Every time I sit down to write something about my thoughts on interpersonal relationships between women, my mind blanks.
Where do I start? How do I begin to conquer the thousands and thousands of years of conditioning which has pitted woman against woman, sister against sister?
Hazy memories my mind struggles to remember show me that defensive attitudes towards other females weren’t something I was born with. I remember being in Kindergarten and sitting across the table from a girl my own age, who sat with a sneer on her face.
“You’re so bossy,” she told me.
The only reconciliation I received from adults was “girls are mean,” thus beginning the endless cycle which created a chasm wider than I wonder if I can cross sometimes. It created within me an early distrust towards the one group I am supposed to relate to.
I had a tumultuous relationship with my female peers growing up. The grade school I attended, smack dab in the middle of a predominantly white, Christian, affluent suburb produced its fair share of girls who looked and acted nothing like me, the horse-loving girl who had a self-proclaimed “emo-stage.” The girls didn’t like me, and I didn’t know why they didn’t like me. My adolescence forced me further and further away from them instead of encouraging reflection on why we all felt so driven to tear each other down.
It continued to drive a wedge between me and other females.
With a shaky foundation for female peer-relationships entering high school, I struggled and floated around until I found a few good friends. They began re-writing the stories I had learned growing up.
“Girls are horrible.”
“They’re mean and catty. You probably would get along better with boys anyway.”
“They’re so emotional. So unstable. They’ll turn on you so quickly.”
And as I grew up:
“You can’t trust other women around your boyfriend,” as if every other woman that walks, talks, and acts better than you should be a reason to hate them.
I learned to tell boys that “I’m not like other girls,” and that “I’m not crazy like the rest of them.” I learned to categorize girls into neatly labeled boxes like “pretty,” “athletic,” and my personal favorite, “psycho,” instead of smart, courageous, or compassionate.
It wasn’t until my best friend died from an accidental overdose that I began to learn the meaning of sisterhood. I watched the one-hundred something girl class in high school band together and form a bond, albeit for a tragic reason, that I had yet to see. I watched enemies become friends and I felt myself become transformed by the notion that women could co-exist. Peacefully.
It planted seeds in my mind, and I craved those relationships elsewhere in my life without consciously realizing it, but I was continously caught up on the narrative I had been preached my entire life.
From my personal experience, without a second thought, my first instinct in past situations was to immediately tear down any other female I deemed as a threat. Mostly because of my own deeply rooted insecurities but also because girls aren’t taught to like other girls.
We’re taught to fear them. Taught to doubt their motivations and question their genuine intentions. We’re taught to believe that two candles can’t shine at once, and in order to win approval (usually the approval of a man) we can’t “be like other girls,” and we surely cannot let them shine as brightly as ourselves.
We’ve been separated from the one thing that can offer us the greatest sense of community: sisterhood.
Historically speaking, this wasn’t always the case either. Vibrant groups of women exist in many ancient stories and the tales of their sisterhood echo throughout our own ancestry. Women thrived and enjoyed each other’s company without tension and without competition once before, which means it is possible now.
The first moment I looked sisterhood in the eye and appreciated it, unflinchingly, was a situation that was imperfectly perfect. A woman, that I did not know, stood up for ME, without knowing ME, when my previous boyfriend made advances on her while we were still together.
The moment caught the air in my throat, and as much as I wanted to rage and scream and cry because it meant there was something about her that was “better” than me which drew his attention, all I could feel was a deep and abiding gratitude for this inexplicable link from woman to woman without even any knowledge of each other personally. Her bravery set precidence for the way I examined female relationships from there on out.
I cannot even begin to explain the revelations I have had and the coming to terms with what sisterhood means for me personally. I wish I could put into words how aware I have become of our own internalized misogny and how stomache achingly prevalent it is in our culture, but for now, there are small steps that can be taken to heal your own attitudes towards other women.
Recognition of our biases is one of the first ways to become cognizant. You don’t have to act on it yet, but notice where you see yourself being bitter towards other women. Is it because they’re “prettier” than you? Do they have something you think you can’t have? Do you think your own worth is diminished by another woman’s accomplishments?
Second, willingness to accept yourself is key. Without a healthy relationship with yourself and your own self-worth, it is impossible to begin wiping your eyes clear of the systemic divide drawn between women for so long.
Third, an open mind with a desire for knowledge to truly understand history as it pertains to women is also important. There is so much we’re not taught about our own lineage as females. When we begin to see that female history is not just a tale of damsels in distress and being locked in castles, we can start to understand our own roles in our society now and how we can become better. Additionally, compassion and patience is also necessary because erasing and re-writing the stories which separate us takes time. It can also be violently incendiary because, well… old habits die hard.
And finally, in order to empower and uplift other women, it is crucial to understand that:
WE ALL CAN SHINE TOGETHER. HAND IN HAND.
Black. White. Yellow. Brown. Red.
A woman who wants a career and no kids.
A woman who wants to get married early, have kids, and be a homemaker.
Free. Or not free.
I am my sister’s keeper. You are your sister’s keeper. And it is high time we begin to understand the intrinsic value of deep and soulful connections with other females.
(((The Ascent of Woman by Dr. Amanda Foreman has been one of the most influential documentaries I have watched thus far on women’s history. Additionally, any writing by Lisa Lister, Denise Linn, and Regena Thomashauer will blow your mind if you’re looking for more things on female empowerment. It’s a
little radical a lot radical so be open minded before diving in. Poetry by Reyna Biddy, Nikita Gill, and Amanda Lovelace is also a good place to seek empowerment.)))