Sisterhood is (Still) Powerful.

Via on Jun 15, 2010

Sisterhood, the Divine Feminine and Magic Making…in the Joshua Tree Highlands.

What do you get when you take 12 women of different ages, races, sizes and socioeconomic classes and place them in a large dome in the desert? No, this isn’t a pitch for yet another reality show or a tabloid headline. But if it was, the answer would be “catfight!”

After all, according to the most prolific genre of television today and the looming tabloids that greet us at every check-out counter, girls and women are competitive, back-stabbing, smack-talking “mean girls.” You know, those bitchy girls who don’t have friends but have plenty of “frenemies” that they keep under close scrutiny as they vie for the same prize, namely male attention…as a barometer of self-worth.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just the toxic pop culture environment that we’re all swimming in (whether we like it or not) that unfairly portrays girls and women in this superficial way. Truth be told, I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with women over the years. Those experiences left enough of a bad taste in my mouth that I’d proudly proclaim in my snarky Valley girl way, “I’m not friends with girls. All girls are bitches. I’m just friends with guys.”

I felt privileged and cool to be part of the “boys club.”

And then I stepped into a Women’s Studies class and learned a few things about patriarchy, misogyny and the consistent devaluing of the feminine. I had to ask myself, “what it does it mean to unfairly judge and ultimately hold disdain for other women as a woman myself?” Upon closer inspection, I recognized my own internalized oppression and the ways in which I had come to believe and play out the divisive script. With this realization, I opened myself up to authentic female friendships, friendships that could transcend shopping dates and conversations about men. Through the course of my twenties, those women found me and I found them.

While these friendships nourished me (and continue to do so), I needed more to heal the psychic wounds that taught me to criticize women and view the feminine as less valuable than masculinity and membership in the boy’s club.

In 1994, I discovered the work of Rianne Eisler and Marija Gimbutas, women who influenced feminist spirituality and neopaganism with their examination of pre-Christian goddess cultures. Discovering these authors and their examination of the sacred feminine reaffirmed by own value and worth in a deep and profound way. While my blossoming yoga practice was transformative and healing on multiple levels, the spiritual lineage was, and is, male-dominated—leaving me (and many other women) to wonder “where are the women?” Do we have to match mainstream standards of perfection to garner recognition and visibility?

Eventually my journey led me to Nita Rubio, a teacher that integrates a critical examination of patriarchy, feminist spirituality and the divine feminine in a movement modality.  I had finally found the forum that addressed all my points of concern and inquiry for the previous decade. I’ve studied with Nita for five years, and it has been the sacred female-only space that she cultivates and nurtures that has allowed me to continue to extract patriarchy’s hold on my mind, body, spirit—and female relationships.

And so last Thursday I left Los Angeles and sped through the smoggy Inland Empire to reach my destination, a dome house on five acres in the Joshua Tree Highlands to commune with 11 other women for the next four days. What ensued was not a reality show in the making, replete with mean girl battles and cat fights. Led by Nita, we basked in one another and the land with intention and devotion.

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I’ve had the privilege of going on retreat with Nita for the last four years. Though each experience has been different, each has been equally confronting—and rewarding. The old judgments and insecurities come up. Will I like her? Will she like me? Do we have anything in common?

In the end, I’m always reminded of the beauty that can exist between women. Suspicion, jealousy and competition are not givens between women. And that’s what recognition of the divine feminine can do: reaffirm our bonds with other women, reaffirm our relationship to our own body and reaffirm female power as beneficent.

As I drove home toward my baby boy, my career and an ever-increasing to-do list, I couldn’t help feeling profoundly inspired, deeply nourished and whole. The power of sisterhood is not a trite, outmoded war cry of second wave feminists from the ’60s and ’70s.

I felt the magic between us.

I know sisterhood is still powerful.

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About Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein, MA is a writer, speaker and Associate Faculty member at Santa Monica College, teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies. She attributes feminism and yoga as the two primary influences in her work. She is committed to communal collaboration, raising consciousness, media literacy, facilitating the healing of distorted body images and promoting healthy body relationships. She has worked with the new citizen journalists of the LA Academy of Global Girl Media and the peer-educators of J.A.D.E (Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating) on ways to tap into the power of their own voice. She is an expert contributor in the areas of media literacy and body image issues for Proud2Bme, a NEDA project. She is the adviser of the Santa Monica College Leadership Alliance and the founder and co-coordinator of WAM! Los Angeles. She founded FeministFatale.com and is a contributor at Adios Barbie, Intent.com, MindBodyGreen and Ms. Magazine’s blog. Her essay on yoga, body image and feminism appears in Curvy Voices and her extended chapter on the same topic is included in the anthology, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice. She has been featured on HuffPostLive, KPFK’s Feminist Magazine and The Point on The Young Turks. She is featured in the forthcoming book, Conversations With Modern Yogis. Twitter: @feministfatale

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31 Responses to “Sisterhood is (Still) Powerful.”

  1. Paula says:

    Beautiful!

  2. swati jr* says:

    so well said! thank you for the insights and the links. this looks like really good stuff…. it is def. a time to add a spiritual element to feminism. thanks for being a part of the mission. bless*

  3. Melanie Klein Melanie Klein says:

    Thanks, swati jr., but, actually, feminist spirituality began over 35 years ago ;)

  4. [...] Originally posted at Elephant Journal. [...]

  5. Carla says:

    Poetic ans beautiful! Always love reading Melanie’s work. She speaks of the greater need for women to be seen as they are not as we would like them to be for our own lascivious entertainment value. I have had the priveledge of studying with Nita on retreat and this article makes me both nostalgic of those times and anxious to get back to future retreat! Thank u Melanie for the words of wisdom, experience and inspiration! And thank u elephant journal for featuring such a precious jewel of a writer!

  6. Marley says:

    I always love when I find an article about the beauty that exists between women in a world that so pervasively is trying to tell me that it doesn't exist. I can totally relate to your experience, I have always had guy friends and always hated women– that is until I walked into YOUR Women's Studies class and realized that all I had to do was share my experience, my story and there would be plenty of women waiting to do the same. I absolutely love this article, it is such an inspiration! Xo.

  7. Alma says:

    Yes, yes and yes! It is about time that our mainstream media began representing women as we are: sisters. Most women I know outgrew their "mean girls" stage fairly quickly, and it has always bothered me that we continue to be portrayed as such well into middle age. Even before reality TV, thinking back at shows like Melrose Place, and now, with all the "Desperate Housewives" versions, it is apparent what society tries to mold young women into: emotionally stunted women. Why? Perhaps because they are easier to please? Fun to watch? It's such a shame that so many girls are learning their cues from what's out there. But, not mine. I have the power to control how my daughter is raised, and what paradigm she sees the world through. And it doesn't involve the words Desperate, Bridezilla or any name suggesting the like.

  8. Sarit says:

    This is such a beautiful piece of inspiration. The damage we women do to ourselves in an effort to survive in this patriarchal environment is tremendous, but it is women like yourself who are brave enough to venture into the unknown and grab hold of the spiritual gauntlet that make change possible. I believe that healing the great feminine divide is one of the most integral pieces of the feminist puzzle. One which can transform and heal, and fundamentally change the fabric of patriarchy. I mean, how can we overcome or change something if we're divided in the first place, right? So, thank you, Melanie, for writing this piece of enlightenment.

  9. [...] read complete post, click here Leave a Reply Click here to cancel [...]

  10. [...] doing so, women come in contact with the knowing of the body and are able to enliven, heal, create community and recognize the Goddess as they stand before the mirror and behold themselves.  Tapping into [...]

  11. [...] was at a confidential women’s circle where we each individually spoke to be heard and no comments or advice was allowed to be given for [...]

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  13. Natalie Hoorfar says:

    After reading this article, I find it so relieving and refreshing to know that women can reach such a magical state with one another and re-discover the, often- forgotten, power of a real sisterhood. This inspires me to re-evaluate my friendships and the judgment that I place on my fellow females. It truly makes me thrive for an escape out of the corrupt, naive, and shallow mindset found in our society, today.

  14. Tandis Shams Fard says:

    Woow..that was truly inspiring to read. I couldn't agree more. There are definitely stereotypes about feminism, women and even women in a group. Some true, and some not even close to being true. With that being said, I think it was very refreshing to read a piece about women doing the opposite of what people expect of them and proving these stereotypes wrong. Given that we constantly have to prove these stereotypes wrong, I believe, it gives us an advantage of strengthening our bonds between each other and reminding ourselves about the beauty of the relationship between women.

  15. Audrianna Gordon says:

    Very touching and refreshing to read. It's very true how women want to be apart of the "Guys" and don't really realize the power the "Girls" hold.

  16. Mahsa Yaghoubi says:

    I read this and it reminded me of my experience at camping at lake kern. Me and my 2 girlfriends went camping with 7 of our guy friends and we heard that two other girls are coming…in the beginning we where all nervous and scared for them to come because we thought they’d be “bitches” or just not like us. But when they got there we all got along so well and formed great friendships. And later on when I was talking to one of them she told me that she was so nervous to come here because she taught we would have not liked them for “invading our territory”. And I realized that if you just pursue anything with an open mind and no prejudgments it will work out fine.

  17. Mirian Merino says:

    I too have had bad experiences with girlfriend in the past. Women that i have loved and cared deeply for have turned their backs on me in a time of need. I have recently opened my heart up to the idea of letting myself trust and build relationships with other women. This article gives me hope that i too can be worthy of having great relationships with other women.

  18. Jose L says:

    Although Patriarchy is not as prominent in our society as it once was, or compared to other societies, I know that it hasn’t completely vanished. Anyways, I never knew that a society that places a greater importance in men (such as ours) would cause strife among women; or as Melanie puts it “catfight”. This is one of the reasons I found this blog particularly interesting.

  19. Camille Yona says:

    I can relate to this article because I, too, feel it is important to have a close net of female friends that you can share meaningful conversations and deep friendships with. There is no comparison between having a good female friend and, although many claim they prefer having guy friends, it is always important to at least have one female friend in your life. Personally, I have encountered many girls who fall into the "jealous," "mean-girl" category. But, at the same time, I have many female friendships that I value and respect about all else.

  20. Julianne I says:

    I think it is very common for women to have a strong hatred toward other females. While I find it ironic, I have learned from my own experience, especially from high school, that girls are bitches. It seems to be a constant battle between women, trying to get all of the same things, making lying and backstabbing seem as if it is a necessary part of the process. Although many girls try to steer clear of other girls, because of the mere fact that us girls are females, we should instead try to bond together. Although we live in a male dominated society, it does not mean that we need to go along with our societies patriarchy way of thinking and go against all of our female allies and befriend the males. It is not only possible, but also more beneficial, to have harmony between females and open one's own circle of female friends.

  21. [...] the luscious truth of being a woman with a feminine essence is that I am an invitation to the masculine. I invite the masculine to take me. I offer myself, all [...]

  22. BYRON says:

    When Melanie discussed that through a Women’s Studies class that she’d learned a few things about patriarchy, misogyny, & the consistent devaluing of the feminine and had to question herself about what it meant to unfairly judge & ultimately hold disdain for other women, as a women herself, I thought about how I paralleled her own internalized oppression as I only now in my mid-twenties have begun to open up as a gay man, to other gay men in forming meaningful relationships that also are also to me, authentic, for in all previous time I had internalized that the associated feminine stereotypes that are seen as negative in our community that I saw in myself, manifested through other gay men pushed me away from building relationships with them because what I hated in myself, I hated to see as a mirror through them. Does that make sense to you? Now, I realize through Melanie’s courses that societal constructs teach us to hate certain aspects of ourselves because they perpetually dehumanize those aspects and consider them standards of deviancy. I have only now, but righteously chosen to take a more empowered stance to understand myself and that internalized hatred that society has pushed onto me, to now become more liberated and understanding, loving of others like myself, and to see those that mirror me as a means of perpetuating this burgeoning empowerment that I have now found.

  23. Nathan R says:

    I find it really bothersome how the media, specifically television portrays interpersonal communication between women as “catfights.” Women are deep intellectual beings that can not only communicate with each other through words, but through emotions as well. However, the media takes the small occurrence of women behaving in a superficial way and stereotypes it to show that women always behave in this manner when left alone with each other. It is even sadder how the media makes women feel like they must be at a certain standard to have a sense of self-worth and value. Women deserve the freedom to go throughout their lives without being judged by not only males, but other women themselves. All women should have a spiritual leader like Rubio, someone who can guide them in life and teach them lessons about feminism spirituality. The question is who can be a role model for all of the women in the world? The answer is simple; all women should be teachers for other women. Only by having all women come together to help each other, to empower each other, can we create women that will no longer have a reliance on male attention to monitor self-worth.

  24. Anhjia L says:

    I found this piece so interesting. I always ask myself why am I constantly comparing myself to other women? Why can't I actually sit with a women and not compare our strengths and weaknesses. I have two sisters and we all look so different, we are different sizes, different heights and deep down we all wish we had at least one feature from the other, so we therefore live life feeling as though one of us is better than the other. It's amazing how you incorporated the idea that women now feel as though they must detach from female bonding and redirect their friendships towards men. Men definitely don't feel the same way about us, in fact men prefer us women not be around when they want to "chill". So why do women insist that hanging out with men makes them different from the rest? I would love to go on a trip with Nita and experience some 'feminine spirituality. ' I want to have a positive impact on the women's society, I want to not care so much about catty things and what this girl says about me. I want to internalize instead of judge others.

  25. Jimmy S says:

    This article is very controversial. At first it starts off saying how women are "competitive, back-stabbing, smack-talking “mean girls”. Which I completely agree with having two sisters, cousins, and many girl friends. I have witnessed how women are always so competitive about guys, what they wear, how skinny one is, and many more. I can personally say men are too but I believe that women take it to another extreme. Then Melanie is speaking on how spending four days with 11 other women changed her believes completely, which makes me realize how different other women can be from one another. I really feel like I can relate to this article because I have witnessed how terrible girls can be to each other, yet others are so nice to each other.

  26. Jewel B says:

    The phrase “I’m not friends with Girls. All Girls are Bitches” is the narrative of my life as well. I spent eighteen years of my life avoiding other females on the playground, in the bathroom, at the mall. Raised in a home with two older sports-playing brothers, I spent my days playing tackle football on the front lawn, watching basketball and boxing with my dad. In the beginnings of my young adult, I can recall myself saying I am more comfortable watching a game at a sports bar, throwing back a beer and kicking it with my boys. I had my “moment of sisterhood” in church, when I met the two individuals I share the closest relationships with. They opened my eyes to intelligent, meaning relationships filled with love and communication that did not always consist of the opposite sex. Now, I value those friendships and guard them with everything I have within, because they taught, most importantly that one experience does not define all experiences within a group of people.

  27. Chandler L. says:

    Pitting women against each other has long been a tool of the patriarchy that keeps women from seeing their true worth. We are constantly bombarded with messages that we (women) need to fight each other for popularity, male attention, and happiness, and it's a truly poisonous message that keeps us from making any true progress in the realm of women's rights. Bullying, slut-shaming, passive aggression, and backstabbing are encouraged, and then used against us ("but girls are catty and mean") when we try to eradicate gender inequality! Although I used to do some of these things and judge women, I now appreciate the women in my life, and I have to constantly remind myself that even though I may not agree with their decisions, I should respect and support them.

  28. Jessica P. says:

    This article definitely spoke considering I personally am perplexed every time I encounter a young woman my age who claims to "hate girls" and "only gets along with guys". It always out stands me that this woman thinks that she is so edgy and progressive but yet she is saying she hates over 50% of the population, people who share not only the same body parts but the same struggles as her. It is counterproductive to the mutual goals of women and feminists in general to be pit yourself against other women so that men will think you're "low maintenance" and just "one of the guys". I think that sisterhood is something that is often overlooked but yet necessary if we are to unite against the mutual enemy that is patriarchy.

  29. Jacqueline C says:

    I have a friend who constantly insists on her “only getting along with guys and never girls.” She insists on my following her route of leaving all my girl friends behind to join the guys. I absolutely must show her this article because although at times her arguments seemed appealing to me; that “girls are always moody and looking for drama”, this article argues directly against why we shouldn’t join bonds with our fellow females. In the society that we still live in today, we need those fellow females. We need them to stick together and join an undefeatable bond in order to go about making change to the world. We must stick together with other women in order to be able to successfully stick up for ourselves and earn world-wide respect for us all. If the ultimate downfall of a community is internal corruption, then we stand no chance against society if we refuse to befriend our fellow females. After all, the enemy of our enemy (society) is our friend (women).

  30. L. Sanchez says:

    After reading this I realized that I have fallen into the notion that women are backstabbers and cannot be trusted, because that is the way the media portrays it. For as long as I could remember and to this day I have taken pride in saying that I do not associate with girls because they are not trustworthy. But after reading this article I have realize that when us women say those things about each other we are only bringing ourselves down; which is what the media wants in the first place to keep patriarchy. How are we suppose to gain feminine equality when we are too busy fighting between each other? Instead, we should be embracing each others qualities and working together to obtain women equality.

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