Back in December, Boston Program Manager Ryanne Filbey and I had the opportunity to meet Gloria Steinem at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. Since meeting Ms. Steinem, I’ve been reading her book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.
Last weekend, I read “Sisterhood”, written in 1972. In the essay, Steinem explores her own discovery of the importance of the bonds that women share across race, socioeconomic status, and age that create sisterhood.  However, along the way, she identifies the “major enemy of sisterhood”- valuing ourselves and other women according to the degree of our acceptance by men.
This idea isn’t news to me, since we are now 45+ years into the feminist movement. But Steinem’s explanation caused a lightbulb moment. She writes, “Looking back at all those white male-approved things I used to say [about myself], the basic hang-up seems clear- a lack of esteem for women…and for myself. This is the most tragic punishment that society inflicts on any second-class group. Ultimately the brainwashing works, and we ourselves come to believe our group is inferior. If we achieve a little success in the world, we think of ourselves as ‘different,’ and don’t want to associate with our group. We want to identify up, not down.”
This passage really struck a chord with me, because it’s still true almost forty years later. We’ve all heard her, known her, or been her- the woman who smugly says to other women, “I don’t know, I’ve just always gotten along better with guys.” For much of my life, I’ve said it- despite the fact that four of my six closest friends are female.  In fact, even to this day, when another woman says it to me, I feel pressure to agree – and my career is a sisterhood! Steinem relates this idea of selling out the sisterhood to politics and the workplace. For millennial women, it’s become most applicable to social situations, where we gain status by being the woman who says that she mostly hangs out with men.
Don’t get me wrong- for some women that may be legitimately true and I respect that.  But if you’ve ever said it, I challenge you to think critically about why. In my case, I don’t say it because it’s true, I say it because it’s what society tells me will garner more respect.
I hope that most women would agree that an all-female community can be transformative.  It’s a type of support that we still need, despite the gains of the last few decades.  As Steinem says, “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. Ridicule is their natural and first weapon, with more serious opposition to follow.  She will need sisterhood.”
This is why organizations like Strong Women, Strong Girls are so important- no, why they are essential. As women, we need to support each other in order to make social change in our world.  We need to stop putting each other down. We must stand as a community, as a movement, and as a sisterhood.
If you’re not already involved in a group that celebrates sisterhood- get involved today! Contact us, or join one of the many incredible women-centric organizations that are out there.  It’s rough out there, and we could all use a little more sisterhood.