by Roshni V
Women’s only Facebook groups are a treasure trove of advice for everyone. For questions big or small, private, or professional, there exists a group somewhere on Facebook.
On the third Thursday of every month, my mother put on her tallest heels and her favorite pair of earrings as she left the house in a cloud of her signature scent. On those Sacred Thursdays, as we had come to call them, she was not to be disturbed with requests for lunchboxes, runny noses or play dates. Sacred Thursdays were reserved for her and her friends as they came together to eat canapes, drink wine, and talk about career progressions, mothers-in-law, husbands, and college crushes – no holds barred. She always returned home with leftovers of dishes we could not pronounce and ideas to the brim about restarting stalled projects, simply invigorated by time spent with her closest friends.
Closed door, women-only gatherings have had a long history, but it has evolved to take on slightly different forms today. They have instead sprouted online, in the form of subject-specific Facebook communities. As of Q3 2021, there are over 10 million groups on Facebook. 1.8 billion people are members of various groups that are moderated by 70 million admins. Within this ecosystem, there are sub-groups that serve any and all interests for half the world’s population. No matter the question, there seems to be a virtual friend and member who is at least willing to lend a sympathetic ear, if nothing else. Someone, in the virtual universe who says: girl, I hear you.
To join, all members must be based in Dubai, female and vetted by admins. Sometimes, an exception is made for members from other locations to seek advice on moving to the city and get a head start on making new friends here. Good posting etiquette is a golden rule and highly valued and all members must seek admin approval before posting. Groups are tightly moderated to ensure safety of all members. Slanderous posts almost never make it to the main page and admins are quick to reprimand those that use member information for personal gain. Sliding into DMs without permission is frowned upon and repeat offenders are often taken off the group.
In a city like Dubai, where loneliness is still an epidemic, groups like these bring a small but sure source of comfort. Interests range from generic to specific. That Dubai Girl has over 20,000 members with up to 70 posts every day. Their bio states that it is a group for ‘EVERY Dubai girl,’ where women can ask or seek advice. It is strictly liberal and inclusive where no subject is taboo. Dubai Chicas, with over 23,000 members, “loves to be bedazzled.” The group wants to crowd source ‘secret sales, hidden gems around the UAE, skin and hair product reviews, fashion tips and advice and more. Other groups such as Big Beauty Scoop with 16,000 members and counting are more categorical. For business owners, these groups double as dependable communities (to test new product lines, for example) as well as the target audience. Kathryn Jones, owner of KJ Serums, whose skincare brand comes highly recommended in The Big Beauty Scoop Group, has come to rely on the group’s audience as a lifeline. “As expats, often living away from our families, the friendships we make here can be so very important. I've met some of my closest friends through these groups and I honestly don't think my business could have taken off and been quite so successful without this support and friendship,” she said. Kathryn is currently part of Real Mums UAE, British Mums and more.
Other groups are more professionally geared, fostering a community of businesswomen who need advice on everything career related. Female Fusion Network, founded by Jen Blandos, boasts of 20,000 active, very engaged members who provide consistent and intentional support to women entrepreneurs in the UAE. The group posts weekly job seeker threads and has in-person monthly events hosted by Jen, where members can truly feel supported by a like-minded community. Houda Naji, Founder of Younoh media, a Dubai-based digital agency, hired her GM from the Female Fusion network. As a business mentor, Nassima Menari, Empower Practice found her client base of businesswomen in need of mentoring from joining the group. Requested by popular demand, Jen is soon set to take her coffee mornings to neighboring emirates, with an upcoming session to be hosted in Abu Dhabi.
Carrie and her crew met weekly at a Chelsea restaurant to discuss the week. The Golden Girls ate cheesecake in their kitchen. Sutton, Kat, and Jane met in the fashion closet. Women have always needed a sacred space to discuss nothing and everything. Grace Paley, American author, and political activist wrote of this female phenomenon – “that’s the moment that friendship is born – when one woman says to another: “I feel the same way.” This forms the real undercurrent of these groups – a safe space to say, “I feel the same way.”