On a late night in July 2017, Babes Who Blade, a Facebook group exclusively for “babes” (i.e. women, non-binary, non-cis men) to give and share advice burst into existence. The group began with roughly 20 friends but blossomed to nearly five-thousand members as of May 2018.

“It was for posting random stuff,” said Tiana Attride, an admin for the group and a current junior at UNC-Chapel Hill who studied abroad this past semester. “It just kind of blew up all of a sudden. It turned into quite the community.”

Since Facebook became an integral part of college life, groups such as this one have become equally as important. Facebook groups can be an outlet for questions and answers, a page solely for sharing memes, or a place to buy and sell items. Regardless of their intention, these groups create an online community that isn’t found in any other social media site.

Babes Who Blade is a private group that functions as a pseudo-Reddit by allowing people to comment on other’s speculations, questions, answers and concerns. There is a singular main page where the most popular posts appear—everything from formal dress shopping to class recommendations to birth control questions. Then there are sub-groups ranging from medical concerns to people living in certain geographical areas, such as New York City.

The group’s about section reads, “Welcome to this ~internet~ space exclusively for babes! From advice to emotional support to recommendations, we gotchu!! Just be sure to keep this space safe for every babe - don't take screenshots, use inclusive language, and follow the rest of the rules, which you can find within the "Announcements" at the top of the group page.”

This set of rules is what sets the Babes Who Blade group apart from any other. These rules emphasize inclusive language and mindfulness of others above all else. The very first rule reads, “This group was founded as a place free of the influence of cis-men. Please feel free to add your fellow babes that identify with the rest of the group.”

Just below states the group’s anonymity policy: “This is a confidential, supportive environment. Posts and comments are not to be shared outside of the group. Any breach of anonymity is grounds for removal.”

Due to the group being private, only people with friends in the group can be added.  This creates a level of community for everyone who is a member of the group, as well as a sense of security that their posts won’t be shared, and they have full support of the other members of the group.

“[Being a private group] provides a safe space for people and one that you can’t find in that many places,” said Attride. “Everybody really cares about one another. Even though we don’t really know each other, we just come together. If you’re a Babe, you’re friends already.”

Since its initial creation, Babes Who Blade has grown to nearly five-thousand members and has become a community for women, people who are non-binary and other marginalized groups. In addition, the term “babe” has become an identifier for any member of the group, whether non-binary, female identifying or otherwise non-identifying.

“I really enjoy that it is a space where the understanding is that women are supporting others. There’s nothing catty or competitive, and it’s a great place to get advice from other women [and non-binary or marginalized individuals] who have been in similar places that you have been, whether that’s a place to get a haircut near campus or recovering from a traumatic experience,” said Zoey Howe, a first-year student at UNC-CH. “I think it’s important to have a community that creates this standard of girls supporting girls. It’s a very refreshing community to be a part of.”

Babes Who Blade has certainly created a community in which everyone is supported and uplifted - not just women. This empowering disposition extends to create a real community, one that reminds us that we all face the same trials and tribulations.

“It’s nice to feel a connection to the larger landscape of babe-identifying people around me, and having a safe space to come together and talk about what’s happening in our lives makes me feel less alone. I think the community that the page has created is really important because women (and babes in general!) are often pitted against each other and it can be difficult to feel camaraderie in a larger group when there’s this expectation hanging over your heads that you’re supposed to be in competition with each other or be ‘catty,’” said Jane Langston, a junior at UNC-CH. “Babes Who Blade’s existence empowers babes to embrace our love and support for each other in a safe community without any pressure to conform to expectations for how we’re supposed to interact or exist.”

“Some of the posts are about issues that specifically babe-identifying people encounter and some speak more broadly to the general experiences of being human, but all the posts remind me that other people experience the same questions and problems and successes that I do, and that’s really special,” added Langston.

For the members who started Babes Who Blade, seeing it grow to cross state borders has been one of the most surprising things to come out of the group.

“Going forward, I hope people continue to be supportive and continue to join. Maybe we can do some more meetups. It’s this unpredictable beast– a wonderful one,” said Attride.

Attried added that the group has begun to feel like a club, correcting herself from calling it a sorority in order to use the most inclusive language possible.

“I feel crazy saying all of this because it just popped up out of nowhere,” Attride said. “I don’t see it slowing down any time soon, but who knows what’s going to happen next.”

 

Image collage by Caroline Farrell. Source images: (1) Rollerblade and (2) Horizons by Guan

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