I recently was introduced to the brilliant show, Broad City, by my father. (Of all people, one’s 69-year-old father isn’t the likely person to introduce you to a feminist comedy, but my dad is an ardent feminist.)
We watched an episode together and he asked, “Do women really talk that vulgar when they’re alone?”
My mind raced. What to tell my dad?
I had recently had a candid conversation with a friend of 32 years about the first time I masturbated and the type of men’s sports pants that were the hottest.
Ummm…yes, Dad, we do. But I spared him the details.
Women can talk like this to each other because we don’t fear each other the way we must fear men. With another woman, you have an outlet to a shared background without the fear of violence or pain.
My ingenious friend Toni coined it “powder room talk,” this need to have a safe space to be completely honest with another human being who has had similar experiences of misogyny, similar dangerous situations at the hands of men.
I know one man who was raped and one who was molested…both by other men. I know five women who were molested or raped, all by men.
Broad City reminds me of the sanctity of being in the presence of someone with whom you can unload darker or less savory thoughts without judgement or fear. My hours and hours of conversations with girlfriends are what have gotten me through some dark nights of the soul.
Powder room talk gives us an outlet to deal with insecurity, joy, and fear. Beyond just talk, spending time with and being seen with other women is empowering. Both powder room talk and just walking down the streets together as Ilana and Abbi do in Broad City go beyond just safety and security; they’re both liberating for women.
Powder room talk may be difficult to explain to one’s father, especially since sometimes it just involves discussing the virtues of a certain vibrator model. But for women, the comfort that accompanies these sometimes raunchy conversations help us shelter each other from the world. While Ilana and Abbi no doubt provide us with endless laughter with their antics and their words on screen, the soft landing spot their bond and their friendship provide for each other represents the true power and value of powder room talk for women.