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Positive portrayals of women’s relationships in media are rare, and often collapse under the weight of stereotypes, at a time when we need more supportive sisterhoods.
Men often spend time with their buddies after work or on weekends. Sadly, this isn’t true for women. There’s a rising need for women to build their community, a safe space where they feel a sense of belonging.
The Okinawa Centenarian Study is a study of elderly people of Okinawa. They enjoy what may be the longest life expectancy in the world. I was watching a video on this the other day.
What stood out for me was that women were talking about self-help and mutual help as two of the four factors that attributed to their longevity. They met in their club once a week for over fifty years. They ate together, laughed, and learned dance and yoga together. The key word being ‘together’.
Women relationships tend to be stereotyped, typically in a negative light in the media. Sisters, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, co-sisters-in-law, best friends end up fighting for the same man. There is almost a universal perverse pleasure in watching these relationships burn to cinders.
There are very few positive portrayals of women relationships not marred by great tragedy. Even they seem to collapse under the weight of their own stereotypes. And, there’s this need to add commentary on as many feminist issues as possible.
There seems to be this underlying competition we’re all engaged in constantly – the competition for approval and protection by (male dominated) society.
For women, community tends to be confined to boundaries of our relatives. It is heavily defined by societal rules. Even those who work don’t have the time or the space to nurture their relationships with their peers the way men do.
There’s always an overarching societal construct that defines how they spend their time. Parents need their young daughters to come home before dark. Married women running back home to do their household chores.
With all the things going on in their lives, where is the energy to build communities?
Best friends from our youth get swallowed up within their own relationships and families. My mother found her tribe in her mid-thirties – they are her bedrock and foundation. Yet, they only met because their children were in the same class in school.
Women need a space where they are not daughter, mother, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, employee or any other relationship that defines them. A space where they are people in their own right. In my own coaching practice, I see this.
Women are conditioned to think about their decisions within the confines of their relationships. Often, it takes weeks of work to even acknowledge what it is that they really want. As women, I think that’s a gift we need to give each other.
We need the sisterhood. More so as we grow older. We are our own people. In order to never forget that, we need a safe space to express ourselves. We need our tribe.
Image source: a still from the Hindi short film Juice
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