Something magical happens when women gather in circle. Many of my best ideas over the years have happened in connection with others; when I get to hear myself think out loud, when they say something that resonates, when their brainstorms inspire, and when I feel the energy of validation.
Such was the case last January as I spent a retreat day with one of my mastermind groups, a group that has been meeting monthly for almost three years now. We began this year by sharing some of the promptings we were each feeling in our hearts for where we were feeling called and led in the year ahead. I was speaking to my conviction that I want to be a part of women trusting each other again, cheering for each other more, and working alongside each other as we step into our own personal power.
While processing out loud, I said something along the lines of: "we need to realize that feminism is a team sport, not something we each do alone." And Kimberly, sitting across the Circle from me, said, "You need to put that on a t-shirt."
And so I did. :)
Feminism Needn't Be Scary
Several years ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post that they titled, "Feminism: How I Finally Came Out as an Advocate for Women" where I shared a bit of my struggle over the word feminism, specifically; and my own ignorance with the movement, more generally. It wasn't that I hadn't wanted to be an advocate for women, it was more that I had been avoiding being an advocate for feminism-- I saw them as two separate things. I mistakenly thought you could be for one without being for the other.
Many women still shy away from the word, wondering if we still have need of it. This word has been used to help us win the right to vote, to fight for reproductive and sexual rights, to make a path for women to work outside the home in any profession of their choosing, and to give us permission to make our own life choices around marriage and motherhood, among many other things. We appreciate the fruits of movements-past, but so badly want to believe that we have arrived.
Deborah Spar, president of Barnard College and author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, said this when I went to hear her speak last year:
“Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we feel we can do anything, we feel we have to do everything.”
Now we may not have the same laws that keep us down, but our chains of who we think we're supposed to be can feel just as heavy.
In my travels and connections I see just how exhausted, weary, guilt-ridden, fearful, unhappy, and lonely women are, and I am convinced that the call to feminism is still relevant. And needed. It may just need to look a little different from the image seared in my memory of seeing women burning bra's in front the capital.
If I could pick a new image for feminism, it would be women sitting in circles, supporting each other.
Because it's only when we're in tribe, connected to each other, sitting shoulder-
to-shoulder, face-to-face, in relationship with others that we can practice embodying the equality that we long for.
What we crave is each others acceptance. Why can't we give that fully and easily?
What we long for is for someone to tell us that we're doing enough, we're okay, we're good moms and wives and daughters even if we can always think of more we could do, and that we're making a difference. Why must we keep competing as though only a few of us deserve to hear those words?
We need each other to help us hear our own worth. We can do that!
We need to stop feel judged, and instead feel cheered on. What a difference that would make in this world!
It's only in relationship to each other that we practice offering love even when we risk rejection; and just as importantly, practicing the receiving of gifts and time without feeling like our lack reflects poorly on us. No, we can't do everything. Yes, we need help. Thank you.
It's with my friends that I practice shining my biggest and best self, speaking of my strengths and owning my accomplishments so that I feel more comfortable doing that in a world that isn't as practiced yet. And it's where I want them practicing for themselves, as well.
Only in relationship do we learn the coveted skills of saying "yes" when scared, and "no" when tired. It's with each other that we should be able to practice those hard words so that we are more at ease speaking our truth in other crowds.
Who we want to be, must be, need to be-- requires us practicing those skills in relationship. We don't become more confident, loving, patient, and empathetic in a vacuum; we do it in connection with each other.
Feminism now is inviting all of us to love ourselves, our bodies, and each other, just as we are. That's not to say that the external circumstances are equal, for they aren't. But just as significant, is us feeling our worth on the inside and reflecting that to each other.
I believe so much in being in circle with other women that I have committed to it as a regular practice in my life. In addition to my friends and social life, I belong to three "mastermind" groups. Two of them are weekly, via Skype and telephone; the other is a monthly in-person gathering. Each of them functions differently, but behind every one of them is a circle of women cheering each other on.
I want you to be in circle with women who see your value, your worth, and your joy. I want you to keep practicing being a woman who cheers others on, judges less, and loves more.
Two Resources for Cheering Each Other On!
- Buy the T-shirt in our store: I've been gifting these to some of the women
who have been supporting me saying, "Thanks for being on my team!" Wear yours and spread the love!
- Join www.GirlFriendCircles.com: GirlFriendCircles.com is a women's website that matches amazing women to new local friends. We believe women are better when connected! Join us today and meet other women who value having good friendships and are open to meeting new people!