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 “meangirls.” 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.”
So often we women are quick to judge other women and I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone given the suspicion and competition that is encouraged between girls and women in the media and the culture at large.
Skinny bitch. Slut. Ho.
Those are just some of the names we hurl at other women that we don’t think we have anything in common with. We judge other women on their hair, clothing, color, size and relationship status. We assume that we won’t like one another and don’t bother to take a chance. Now, I am not saying we’ll have commonalities and connections with every women we may come across but we certainly have the potential for connection and solidarity with a more diverse group of women than we imagine.
I wrote about this in September 2008 after I returned from one of the many women-centered retreats I have helped organize and attended with my teacher, Nita Rubio, and the women I have circled with over the years. But, since that last retreat, I entered my second trimester, had a beautiful baby boy and lost my sense of self and sisterhood in the process.
It’s easy to do when you’re recovering from a c-section and adjusting to the needs of new baby. Somewhere in the process my individual identity got mixed up with the dirty diapers and pumping.
This past weekend was my first weekend away from my boy since he was born last February. It was my first weekend immersed with a group of women that gathered with intention in a sacred female space in over a year.
I forgot how much I needed this despite my clear sense of longing and isolation as I nurtured my newborn babe.
Even so, I found myself with the same tendency to judge. We were 13 women among the Joshua Trees of the desert, away from partners, children, and careers. I have known many of the women for years in circle, many I had never met. Despite teaching Women’s Studies and lecturing on the division that is encouraged among women and despite the enriching experiences I have had with my community of women, I still find myself quick to stereotype and judge.
As always, I was confronted with my judgements and the walls I erected hastily were smashed and I was able to meet a plethora of amazing women of various walks of life. I am grateful for the ability to move past these superficial boundaries more quickly than I was able to as a young woman but the fact that these judgements still arise is noteworthy and troubling.
By the end of our 4 days communing together in the desert over delicious food, in the hot tub, in the sacred dance, late night wine, laughter and deep conversation I felt deep gratitude for the lessons I was offered and the reminder that we women have a lot to offer one another if we can move beyond our culturally embedded assumptions and suspicions.
Sisterhood is still powerful.
To read Nita Rubio’s post on this past weekend, click here.
Picture taken by Nita Rubio. Joshua Tree Highlands, 2010.