It's a common story, one I hear often. "I don't need a women's group." "Women are not to be trusted" said by a woman.. "I have trust issues regarding other women." "I would love to be a part of your group, but I'm nervous, afraid to trust." etc. It's all true, I can feel it. It is their truth. And I have been there. I understand, and this is exactly the reason why I started this group. The fear and mistrust runs deep, DNA deep in fact. How long have we all been taught that woman is the root of all evil?
I remember the first time I came to this realization. Here I was sitting in a bible study I was forced into through my foster home. (You know.. because I was dirty and tainted because I was sexually abused by my step-dad, I was even baptized, loads of good that did.) I digress. Sitting in this bible study being taught about Adam and Eve and the origin of sin; I was taught that I was forever damned and that was why I bled every month, and why childbirth would be painful; because of some ancient ancestor that dared. I looked up and asked the woman who was teaching me "So that means that you are evil?" I got into trouble a lot as a kid.
This essential story that has been shoved down our throats for generations is re-iterated in so many of our youthful fairy tales. The story of the evil witch. Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty etc. The antagonist is a woman, and a cautionary tale. As little girls, whether we have great relationships with the women around us or not we begin to lose trust. Add to that, mothers, aunties, cousins, grandmothers who are insecure, beaten down, mentally ill, etc., and we have a toxic soup, and that doesn't even get us into puberty! My own mother was so deep in her own wounding that she was distant, neglectful, abusive and even jealous at times. She would act like I was tempting my pedophile stepdad, and even said in court that I "was an instigator of the problems in our household", and that she was "glad to be rid of me". I was 8.
I was often ridiculed and made fun of in school by the other girls, and the boys that liked them. Every Time I moved to a new home, and a new school, it was like I had to know what the pecking order was and I was dead last. I had moments when I tried to fit into the different cliques, but I ended up being "one of the guys" after graduation. They made sexist jokes and passes at me, and I would shrug it off because "at least they liked me."
One theory is that we want men to like us—a lot. More than anything we want men to validate our beauty, our desirability, and our brilliance. After all, many women have been taught their entire lives that we are not worth anything unless a man tells us so. We cut our teeth on learning how to flirt and gain the attention and approval of men. And if the current masculine culture says that women are not to be trusted, that women are sneaky and snarky; we learn to stay away from women too. So, is the female distrust of females all the result of a misogynistic culture? Perhaps. And does the root cause matter? Or is the central issue truly about what this female to female mistrust does to our own sense of ourselves as women? Can women heal their own issues with their body and their sexuality without being able to feel trust with other women?
The healing that women need to do with other women has been the most eye opening part of my work with women's sexuality and body issues both in my group, and during my retreats.
There is some research that shows that women, during their college years, were less likely to want to be friends with other women who are seen as sexually active. The study showed that these women clearly noticed the "sexually alive" female peer and, as a result, held a negative view of her. Can we ever really heal our own issues with our bodies, our sexuality, and our feelings of self worth if we hold these views of other women? And what about these views? Are they really what they seem to be on the surface?
When we judge another woman on her sexual expression is that a sign that we are living in fear and judgement of our own bodies and sexuality? If we cannot celebrate another woman in her sexual aliveness can we be vulnerable enough to truly celebrate ourselves? If we hold the belief that women are sneaky, snarky nasty bitches who are not trustworthy, aren't we on the deepest of levels talking about ourselves?
My work with women has shown me again and again that this disconnect, judgement and competitiveness with other women comes from a wounded place inside ourselves. When we feel inadequate and defensive about our own femaleness, we have little tolerance for women who seem to own theirs.
So how does the healing begin? As in any healing journey—there isn't one way. I do believe that if we women want to come back to our own bodies and learn to truly love ourselves, we also need to begin to open up to trust with other women.
If women can't trust other women; if we can't form relationships with other women, support other women and see the beauty in their bodies and sexual expression—we are disconnecting from ourselves in an unconscious and destructive way.
Notice other women and try on seeing them with curiosity and compassion. And then bring that curiosity and compassion back to yourself. Offer them compliments and go out of your way to say nice things about them to other people both in front of other women and behind their backs.
Take the time to learn about your body and practice being kind to all of you. Bring that kindness to the women around you. Don't join in when people bash other women around their sexuality, clothing, self- expression, and weight. Whenever we do this, we are in some way not only hurting them, but cutting ourselves.
I’ve learned a few essentials when it comes to trusting other women, that I now share with you so that you may strengthen your sisterhood bonds and gain the wisdom and strength to set healthy boundaries with the women you work with, live with, are in community with, and are in relationship with.
#1. You can trust a woman to be who she is.
Not who you want her to be. Not who she could be. Not who she even espouses or believes herself to be, but who she shows up as, who she acts and responds as. Be honest and real about who a woman is and isn’t based on her actions, words and choices. Don’t judge her, just notice and discern how you want to be in relationship to who she is today.
#2. There are different levels of friendship and therefore different levels of intimacy, vulnerability and trust.
You are not meant to be deeply connected soul sisters with everyone. Not everyone gets access into your heart. Just like a bank has levels of access to get to the inner vaults, you too have levels of access to your inner heart sanctum. Some women are more like playmates or collaborators vs. soul sisters. Have a good time with them, explore your common interests, enjoy each other, create cool stuff together but don’t mistake connection around common interests for access to the heart.
#3. Stay focused on being the best you that you can be, be discerning not judgmental of how other women behave.
Not everyone is going to play by the “good sisterhood rules.” You will observe women judging, gossiping, colluding, creating cliques. Don’t participate. Don’t judge them or need to make them wrong. Just notice, and then from a place of self love and discernment, distance yourself from these circles and behaviors and choose to be the best you that you can be, keeping your eyes and heart wide open for the women you want to play with — on your playground of life.