Sisterhood of the Soul by Venessa Bowers

sisterhood symbol

During the second-wave of feminism (1960s and 1970s), many women touted the notion of sisterhood. For them, mostly white, upper middle-class, educated women, the concept meant a solidarity around shared struggles, activism, and theory. However, this sisterhood was stilted by the fact that women of color were excluded from this solidarity. It would be easy to rehash this notion of sisterhood through the lenses of multiple feminist writers’ shared and isolated experiences. However, I’d like to take a moment to make a statement that is personal, political, and still, more intensely personal because it involves the soul.

I spent the morning with some women I have come to regard as sisters of my soul. I say this because we do not have shared experiences, lives, circumstances, religious beliefs, etc. What we do have is a calling. We are all social workers. We understand that at the most unstable, emotionally draining, and depleted places in our lives and selves, we are called to do the work that seeks to heal the lives of children and families. Not one of us has “got it together” but together, we’ve got it. Let me explain.

A woman I greatly respect showed soul-crushing emotion today. And in the midst of this expression, she kept apologizing for not being a leader. From my position on the floor at her feet, I could feel a cracking in my heart happen. She was being a leader BECAUSE she was showing emotion. What she was describing was devastating. Had she not cried, shook, raged, I’m certain I would have thought less of her leadership. But what was more striking than the feeling in my heart was that every woman in the room took it in turn to support her by saying what I was thinking in their own words. The connection was palpable in the room. Almost, or perhaps exactly, as if we have all had these moments of excruciating pain and found ourselves apologizing for being human, or taking too much space and time, or whatever other ugly judgment we place on ourselves because we are women. Bounded by socially constructed notions of how we are “supposed to behave,” we apologize for ourselves and in that moment embrace the shame of being a woman that is not based on something we have done, but on who we are. We are women. We are shameful.

But here’s the thing, what I experienced in that space and time today, watching the support of the women in the room, the love, the care, the compassion, the unblinking dedication to the soul of our colleague and friend, I was not ashamed to be a woman. I was proud. I was reminded of what makes a woman’s way of knowing something special, intricate, and delicate. I felt lucky to be in the company of these women and I felt at home. And isn’t a feeling of being at home something sisters experience?

And, for the record, these women were women of color and there was one other white woman there besides me. And isn’t that interesting? Aren’t we supposed to fear each other? Aren’t the white women supposed to be the leaders? Um, no. And that is the point. In this space with these women, all of our socially constructed assumptions are challenged. We share wholeheartedly; we collaborate creatively, and show our unfettered selves. And, it’s not perfect and that’s what makes it beautiful.

For example, at one point we were talking about “twisting hair.” I was not sure by any measure what that meant in all reality and I said during this conversation “I claim my white-privilege to get my gray dyed and hair cut, and be on my way in 45 minutes.” Everyone laughed and called my hair “wash and wear.” Well, yeah, it would be compared to doing natural hair that takes up to eight hours to complete. Wow. I had no idea, but I do now, along with a new respect. And that too is what sisterhood is about. These women taught me and I them about something as mundane and profoundly important as our hair.

For me, sisterhood of the soul is about these very things – the emotional expression of despair, laughter, spirituality, and even hair care. When we care for our sisters, we care for their souls. When we care for our sisters, we care for our souls. Will you reach out your hand in sisterhood, soon? It will be worth it. Fact.

Bright Blessings.

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