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Sisterhood — Moving from Ranking to Linking

by Corinna Wood

Cultivating sisterhood today is nothing less than a paradigm shift.

We need to unlearn our old ways of thinking which we internalized through societal programming—the painful paradigm of ranking ourselves in relation to other women.

sisterhood connection among women of all agesInstead, we can embrace an empowering paradigm of linking with one another—connecting in mutual respect and valuing. Lifting one another up.

Cultivating deep, supportive relationships with our sisters of all ages—and throughout the ages—the way of the Wise Woman Tradition

We share our stories and our skills, teaching each other, learning from each other and contributing our gifts to the greater whole.

By embracing and honoring other women, we come to more fully love and value ourselves. 

Sisterhood sustains us along our journeys

young woman and elder dance togther in joyful sisterhoodSocietal norms shift very, very slowly. In the last century we’ve seen tremendous progress in bringing women’s issues out of the shadows.

With strength, perseverance and non-violent resistance to nearly universal oppression, women are reclaiming our rightful place as co-creators of a new paradigm of equality.

And we still have a long way to go in a world where violence against women continues to be both endemic and internalized.

Much of what sustains us through our journey is the profound, primal connection of women throughout the world in our roles as daughters, sisters, and mothers. Sisterhood is our essence. It is the thread that joins us with every other woman on the planet. 

Making sisterhood a priority in our lives

sisterhood connection hug between old friendsComing together with other women in groups large and small is nourishing to our spirit.

We’ve done it since the dawn of time—working side by side in the fields, tending to the family—the young, the ill and the elderly.

We create together—cooking, sewing and weaving.

We share secrets, joys and sorrows.

We laugh, cry, sing and dance in community.

Women tend to feel better when surrounded by other women. Physiologically, our levels of oxytocin rise—called the “love hormone” which, among other things, is pro-social. It stimulates relaxation, trust and altruism.

Making our relationships with our sisters a priority in our lives galvanizes a sense of belonging, providing us with inspiration and strength.

Engaging in women’s rituals, whether they involve gathering in a sacred circle or simply sitting down for tea and conversation, allows us to dissolve the internal barriers of competition and separation.

Thus we cultivate authentic sisterhood.

"Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets."
     ~Patricia Lynn Reilly, Imagine a Woman In Love with Herself

Understanding the women on whose shoulders we stand

yellow flower growing in tree trunkAs the old adage says, “history is written by the victors."

Remembering this clarifies both the antagonistic contests that create today’s hierarchies, and the philosophical sub-text of the patriarchal historical version of “how things came to be” in the modern world.

In that version, women are, at best, supporting players in the development of civilization.

Not so.

As feminist writers Casey Miller and Kate Swift point out, there’s a tendency to “disappear” women, neglecting or devaluing “women’s lives, deeds and participation in human affairs.”  

Yet we all stand on the shoulders of visionary and courageous women who have made vital contributions in virtually every arena from the sciences and the arts to spirituality and social causes (often while bearing and raising children).

So how to cultivate sisterhood?

Study herstory. Yup, that's her-story. 

Listen to and learn from the women who came before us, on whose shoulders we are standing. 

When we explore the stories of women who have gone before us and the women who are at the vanguard of social change today, we recognize the commonalities in our struggles, even as we celebrate our uniqueness.

We can see ourselves as part of a wider context and, perhaps, find the inspiration to pursue our own passions in a way that helps to bring the human story forward. 

honoring sisterhood of women who came before us
A feminist from my days in the womb of my amazon mother, I was raised on authors of the women's liberation movement. 

When I turned 18, my mother gifted me 18 books by feminist women. Their voices still course through my veins—Maya Angelou, Marge Piercy, Toni Morrison, Zora Neil Hurston, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Mary Oliver . . . 

This quote has hung on my wall since that year:

“Womanist: committed to the survival and wholeness of an entire people . . .
Womanist: loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the spirit.
Loves love and food and roundness.
Loves struggle. Loves the Folk.
Loves herself. Regardless.

~Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens

Flowers do not diminish one another's beauty

Overcoming internalized societal messages that devalue women is part of a holistic healing journey. 

It can take time to shift your own internal paradigm from ranking yourself against other women, to linking arms in authentic sisterhood.

One day in the process, it dawned on me . . .

Flowers do not diminish one another's beauty!

What makes a meadow full of wildflowers so captivating and beautiful?

redefining beauty like a meadow of wildflowers in sisterhood
Not the appearance of one, but the abundance of many flowers with different colors, shapes, fragrances, sizes, and stages of development.

The beauty of one flower—say a curvy, purple violet, does not diminish the beauty of another—perhaps a bright, golden sunburst of a dandelion

If I appreciate your beauty, or intelligence, that need not diminish mine!

Thick or thin; black or white; busty or hippy or leggy, we are each our own unique, lovely flower.

Competition between women is a construct of patriarchal culture which keeps us separated from one another.

Women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors each have our unique expressions of beauty and style to share with the world and one another.  

When we look at each other in this way, we discover that we are all reflections of the divine! 


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