"Women who understand how powerful they are do not give into envy over meaningless things, instead they fight to maintain the beautiful bond of the sisterhood. These are the real women who know that we need each other's love and support to survive in this world. Love is the essence of being a woman. We must be that light of love that seals the bond and unique beauty of our sisterhood." -Bindu
Sisterhood: What a word of contradictions.
How is it possible to be so connected to someone who is not your biological relation, yet, who knows you better than you know yourself? The women that we embrace as our "sisters" are sometimes closer than our own family members. They defend us, wipe away our tears, take care of us when we are ill, encourage us in the bad times, lend us money if needed, and support our dreams. And at the very same time these same women will not hesitate to scold us, push us, even anger us in order to protect us.
True sisterhood cannot be forced. It is has to be developed with interest, patience, reciprocity and over time. Not every woman will be your best friend, nor should she be invited to be in your inner circle, but every woman is deserving of your respect and support when you are able to provide it. Sisterhood is not a trite word we throw around. Being your sister's keeper should be a reflex. It should be based on how you would want to be treated if you were walking in her shoes. Sisterhood knows no boundary, no race, no class or geography. Sisterhood transcends and it transforms us for the better. Sisterhood is from the heart.
Indeed it is a great irony to be a member of the sacred "sisterhood" from which all women are born. Being a woman is all about being with other women. It starts from the time we are little girls passing notes in school, or asking that little girl sitting in the second row next to us if she will be our best friend. We all remember with great longing those innocent days sleeping in our sleeping bags giggling and talking about boys all night with other teenage girls at over night slumber parties. We learn early as girls that other girls (who will grow up to be other women) are both our competition and our co-conspirators. Therein lies our conflict. Yet, deep inside we all know that we are at our best when we have our "sisters" (biological or not) at our side cheering us on and watching our backs.
The fact is we are not just connected, as women. We are interconnected. So why does it seem that at a time when so many of us (and it is about "us") are getting ahead and doing amazing things that far too many of us are being left behind? The truth is, many women despite our achievements or power are just too scared, too selfish, or too insecure to help other women. And that is what real "sisterhood" is all about, because the reality is, if we don't help each other, who will? And if not in this time, when?
As we end 2013, and forge ahead into yet another New Year, I charge my fellow women of the world to make as one of your New Year Resolutions a pledge to love and support other women. Not just the women in your life, who you love and who love you. That is easy. I want to challenge all of us who can, to bring other women along into our ranks. Talk is cheap ladies. What are you doing day-to-day to lift other women as you climb?
The fact is this:It isn't all about you or your success. It is about the success of all women. I want to challenge women of this time to make a way for women of the next time to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. I want to ask you to make a mental pledge to the following when it comes to how you interact with, react to, and treat other women:
1. Be kind. Being a witch to another woman violates the woman code that we all instinctively know is how we should conduct ourselves. I promise you this, if you are mean to other women, harsh to other women it will come back to you and on you in spades. Why generate that kind of karma for yourself; just be kind.
2. Be patient. You need grace. You need support. You need encouragement. So why won't you give it to another woman who is younger, new at the job, trying to make her way in the world? Treat other women as you WANT to be treated NOT as you MAY HAVE been treated by other bad women on your way up the professional or life ladder.
3. Communicate. Talk, do not text. Talk, do not email. Talk, do not gossip. Talk, do not tell your inner circle what she did wrong or how they should avoid her. Go to the woman you have an issue with and talk it out. Stop with the petty school girl antics and talk. And most importantly, stop "going off" on other women and erupting. You do irreparable damage to trust, and to the sisterhood. If one on one talking does not work, or is not advisable in the situation, the Bible says (for you church girls) that you can take a witness, a mediator, someone who can help you two work it out. But give her a chance to be heard and to hear you. Communicate what you need woman to woman. Stop trashing other women and black balling them. It is not cool. And it violates the woman code of life.
4. Be empathetic. Empathy is the single most important skill any leader must have. Your ability to relate, forgive, understand, discuss, share, and engage other women will absolutely impact how successful you are in life, as a leader, and as a member of the sisterhood of women. Period. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you cannot find it in your heart to act like a human being before you act like a supervisor, boss, executive, colleague, or friend than you have failed at leadership 101.
5. Operate by a Code of Conduct. Don't be a hypocrite. Do not place yourself above other women just because you have a title, status, or stuff. But by chance and God's grace any of us tomorrow could lose all we have: our homes, our families, our good jobs, our health and our wealth. The next generation of women is watching those of us who are over 35. Reality TV is teaching younger women and some of our peers that being nasty mean girls is the way to succeed in life. It is not. We have a responsibility to set an example of what it means to be a "sister" and to actually "keep" your sister even when we disagree. You cannot live by do what I say, but not what I do. It will not work with this generation of savvy, sophisticated women. They see you. The question is do you see you. There is a Code. It's time we lived up to it starting now.
In the final analysis, to be a "sister" is to be a friend. It is to be loyal. Tried and true. It is to give a smile, lend a hand, and practice friendship. It is to be forgiving. To be a covering, a balm, a helping hand, a fierce advocate and builder of other women. Being a "sister" means you value other women as you value yourself. Now that can be problematic if you do not value yourself as a woman. But, it's okay you can learn to love yourself. You can learn to feel worthy and valued. You can learn to trust, love and support other women even if everything you have experienced in your past or been taught is contrary to that possibility.
It's time for us to put the "sister" back into the word "sisterhood." It starts with you and with me, right here and right now.
Follow Sophia A. Nelson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IAmSophiaNelson
Listen to the talented Cameroonian singer/rapper/songwriter Lorine Chia.
University sometimes leaves me uninspired and depressed, politics and grammar rob me of my creativity and drown me in a sea of confusion and self-doubt (and upon entering year 3, future anxieties). Writing helps, except without inspiration I have nothing to write about. In such infertile times, more than ever, I seek help from female artists who have previously and continue to greatly influence my life within and without the creative sphere. Looking at other women’s accomplishments and understanding their struggles and more importantly how they overcome them always helps me to get back on my path of self-discovery and growth. I once read that hardly any writer can escape the overwhelming feeling of senselessness as heightened sensibility and the ability to suffer are part of any creative process. Those phases are usually followed by an increase in creative growth and output, so until I will have overcome this writing block, I want to introduce you to some of the amazing artists that are shaping me and teaching me how to deal with life. May you be inspired too!
If I am perfectly honest, I see my near future becoming an alarming and exciting resemblance of Spike Lee’s Nola Darling. I know I gotta have it! However I also know I ain’t got it yet and that I still have a long road between me and success. The goal is to make this road as informative and beneficial as possible, to be carefree and to be beautiful, to concern myself with the free (black) female form and to never give up even when all the little side hustles that barely pay the rent seem to become too much. To me, Nola Darling stands for impulsive living, good music and cinephilia and most importantly for not punishing ourselves for the mistakes we make, because the world is already harsh enough on us. She also stands for many other things that I don’t necessarily agree with or feel like I can’t judge, which means that I need to educate myself a lot more and be more (self-)critical. Still, I admire her as an artist and free spirit and I also share her fears and relate to many of her experiences and opinions.
On a more serious note, a woman I actually deeply relate to is Rupi Kaur, a Canadian poetess, writer, illustrator and performer of Punjabi descent who emigrated to Canada at the age of four. She published the two books “milk and honey” and “the sun and her flowers” which deal with violence, love, feminism, loss and healing. Although my identity is so far removed from hers, no one has ever articulated my feelings as perfectly as she has, certainly not myself. Rupi is open and honest about depression, she teaches us about the consequences of invading someone else’s body, about how to overcome pain and about sisterhood. Most importantly, she teaches us how to love ourselves and value ourselves no matter how little others may value us. Her poetry makes me cry on a Friday night and it makes me wake up stronger on a Saturday morning, because her words reassure me that I am not alone.
Another artist that inspires me daily is the Nigerian-Malaysian creative Yagazie Emezi. She is a self-taught photographer from Aba, Nigeria, who concerns herself with topics such as how trauma survivors left with significant scarring adapt to their new bodies as well as sex, sex-education and education for girls in at-risk communities. She raises awareness for mental health, body image disorders and shows me that it is possible to travel for work and make a living as a creative. However she also stresses that success often seems to erase the work that is being put in before, after and during and that it is important to remember that successful people are always on their grind. Her plans are to publish an online magazine where she showcases the work of unknown African photographers and in the meantime, she draws little cartoons, runs a youtube channel and exhibits her work internationally. We need more genuine creatives like her, women who are pure and honest and talented and find this purity in the people they document.
Bringing African culture to international audiences is also Alsarah, a Sudanese, more specifically Nubian, singer and band leader based in New York. She gave a concert and life interview in Nuremberg in August 2017 and I was lucky enough to hear some of her wisdom about what it means to be unsure of how to define home, what it means to be in between cultures and what it means to inhabit the political body of a black Arabic speaking woman in today’s societies. She sings in Arabic, her genre is called East African Retro Pop and she uses her art to raise awareness of the world we live in, where borders and colonialism and dictators define the land we live on, where are Muslim (travel) ban only comes as a surprise to those who are not affected by it anyways. She was also part of the documentary “Beats of the Antonov“, directed by Hajooj Kuka. It tells the “story of the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan, showing how they deal with civil war. Traditionally music has always been part of daily life in these areas, but now, it has a new role in a society challenged by war.” (IMDb) Beats of the Antonov won the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
Last but not least the wonderful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist and feminist we should all know by now. Our love story began when I chose her feature in Beyonce’s Flawless as my graduation song, when she empowered me while I was walking up to receive my high school diploma. She has published four books that have been translated into more than 30 languages and her essays are becoming an integral part of the reading lists of American students. Moreover, “We should all be feminists” was made into a bag by Christian Dior. Her latest work “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” teaches a young mother how to raise her daughter to become a feminist. We should all take this advice to heart, especially No. 8: “Teach her to reject likability. Her job is not to make herself likable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.” and No. 15: “Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference.”
Compilation by Amuna Wagner