June 16, 2010

Sisterhood is (Still) Powerful.

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.


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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