In Kool Kanya’s theme of the month ﹘ Feminist In Progress ﹘ we decode the nitty-gritties of practising feminism laden with imperfections.
Content Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault. Spoilers ahead.
One of Netflix’s most loved shows, Sex Education, is out with a new season. As was with its first two seasons, season 3 made waves on the internet for its realistic and bold depictions of sex, sexuality, and intimacy, with storylines that tackle sensitive subjects with incredible nuance.
I, for one, love Sex Education. I didn’t think it was possible to love and relate to so many characters all at once, let alone enjoy literally every scene that Gillian Anderson blessed with her presence. All that aside, though, possibly the best part of the series is the equation between Maeve Wiley and Aimee Gibbs, two best friends going through the highs and lows of Moordale Secondary together.
Maeve And Aimee: Two (Feminist) Peas In A Pod
Time and time again, we’ve been told that two women can’t be friends.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that women would always choose pleasing a man over fixing their relationship with a fellow woman; that female friends who prioritise each other should be perceived with suspicion.
While Sex Education talks about, well, sex, it also organically addresses the importance of friendships to navigate the complexities of that world. And female friendships rank high on this list.
Maeve Wiley (played by Emma Mackey) is an introverted, independent, gifted girl who keeps to herself and reads a lot of books. Her friend, Aimee Gibbs (played by Aimee Lou Wood), though not gifted like Maeve, is easygoing, carefree, curious, and sociable. On paper, it doesn’t seem like they have much in common. But their differences ﹘ as well as the circumstances in which they find themselves ﹘ bring about a unique and beautiful friendship that helps them become better versions of themselves.
Their equation shows us the value of female friendships.
What Maeve And Aimee’s Friendship Tells Us About Feminism
1. You Don’t Have To Be Alike To Get Along
Maeve and Aimee have starkly different personalities.
Maeve, with her edgy, enigmatic personality, is a hardcore feminist and chooses to assert herself that way. Aimee, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily have feminism on her mind all the time. Given that one person’s assertion of their political identity is stronger and more apparent, it would be tough to imagine a friendship between them. But what we see instead is Aimee gushing about Maeve’s intelligence, and Maeve marvelling at Aimee’s nature and spirit.
A rough and tough Maeve finds a confidant in Aimee, while Aimee trusts Maeve to show her a different perspective on things.
Both women acknowledge each other’s best qualities and support each other.
2. Money Can Affect Your Relationship
Maeve and Aimee come from different worlds.
Maeve’s difficult childhood (poverty and absent parents) forces her to survive without any help or guidance, making her a guarded, private, and self-sufficient person. Aimee, in comparison, comes from an affluent family, with a healthy childhood and plenty of perks. Though their school puts them on a somewhat equal footing, Maeve and Aimee have a fundamental difference ﹘ their access to (and attitude towards) money.
In season 3, Maeve gets particularly annoyed when Aimee, in an out of touch manner, tells her that she paid for Maeve’s school trip to France without her consent. A full-fledged argument breaks out between them, leaving Maeve feeling like she was getting a handout.
Though Aimee wasn’t wrong in wanting her best friend to have the opportunity presented to everyone, simply giving her the money wasn’t going to solve the larger problem of the unequal backgrounds they came from, and how one of them was robbed of the opportunity because of it.
Financial inequalities put women in different social brackets, which can make it difficult for them to relate to each other, much less get together and form important bonds. Being aware and empathetic about one’s financial situation is a great way to bridge gaps and form lasting friendships.
3. There Is No Substitute For Sisterhood
Possibly the most significant and impactful storyline in Sex Education was Aimee’s sexual assault in season 2.
What starts off as Aimee shrugging off a man’s weird behaviour turns into a grim realisation of what had occurred. It was Maeve’s reaction to the incident and her encouragement to report it that led Aimee to understand that she had been assaulted, and that the man’s actions were not to be ignored.
The impact of the assault is seen on Aimee ﹘ she starts to withdraw from her relationship, gets irrationally upset, and legitimately refuses to travel by the bus again. It is only when she is stuck in detention with a group of girls sharing their stories of harassment that she reveals that she had been assaulted, which has scared her from taking the bus.
This where the power of sisterhood plays out gloriously ﹘ Aimee, still struggling, is surprised to see the group of girls waiting for her at the bus stop, to help her get rid of her fear of getting on the bus. In the one iconic shot, we see all the girls sitting with her and riding to school.
Because women ﹘ regardless of caste, class, race, or sexual orientation ﹘ are bound by a common thread of the patriarchy, they will always understand the toll sexual violence can take on someone. Hence, there is no greater joy than having the support, protection, and encouragement of other women.
Sex Education is a nuanced, wonderful show that has all the makings of a great work of fiction. But it’s not all about sex ﹘ it’s also about the importance of friendships and platonic partnerships that can make this world a little less lonely. Ask Maeve and Aimee ﹘ they know a thing or two about it.
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