I remember the evening I really began to love other women. It was in a group counseling meeting at the women’s shelter the spring of 2011.
There they were. About twelve of them. All broken. All crying. Lives a mess.
As they cried and shared openly their pain and struggles, I saw the raw beauty of femininity for the first time in my life. It was as though someone wiped a window clean and where I’d once seen distorted, ugly hags, I now saw delicate and lovely maidens.
In that moment I suddenly noticed the elegance of one’s posturing, the cuteness of another’s painted toes, the smoothness of an older women’s long legs in shorts. Each one possessed some quality of unique and outstanding beauty that I had not noticed until I saw them through the new lens. The lens of Sisterhood.
I was raised in an extremely misogynistic world, so I fully understand the jealousy and fear that haunts so many women. But, it still disturbs me. It angers me. Now that I’m no longer wallowing in it.
Growing up, I was constantly compared to my friends. I wasn’t as pretty, athletic, hard-working, sweet, curvy, smart, etc, etc, as my friends. My parents began so many sentences with, “Why can’t you be more like…….” or, “It’s too bad you aren’t built more like……” I was mocked for things I couldn’t help, such as my big nose and my flat chest while my friends were admired and flattered for seemingly everything, and that set them up, in my mind, as my competition.
I saw other women as a threat. ALL women were my competitors, and I paled in comparison to them all.
I was taught and told that women can’t be trusted. All women are whores. All women are gold diggers. All women are backstabbers. All women are liars. So, I didn’t trust women with the jewel of friendship. It was difficult for me to feel close to girls, and I certainly didn’t trust them with my secrets or around my boyfriends.
And, many of them proved me (my parents) right. They stole my clothes, slept with my boyfriends and first husband, tore apart other relationships with their lies. They were the mean girls.
My own mother was the vilest creature of all and naturally was the first and foremost representation of womanhood in my young eyes. Can you imagine what she taught me about trusting other women?!
So, I get it. Still, I feel anger well within me when I see women attacking women.
I’ve noticed when male friends on Facebook post bitter memes about how awful women are, it is mostly women who like them or comment, “LOL!” When a woman makes the news, it is mostly women in the strand of hateful “fry her!” comments at the bottom of the report. Yet, when a father was recently arrested for kidnapping his child, it was mostly women who came to his defense because, they said, the poor man probably had a mean ex who would have kept his child from him.
Last night someone posted a picture of a beautiful black woman who is an outspoken advocate for girls’ protection from female circumcision, a survivor of it herself. Some company or organization was offering money to the individual or group who had the most likes. I immediately liked it and then, out of, I guess, a sick and morbid curiosity, began to read the horrible comments made by other women. They hijacked the entire post and began nastily arguing that women need to “get off of it” and quit being hypocrites because, in their minds, it’s no different from male circumcision and “no one says a thing.”
Women were telling other women to stop talking about the horrors of holding down a little girl and, without anesthetic, scraping off her clitoris and inner labia, then stitching her outer labia closed, leaving her in shock and at HIGH risk of infection and denying her the possibility of sexual pleasure as an adult. I’ve read accounts of physicians who were horrified the first time they saw the results of this, when they were called in to deliver babies through the mess these women’s mothers, aunts, and grandmothers–other women–left them with. I’ve read stories of girls dying and nearly dying from infection, not at the time of the “procedure,” but later…..when they began menstruating and the blood was not able to escape completely, or from urinary tract infections caused by not being able to clean themselves or even relieve themselves thoroughly.
I’m not advocating male circumcision, but that’s not the same thing.
Last night someone else posted a picture of dirty work boots and a loooonnnnng rant about women needing to appreciate their husbands and how hard their men work. Awhile back someone posted a video rant by a large breasted blonde telling women to “quit bitching at [their] men and just let them go hunting”…..”they need that man time after how hard they work for us.”
A few men, of course, liked these posts. But, again, it was mostly women who responded positively and glowingly, cutting down other women with the assumption that women in general just don’t appreciate men the way they should….the way men deserve to be appreciated, admired, honored.
I’m not a bitter man hater. I like men. I love men. I miss the scent of a man, the feel of a nice bicep, the sound of a deep voice. I think wives should appreciate their husbands. But, men are not superior, Ladies! They do not have more value or worth than we do. Our work and labor should also be appreciated. The same judgment or mercy should be equally applied across the board. If you are of the inclination to believe a man is innocent until proven guilty, then that gentle approach should also apply to women. If you are apt to judge a woman quickly, you’d better judge men quickly then, too.
The bottom line is….we are all sinful, fallen human beings. We all do wrong: men and women. And, we are all human beings created in the image of God. We all are of great worth: male and female.
That evening, back at the women’s shelter, in 2011, I alternately cried and laughed hysterically as I shared the history of abuse in my marriage and released all of that stifled emotion. And, those beautiful women sat and listened with compassion, as I had sat and listened with compassion to their similar stories. As I saw that they did not hate me, distrust me, judge me, or desire to compete with me, I relaxed into a Sisterhood of support. I began to finally put down the heavy rod of self-hatred that I’d been carrying on my back my entire life. I was free to love other women and allow them to love me back.
We need other women. We need deep, real friendships with women. I think the devil scored big when he convinced us to hate each other, when he convinced us to hate that core part of ourselves…..femininity. He robbed us of an incredible gift…the sisterhood of support.