“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke . . . She will need her sisterhood.”
― Gloria Steinem
If the purpose of my writing was to provide some sort of solace to other women by activating a re-membering of something we have collectively forgotten, then I guess that something would be Sisterhood.
What does ‘Sisterhood’ mean? What does it taste like, feel like, smell like? How will I recognise Sisterhood when she is standing in front of me? Or is she purely ideological? Is Sisterhood something elusive and historical (her-storical!) gleaned from feminist authors’ twist on ancient matriarchal cultures where women bled together, held eachother and eachothers’ children, protected eachother, worked and danced and laughed and pleasured together? And if this variety of Sisterhood is so fictional, why is it that hundreds of women I have worked with still long for and grieve the memory? Can Sisterhood exist in a patriarchal world where competition means survival?
To that long list of questions I will add one more, perhaps at the root of our discomfort with the Sisterhood word: Why is it that so many women still don’t trust the Feminine? That question seems to be an oxymoron, proof of patriarchy’s powerful success. As women we have obediently and often unknowingly internalised the Patriarchal voice. We have swallowed the belief that the Feminine can not be trusted. Left to her own devices She is wild, unpredictable, cyclical, vast, delicate, ferocious, and shamelessly untameable…. the Great Mystery Herself, innately alive in all women, but too often asleep, abandoned or silenced. Many women fear the word ‘Sisterhood’ or avoid it altogether. Herein lies a painful legacy, centuries and generations old, that appears in the ‘soul loss’ symptoms of women today.
The Feminine has many faces. She can be bitchy and cold; she can be cutting and icy; she can be ruthless, but hey, even the weather is like that sometimes. Perhaps it hurts when it comes from women because I have heavily invested in the belief that as a woman it is my birthright to share some predestined comradeship that is as essential to my wholeness and yours as it is to humanity’s. Women are the harmony bringers, the gatherers, the hearth burners, nourishers, life givers and gate keepers to the other realms, creating the circle and the centre. If the women are healthy, the future will be healthy.
What do women fear about other women? Betrayal. In an effort to protect Her, the unspoken code of silencing the Feminine has been quietly passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, in a ghost-like whisper.
‘Every woman’s mother is essentially her first sister, her first connection to the Feminine. As the young woman moves towards adulthood she will blossom within the embrace and freedom afforded her by the sense of belonging within the greater circle of women, a deep comfort in her own skin.’ Dr. Christiane Northrup
Here’s my definition of Sisterhood:
A recognition of the relationship between all women, and all our mothers, and the rich tapestry of female expressions across the globe; that we all carry the same depth of knowing, power to nurture, create, restore, heal and destroy, an intimate and primal connection to universal laws of nature’s cycles of life, birth and death. (I trust that our Feminine instincts are alive and well beneath our intricately designed personas keeping us afloat in a patriarchal world.)
Sisterhood recognises that harming other women is an act of self-harm.
Sisterhood includes accountability, solidarity, respect women for their choices, never hurting other women or girls to get what I want, speaking up on behalf of those without voices.
To see other women as allies, not competition for affection or social attention.
Sisterhood is a state of mind and heart, it is active faith; it is a verb, not a noun.
And Sisterhood listens and walks with respect for the Great Mother Earth.
Explore your beliefs about women, yourself included. Find what is ‘good’ about being a woman, create your own definitions, not cultural definitions. See other women with eyes on her attributes, and tell her. The power of women’s hopes and dreams and visions can be actualised when we believe in ourselves. Warts and all. Reach out to a sister.Unmasking the fallacy of disempowerment and divisiveness we will begin to trust in women, our Mother Earth, and our own mothers, who did the best they could in a system of oppression, even though sometimes it was not good at all. Probably they were never truly mothered either.
Who is my sister? She gives me lots of scope, yet she is there in a time of need. She tells me the truth, even when I don’t like it. She upholds my dignity, she doesn’t try to categorize me, she lets me change and grow over time, she shares her clothes and jewlery and recipes and chocolate. She walks in silence with me on the beach, she gives me encouragement, she asks for what she needs, she sings her own songs. We are always equals. She has no time for jealousy. She shares her wisdom, she waits for me when I am late, she doesn’t have to thank me when I look after her children, she lights candles when I’m dark, her house is always welcoming and we wash the dishes together while we talk politics and laugh till we cry. Even when there’s pain, unspeakable hurt, there’s always room. She let’s me speak till I’m finished, disagreements don’t threaten sisterhood. The focus on growth and connection, inclusion, learning, forgiveness, love and community go beyond differences in opinion. Our relationship is a dance in motion, it is never finished. And although it may be punctuated with pauses, there are no doubts if it will continue, because we value Sisterhood. We choose to persist over time and sickness and crying children and messy divorces and scratchy rashes and stormy voyages.
I believe sisterhood can cure whatever ails us as women. Get out of your kitchen or your office or off your exercise bike or out from behind your children and reach out to your sisters near and far. See them for who they are, raise them up and we all rise up. I have faith in you, sister, faith in your capacity to feel, in your gentle heart, in your brazen strength, in your crazy ideas, in your invisible dreams, in your life. In your soul and in your womanspirit.
“Once upon a time there were two sisters. One of them was really, really strong, and one of them wasn’t.’ You looked at me. ‘Your turn.’
I rolled my eyes. ‘The strong sister went outside into the rain and realized the reason she was strong was because she was made out of iron, but it was raining and she rusted. The end.’