What happened to the Sisterhood?

Image from www.demotix.com

Image from www.demotix.com

“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, a good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-dressed, well-groomed, and unaggressive.”  ~ Marya Mannes

I briefly thought about titling this post ‘Sisters, don’t be Bitches!’…

It is somewhat surprising to me – as a child of the eighties, growing up with the work of the suffragettes and feminists behind me, and my future status as an equal citizen in the world presumed – that now in 2013 I am writing, not about men, but to other women.

Sisters!  Wake up!

Feminism and the Women’s Movement was about giving us choices. We can vote or choose to become an elected representative of government ourselves. We have access to education and we can choose a path of study.  We can choose to marry. We can choose to have children or not.  We can choose to go to work or stay at home with a family. Or we can do both. We can choose to be a florist, a pole-dancer, a bio-physicist. We can choose high heels or sensible flats. Cosmetic surgery or au naturale. That’s the whole point. We get to choose.

Duh, I hear you say.  I know that, Nicole.

Well, that’s good.  But there’s another part to this equation. We get to choose but the flipside of this is that feminism won’t work if we then judge each other’s choices.

We need to stick together here. There’s no right or wrong, only choices. We need to support each other, and our right to make choices, to be individuals, and to forge our own paths.

A woman is not a better woman because she stays home with her children. She is not a better woman because she works. She is not worse for having no children, or for having six. She is not lesser for being a bad cook, a poor housekeeper, or ambitious in the workplace. She is not more because she has a trim figure, sex appeal or fashion sense. A woman is just who she is – an individual making choices.

The media is full of judgments and statements about women, and what a ‘good’ woman, an ‘ideal’ woman, a ‘healthy’ woman, a ‘sexy’ woman should be like. That’s a dangerous thing to buy into. When we start saying this is ‘good’ and this is ‘bad’ we erode each other, and we undo all the work that was done to enable us to have these choices in the first place.

Stepford Wives image from www.blogs.tribune.com.pk

Stepford Wives image from www.blogs.tribune.com.pk

The truth is that women still do the lion’s share of child-raising, housework, care-giving and looking after elderly parents. On top of careers. On top of personal interests, relationships and friendship maintenance.

We all take different paths and there are many more paths available to us now, but one thing needn’t change. Traditionally, women have supported each other. Grandmothers, elders, aunties, mothers, sisters, friends – they’ve come together to help each other with child raising, families, relationships, nursing the sick, cooking, creating, connecting and grieving. They have shared their wisdom and skills with one another, and enabled those with particular interests or skills to shine, while holding up those who are walking a difficult path. That is one of the magnificent things about being female – this long tradition of support, emotional connection and caring.

It costs nothing to give encouragement or kindness. Respecting each other and our individual choices makes the journey easier and more satisfying for all of us. And it sets an important example for future generations.

We’re living in extraordinary times. And so much of what we enjoy and take for granted has come about from the efforts of strong and determined women who wanted more for themselves, their sisters, their friends and their children.

Our society is made beautiful through this amazing tapestry of diversity. And that diversity is created from the right to choose.

Choice is important to all of us. It’s a basic human right.

Men make choices all the time and are not greatly judged or examined by their peers for their actions.

So why should women treat each other so differently?

Sisters, I’m asking you – support each other and our right to choose.  Celebrate that diversity and the many options we can take in our lives. And if what another woman chooses is different from you, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s wonderful. We are not just women – we are people.  Individuals. No two the same.

Most of us wish for more support and connection in our lives. It starts by suspending judgement and extending kindness and respect, especially to other women. Imagine the world we can co-create founded on that energy!