It is like drinking a Crush. It is a burst: bright, sweet, bubbling over and refreshing. That is the rush I get when I see women winning. It is why when my friend K-Lynn broached the potential subject to me: “The Value of Sisterhood among Women”, my mouth has been watering to say something about it. You do not have to win an Emmy, become the next FLOTUS or a neuro-scientist. (Although if someone I knew was accomplishing these things I would be shrieking and fan-girling for them on the front row.)
Women all around us are emitting glory every day. They are spearheading organisations with goals they believe in; they are working hard and balancing family life; they are raising the next generation’s loudest voices. Man, they are out here mastering the arts of tailoring, cooking, singing, academics, writing and public speaking. The list goes on. Everything these women touch becomes gold. Black Girl Magic is a shadow of the marvel they are endowed with. Yet, you hear women with phrases like “I only have guy friends cuz females are fake” among others. How do such negative perceptions become so pervasive in our society?
I wasn’t always a chanteuse for praising my gal pals, but there are some important lessons I learned over time about the value in women appreciating each other. And I want to share them with you today, trusting that if you don’t already, you will begin to by the end.
- Don’t let the negative experiences shape your entire reality.
I was raised as the eldest of three girls. We body slammed each other when we disagreed as children, but 21 years have forged a formidable bond. My mother was (and is) an exemplary, leading, female figure in my life. At 11 years old, I attended an all-girls Secondary School. You would think that I would have automatically acquired a deep appreciation for woman building. But unfortunately, I did not. During these crucial identity building years, I was the object of numerous depreciating remarks concerning my appearance, nerdy interests and awkwardness. I retreated to a small band of friends with similar interests, who would not attack these sore points. I kept to myself. I lived with apprehension of other women.
- Dispel the “all women are…” myth.
Sometimes we use our rough experiences to make generalisations. Since I suffered at the hands of 14-year-old female peers, with sharp tongues, I developed an aversion to the specific group. Some of us are hurt by gossip, so we are convinced that if we befriend other girls they will talk about us. Am I saying that stepping beyond your comfort place would never result in these negativities? No. But we cannot begin our narratives with “all women are…”. They are not all snarky. These characteristics we use daily to smear women are not evidence that women are demons. They indicate that humans are faulty. What we see come out of anybody is an outflow of the person’s own character. As my sister always says, “humans are humans”. We have to look at women more objectively. Look past the stereotypes and examine people as individuals. You will be pleasantly surprised that there are women out there who are not frauds. There are those who can very easily identify with you, love you hard and work through rough patches with you. When you are looking for a friend, do not look at gender nearly as much as you look at character. This leads me to my next point.
- Steer clear of the narrow construct society has built for women.
It appears that many believe that women are jealous and spiteful by nature. Has it ever occurred to you, that our rearing has a great influence on who we are? From a young age, women are taught to value beauty. Studies show that little girls frequently feel like more value is placed on their appearance than their internal qualities. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are specific features which are regarded as beauty standards by society. We are pressured to look a certain way based on media portrayals, esteemed pageants and preferences dictated by those around us. As a result, women find themselves caught up in a pernicious comparison game: her belly is flatter than mine, guys like her more than me, I’m not light skinned enough. When you are constantly put down by society, one can internalise it. It becomes challenging to keep those negative emotions inside, resulting in jealousy, condescension and anger.
One of the ugliest effects of a beauty standard, is that it makes people competitive in order to reach the pinnacle of it. Especially since many of us are taught that this pinnacle is determined by what men want, we find ourselves in a hysteric clamour towards this desirable place. We find ourselves wreaking unthinkable havoc on each other in desperation. Women want attention from those they love, and it can be quite distressing to feel as if you are hopelessly wrestling with perfection for a place at the table. The good news is, there is room for everyone at our best.
Put at the forefront of your mind the phrase: “beauty is fleeting” (Proverbs 31:30). Consequently, we cannot rely exclusively on beauty for worthwhile gain. We are not shaped to fit the one-size-fit-all mould of the patriarchal world. We see athletes like Serena Williams badgered for her tall, robust build. This is a struggle I identified strongly with where I did not fit the tiny, slender frame viewed as the only type of beautiful. I had to realise that there is beauty in a powerful build. I once heard it said of the Sierra Leonian ballerina, Michaela Deprince that: she may not be a graceful swan, but she is a powerful eagle. The more we ignore fickle, superficial beauty standards and accept our curves or lack of them, the more we begin to appreciate the internal beauty of each sister. Every different part of our natural make-up, inside and out, makes us whole and that is beautiful enough. We need a community of sisters reinforcing it! Beauty in appearance cannot compete with beauty in wholeness.
- Get that confidence going girl!
There is a popular saying, that “blowing out someone else’s candle, won’t make yours shine brighter” (Anon). Some of us gain a strange sense of accomplishment by belittling what others have accomplished. Often, this happens because we have no security in what we can attain nor the quality of what we have to offer. There were times I looked around and thought, well she is advancing in athletics, she can make crafts, what about me? I have no talents. Then I would look at the small portion in my hand and ask: “What is so special about this? Everyone else can do this.”
Just remember that what seems easy to you, or comes naturally to you, is always a struggle to someone else. Do not deprecate your gifts, use them. When I began to see where I could be most effective, I began to get more excited about seeing other women step into their effectiveness. Demonstrating this, does not involve mindlessly forwarding that chain mail to ten women you love. It is a natural outflow. Now I look on and see her belt out a full, melodious note in song and I’m beaming with pride. I see her work on her hair regimen and build a business, I say: “You go girl!” I see her stand up for the weak and I laud the strength in her. I hear her words of wisdom and think “that’s right sage!” I see her support her friends and I think “let’s do that!” I watch her breathe life on paper and I am in awe. Her is any woman. Her is every woman. Her is she who gives an entire life signified by wails. What a masterwork a woman is!
The moment we become sold on our identity and our individuality; the second we can see the value in what we bring to the table; we stop feeling threatened by Helen if she baked a better pie for our children’s class party. If we become confident in what God created us to be, we will be too busy putting our talents to use and discovering how to better wield our tools, to be distracted by the empire Sarah is building. In fact, we would be so pleased by the satisfaction we gain out of doing something that motivates us, that we would desire for others to find such purposefulness too.
P.S. I plan to take this topic again from other angles in the future!
Next week I’m writing on one of the selected commission titles! Look out for it!