Taapsee Pannu Tweets, Science Agrees: “Sometimes Sisterhood Is All You Need To Have A Happy Life At 65!”

Not much attention is paid to female friendships, especially for older women. But female companionship, which is precious at any age, may be key to the emotional and physical well-being of older women.

Not much attention is paid to female friendships, especially for older women. But female companionship, which is precious at any age, may be key to the emotional and physical well-being of older women.

Taapsee Pannu has been tweeting a lot lately and sharing behind the scenes pictures from the sets of her upcoming movie, Saand Ki Aankh (Bull’s Eye) which is expected to have a Diwali release.

The movie, in which Taapsee stars along with Bhumi Pednekar, is a biopic of Prakashi and Chandro Tomar, India’s “shooter dadis.”

One of the pictures shared by Taapsee shows herself and Bhumi riding a tractor, and is captioned, “And sometimes sisterhood is all that you need to have a happy life at 65!”

The caption immediately reminded me of an article shared by some friends on Facebook, about a group of 7 Chinese girlfriends, who have bought a huge house in which they intend to retire and die together. It also reminded me of my mom, now in her sixties, who always looks happier and calmer after meeting her group of girlfriends from school; and my mother-in-law with her huge and ever-growing circle of friends.

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People are always quick to point out how women sabotage each other, and gossip about each other. Rarely are the benefits of female friendships acknowledged.

As Deepa Narayan, author of Chup: Breaking The Silence About India’s Women points out in her book, and in this article, one way the patriarchy silences women is by isolating them from each other, by telling them that they cannot trust each other. “We don’t like to talk about how much distrust, jealousy and competition there is between women,” she writes, “75 per cent of women including self-labelled feminists did not want female bosses whom they called ‘insecure, petty and mean’. If men were trained to be fearful, insecure and isolated, they too would make bad bosses. These behaviours are learned habits and not part of our DNA. They are designed to keep women apart, to make unity and collective action by women difficult, without which the world will not change.”

The reality is that women can be and often are the most reliable support systems for other women. This becomes especially true as women age.

Research done at UCLA  has shown that in times of stress, women don’t show only the typical ‘flight or fight’ response as men. They instead show a ‘tend and befriend’ response, during which the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is released. This encourages them to take care of their children (tend) or reach out and bond with other women (befriend).

Maintaining these bonds is even more important as women grow older, according to Dr Alisa Ruby Bash, PsyD, LMFT. “We get busier, with more responsibilities,” she says. “It makes us feel nurtured and validated to hang out with friends we can be totally ourselves [with], minus the outside pressures.”

Old age is the time when spouses become sick or die. Women’s bodies too undergo great changes at this time. Children become independent and may move out of the home. At such times, female friends can be great sources of emotional strength. They help to keep loneliness and isolation at bay, improving mental and physical health.

In Japan, older women stay connected via a lifelong group of friends called as a moai. This tradition is one of the reasons why Japanese women live longer. As one woman who is part of a moai says, “Each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends. If you get sick or a spouse dies or if you run out of money, we know someone will step in and help. It’s much easier to go through life knowing there is a safety net.”

Saand Ki Aankh has (deservedly!) received criticism for not casting actresses closer to the age of the protagonists, and the real-life Prakashi and Chandro lack the ‘sisterhood’ that the tweet promises. It will be interesting to see how the movie deals with this though.

Western audiences have The Golden Girls and Grace and Frankie. It is about time that we got some representation for friendships between older women on Indian screens!

Image source: YouTube & Twitter

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