Reclaiming and celebrating sisterhood
What does the word ‘sisterhood’ conjure up for you? Togetherness, mutual support, celebrating each other’s successes and lifting each other up in our difficult times are some of the aspects that come to mind.
Yet, it’s a sad fact that the idea of sisterhood has so often been undermined by our conditioning as women to compete, fear and turns on each other in a patriarchal system where power and resources are scarce.
The distortion of our culture
The image of the backstabbing ‘bitch’ who steals her friend’s boyfriend, gossips behind her back, ‘uses’ her female friends and secretly envies their success is an all-too-common image in mainstream media and is one many of us recognise from our own experience. When women are systematically disempowered and stripped away from the root of their own womb power, this can have a very distorting effect, and the stereotype itself can have a self-fulfilling effect.
According to eminent feminist bell hooks, women are separated from each other by sexism, racism and classism. Instead of seeing each other as beloved sisters, we feel threatened. We fall into the limitation of viewing each other through the lens we have learned in a deeply divided, sexist society, constantly assessing which of us is in a ‘dominant’ or ‘submissive’ role in any given situation. Woman-hating is deeply embedded in our culture.
hooks say, “we are taught that women are “natural” enemies, that solidarity will never exist between us because we cannot, should not and do not bond with one another.” This is part of the patriarchy’s attempts to keep us from our power by separating us from each other.
Yet, we long for more.
In fact, it is more natural for us to sympathise with each other and to co-operate peacefully as we used to do in pre-patriarchal societies, which existed for much, much longer than the structures we have today, according to researchers such as Merlin Stone, who explores these ideas in the seminal book ‘When God was a Woman’.
To reclaim our ability to live in sisterhood, we need to go beyond the barriers that seem to divide us and to achieve political solidarity between women, says feminist blogger Maribel Lopez. This means not oppressing each other in the way we have been oppressed – it is to unite in our diversity, find our common ground, and try to communicate with and understand each other despite our differences in culture, religion, class, race, ethnicity, and beliefs. To rise together.
At the Temple of Sacred Arts, respect, honouring, nurturing and sympathising with each other form the basic goddess-centred approach toward all members as well as towards nature. It’s no coincidence that the division between humankind and nature occurred around the same time as goddesses were reviled in favour of male gods, and we are actively healing these divisions through our work.
At the Temple of Sacred Arts, we strive to embody the ideals of Ma’at in our day to day life, which include:
⋆Speaking with sincerity and living in truth
⋆Living in a trustful way in all affairs, including our relationships
⋆Keeping our own council
⋆Communicating with compassion
⋆Speaking positively of others and with good intent.
Isis and Nephthys
For inspiration on how to live in true sisterhood, we can look to the relationship between Isis and Nephthys, twin sisters who are the polar opposite of each other. Some might say that they are aspects of all women, representing both the dark and the light.
Their story could easily have resulted in separation and destruction. Nephthys sleeps with Osiris, Isis’s beloved, and gives birth to Anubis. Out of shame, she tosses the child to the desert. Isis hears about this and without a second thought goes to find the child, forgiving her sister and her partner. When Isis is captured by Seth, Nephthys breastfeeds Horus and also takes a very important part in the lamenting (the resurrection of Osiris).
The two support each other through these most difficult of situations. Instead of picking sides when it comes to one another, they exercise forgiveness. There isn’t any sign of jealousy between them and, instead of competition, they choose solidarity.
Rooted in sisterhood
Blogger Mookie Whitten puts it beautifully as she shares about the community she lives in, which is deeply rooted in sisterhood: “We have not let ourselves be alone. We have pushed, cried, and loved each other’s wounds. … we are beginning to heal. That is what sisterhood looks like. It is a deep feminine community. Rooted in love. Challenging, unselfish love.”
How can we start to embody sisterhood in our lives?
- We can start from a vantage point of listening. We take the approach of seeking to understand the other woman’s reality, asking her sensitive questions and showing openness and support through body language and verbal communication.
- Instead of seeing the other woman as a competitor or threat, we actively look for opportunities for collaboration, finding our shared interests and challenges and uniting our energies for the collective good.
- We include each other. When a new woman comes into our community or workplace, we strive to welcome her and find out what she needs and how we can support her to contribute her gifts. We create networks of mutual support.
- We avoid gossiping about our sisters and instead use our speech to uplift and support. We always respect each other’s privacy, integrity and autonomy and allow room for differences of opinion without taking it personally or making each other wrong. If this is difficult, we can ask for mediation and continue to work on our communication skills.
At the Blue Lotus Sanctuary, the goddess-centred nature community we at the Temple are creating, sisterhood will be one of the core founding principles. We will meet, celebrate and honour nature and the wisdom teachings together, working to transform ourselves and our society through deep respect and support of each other. You can read more about our community vision and find out how to be part of it here.