We’ve all been told at one point in our lives to stop gossiping- that it’s vain and unproductive. Yet, I sincerely hope that you, reader, have had the privilege of experiencing the magic of gossiping at some point in your life. Word on the street is that even though gossiping has been villainized in order to invalidate the genuine friendships between women, studies have shown that is a great way to create meaningful relationships with those around us.
Lara Lee Kelly (@lanthane_radium on TikTok) recently posted a video that was inspired by a statue in the Old Port of Montreal called Les Chuchoteuses (“The Gossipers” in English). She discussed that the term ‘gossip’ was actually once used to describe a friendship between women, with no negative implications. In the past, women have been tasked with understanding the communities that they live in, alongside the nuances and going-ons of the individuals within them. This trope was recently illustrated in the Netflix series, Bridgerton, which is set in the early 1810s. ‘Lady Whistledown’ is an anonymous woman who has started a gossip column within the society that she lives in, and she acts as an important narrator to the show. Throughout the series, Lady Whistledown is portrayed as a powerful and influential figure in the society, similar to how women have been considered as such in the past for being the keyholders to an abundance of information.
Being a gossip sounds pretty badass, right? So why is it so scrutinized today?
Male figures in old societies became threatened by the power women held through their relationships, so they began to misrepresent gossiping as idle talk and unintellectual conversation. Obedience was even enforced with torture devices such as gossip bridles and cucking stools. Gossiping was given a negative connotation, as with many things that are close in proximity or association to women. Even Lady Whistledown, who was considered so prominent in the Bridgerton universe, had to keep her identity anonymous in order to prevent being outcasted by her community. Friendships between women became taboo, leading to an era in which women were not encouraged to voice their thoughts, and were expected to listen to their spouses with no resistance. In fact, platonic relationships between women began to be associated with witchcraft and became a target to witch hunts. Throughout this time period, women began to turn on each as well, and the solidarity between women was severely damaged. Lara puts it perfectly in her TikTok when she says that “the idea that women hate each other was invented and perpetuated by men.”
Now, if you’re anything like us, then you’ve probably participated in your fair share of gossiping in your lifetime. Gossiping has proven to be productive when it comes to community-building. Bonding with someone over a mutual feeling regarding an interpersonal relationship that neither of you are involved in has been the start to many beautiful friendships. Studies have shown that most gossiping isn’t even malicious, it calls for regular self reflection and that it can even be a stress reliever.