Shine Theory

We break down #shinetheory and the privileges of friendships.

You’ve heard of the phrase, “I don’t shine if you don’t shine” right? But do you actually put it into practice?

Journalist Ann Friedman thinks you should. She thinks that women, particularly those in powerful roles at work, should befriend their competitors and help them to succeed.

When they do succeed, it will reflect positively back on you. You shine because of their efforts. And voila, we have The Shine Theory, the term Friedman coined to explain this beneficial befriending.

(It’s good to mention here that in her article Friedman uses Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland as the prime example of Shine Theory in action. I would like to counter this by saying that Friedman is discrediting the tunes that are Stole/Work and needs to give Kelly her fair dues.)




This all seems a bit sneaky to me. Becoming friends with someone to make you look better? I’m not buying it. That’s textbook frenemy behavior that we should have left behind in Year 6. I wouldn’t want that in my workplace, and definitely not in my friendships. Step forward Jam Wilson, better known on Tumblr as 2jam4u, who I came across when researching more into Shine Theory. Talking to RATS magazine, Jam says she felt that Friedman’s theory “reeked of competitive nature that’s forced onto women as a part of our gender role”. So Jam reworked it.

Jam’s interpretation, and the one behind the hashtag #shinetheory that has spread through Twitter and Tumblr, takes “I don’t shine if you don’t shine” and turns it into “one woman shines, all women shine”: “One woman’s accomplishments benefit us all (…) we should celebrate her individually and as a collective”.
I am so here for this. This Shine Theory is based on women celebrating together. Our ‘shine’ – our talent, our accomplishments, our successes – are recognised on our own merit, and this recognition gives all of us pride.

I’ve started telling my friends “I love your shine” and I do – when they create, when they work hard, when they overcome, when they achieve, when they look great I am there with love-heart emojis and capital letters, shouting to the high heavens so everyone can witness their greatness.

Here, Shine Theory doesn’t start with deciding another woman is your competitor. Instead, women are all collaborators, in this together, taking every small victory as a team in a world that is constantly trying to take us down.

I don’t need to try and claim ownership of my friends talents. I don’t need to use it to my advantage. I can just stand back and watch them glitter and gleam and know that because of them, we are doing better. We are all doing so much better.


Bridie Wilkinson | @bridifer