This has been a tough political season for tribes of women everywhere. Mine, yours, THE tribe of women. Like everyone, our team has been talking and mulling, spinning and assessing, reading and contemplating the weight and meaning of it all. The question we keep coming back to is “What does it really mean for women to support women?”
Like many, we also feel it is an important and unprecedented moment for women, and a time to make a statement as an organization and be very clear on some things on behalf of ourselves and women everywhere.
Election’s Toll on Women
We observed the back and forth of loaded words and accusations between political parties and continued to stay the course reminding all of us that we are in this together, no matter who you vote for, or what the outcome.
And, we concluded that the toll of the election on relationships between women would have been the same no matter who won the White House. The election season and its associated media headlines exposed many things about our collective culture that we may have been able to minimize or explain away at any other time, or under other circumstances – but not this time.
So, if women supporting women is 100% the focus of our organization, we know how to maintain those supportive relationships, right? Yes… Although, after the election, the question became, “What does it mean now?”
We’re All Women
Tribe of Women came to be, as a movement and organization, because the acceptance of “mean girl” culture had the phrase “women are mean to each other” rolling off the tongues of men, women, mothers, fathers, teachers, politicians, media, and business leaders, and into the ears, hearts and minds of girls and women.
The prevalence of this concept has been so pervasive that even if we did not believe or act on it ourselves, we accepted it as part of an overall cultural norm. This acceptance has women moving away from the very thing that we had in common. No matter our experiences, opinions, or outlook, we are all women.
When we look at what is possible if we do not accept “mean girl” culture as inevitable, the whole world changes. The lens of tribe recognizes our commonalities in our struggles and our joys, our motivations and inspirations. It sees our under-tapped abilities and perspectives.
So, we do know what to do! Now, why aren’t we doing it? Why are we allowing a stereotyping culture to drown out the collective voice of womanhood that knows what we need, and that will get us all much further?
We know how to tribe. We know how to love ourselves and each other. How to reach out, and reach back. To lift up, and to lead. Assuming our tribe lens has been muddied by the social stigmas, stereo types and norms we’ve been living under – especially during this tumultuous year, it’s time to wipe it clean.
What It Means
How do we learn to tribe again? That is our quest. “What does it mean for women to support women?” Sometimes life is a matter of figuring out what something is not, so let’s address those first.
What it does NOT mean
- We all have to like each other. No. That would be unrealistic. We cannot ask all women to like each other any more than we can ask all humans to like each other.
- We all have to agree. Still, no. If we learned anything from this political season, it is the value of debate and different perspectives. If we listen.
- We will be contributing to gender bias by supporting other women because they are women. Uh-uh. Nope. Enough with this myth! We only won the right to vote 96 years ago, ladies. We need to be seen supporting each other, or the bias that we don’t will be perpetuated.
- We will be making it a bigger deal than it is by talking about it. Yeah… no. “Ignoring it won’t make it go away” is an age-old saying for a reason. The cat is out of the bag and we need to deal with it.
With some misperceptions and myths out of the way, we can see a little more clearly what needs to be done.
What it means now
- We do not actively tear one another down based on gender stereotypes. Women are powerful. Like, pow-er-ful. So, yes, it is intimidating when we stand together, and unconscious bias is the fuel for the fire that wants to make sure we have just enough, but not too much, of that power. Saying nothing when gender bias is present, or participating in it (toward a woman or man), supports the bias.
- We create and maintain our own boundaries and respect the boundaries of others without being offended or retaliatory. We all need to go toward our own “lights” and surround ourselves with the people that fill our cup. Our communities, lives, and work-places are filled with people that do, but also people that don’t. We all have the right to boundaries in all of those spaces. We do not have to be best friends in order to come together toward a community, life, or work goal.
- We find common ground. “As women, our likenesses greatly outweigh our differences.” Look at the women around you. In the grocery store, the coffee shop, school, work, walking down the street. We often find fault with others because there is something we are struggling with in ourselves. See past that. See them. See that they are wrestling a tired toddler, being ignored by a co-worker, getting harassed by a jerk, or picking up groceries for another night alone. Smile at her. Reach out to her. There is a story, a person – a sister – everywhere we look. If we look.
- We have conversations. We tell our stories, we find connecting points, we go deep. We are good at this! When we let ourselves be. And this is where we tap into our empathy from which we lead, and we’re damn good at it.
That women are not supporting one another as much as is needed to advance, evolve, and thrive can no longer be ignored, and preventing further divisions post-election needs to be a deep calling within each of us in the coming months and years. We’re here. We’re in this together. And we will rise to all of our potential, individually and collectively, when we learn to tribe again.
Author, Amy Reeves Robinson is the Founder of Tribe of Women
Please share your comments, feedback and perspectives with her in the comments below