that's in large part your own fault. Once someone has shown a tendency to be self-centered, you need to recognize that and take care of yourself; people aren't going to change simply because you want them to.” —Business Insider

Roxane Gay. Photo: Courtesy of Roxane Gay

18. Roxane Gay
“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down." —Bad Feminist, August 2014

Zooey Deschanel. Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

19. Zooey Deschanel
“It makes me sad [when girls are bitchy]. Girls get competitive, as though there's only one spot in the world for everything but that's not true. We need to stick together and see there's more to life than pleasing men. It's important not to cut yourself off from female friendships. I think sometimes girls get scared of other girls, but you need each other.” —Cosmo U.K., July 2012

Reese Witherspoon. Photo: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFAnyc.com/BFA NYC

20. Reese Witherspoon
"I don't know what I would have done so many times in my life if I hadn't had my girlfriends. They have literally gotten me up out of bed, taken my clothes off, put me in the shower, dressed me, said, 'Hey, you can do this,' put my high heels on and pushed me out the door!" —In Touch, April 2013

21. Keira Knightley
“Well, female friendships are fucking extraordinary. They don’t have to be sexual to be intense love affairs. A breakup with a female friend can be more traumatic than a breakup with a lover.” —The Advocate, July 2014

Anne Hathaway. Photo: Julian Mackler/BFAnyc.com

22. Anne Hathaway
"I do believe that female friends can be worse to each other than male friends, simply because, for whatever reason, women have a stronger emotional language. We’re encouraged more to use that … We talk about what we’re feeling about deep things. Maybe they’re not even particularly deep, in the grand scheme of things, but they’re things that matter to us. So, when you give someone that power, you’re showing them where your buttons are. If you pick wrong, and someone turns around and short-circuits those buttons, I think it hurts more." —Collider, January 2009

Gloria Steinem. Photo: John Salangsang/BFAnyc.com

23. Gloria Steinem
“Women understand. We may share experiences, make jokes, paint pictures, and describe humiliations that mean nothing to men, but women understand. The odd thing about these deep and personal connections of women is that they often ignore barriers of age, economics, worldly experience, race, culture — all the barriers that, in male or mixed society, had seemed so difficult to cross.” —New York Magazine, December 1971

24. Kate Hudson
“We had this bridal shower for my sister-in-law, and my mom made this speech, and she said, ‘I want all the girls to look around the room and, even if you don’t know each other, even if you’re just getting to know each other, or even if it’s your sister, I want you to remember one thing: trust me. Men, they come and go. They always will. Hopefully, they stay. But, it’s the girl that’s sitting next to you, or the girl that’s sitting across from you, that’s going to get you through everything.’ … That’s really important — that idea of not losing sight, no matter where you go in your life with men, because women give a lot to men. We love relationships. We thrive in them, as we should. But, sometimes, you lose sight of the girls that are there for you, all the time, which we shouldn’t hold against any of our friends. I have a girlfriend right now, who’s off and running with somebody, but we’re always there [for each other]. When she’s ready to pick up the phone and go, ‘I don’t know what to do,’ we’re all there.” —Collider, January 2009

25. Elissa Schappell
“We certainly bond with each other in times of crisis or these times when we go through these big touchstone moments ... and when we bond, in those really important, pivotal, transitional moments in our lives, we’re really vulnerable and therefore we give each other an awful lot of information about ourselves. And therefore we make ourselves uniquely equipped to really damage each other. We know where each other’s soft spots are.” —Forbes, April 2012