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Do Women Owe Other Women?

The pitfalls of the sisterhood

BY Agnes Amondi

Mar 14, 2023, 08:26 AM

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You’ve probably heard the phrase - there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. Right? This should ring a very loud bell to every female species every time they are in a position to extend help to their fellow women but don't. That phrase sounds good because what a wonderful world we would have if we all helped each other, yeah?

Except that, yours truly is somewhat reluctant about clinging to such statements whenever things don't go your way. With the times that we are living in now, where phrases like “the sisterhood” and “women support women” have become daily life mantras, you are constantly reminded about this sort of “duty of care”. You should know and understand the pain that a "sister" is going through. Anything other than that is almost always unacceptable. Yeah! We are at that level.

But honestly, do women owe other women anything?

Guilt Tripping

Of course, that phrase up there popularized by Taylor Swift can be used or probably is often used to shame women into doing things they don’t want to do or agreeing on opinions they don't agree with. This happens in most areas of life. Whether it’s in the open-air market when making a purchase or during heated discussions, you ought to give your sister a shoulder to lean on. You are also not allowed to sit on the fence about issues. Basically, it boils down to the “it’s either you are with us or against us” type of mentality, which is not the message you want to reinforce.  

False Sense Of Community

Yep! We said it. It’s good if women support one another. It’s perfect. But the reality is, everyone, including women, in this world, is more often than not acting in their own best interests. So, unfortunately, these narratives peddle idealistic expectations about women that is far-fetched from reality. Some might feel entitled to receive things from fellow women or even demand just by virtue of belonging to the same gender. If not given help, they feel betrayed and become resentful.

The other thing that one might miss out on is the fact that women compete against one another. It's just a normal occurrence, not that anyone wants to sabotage your efforts. Everyone is scrambling for the best in this life and supporting someone else doesn't mean that they neglect their own needs.

We are not saying that you shouldn’t belong to a group of women. If you find one that works for you, by all means, please, go ahead. Or if you feel inclined to look for one, again, go ahead. But be very wary of getting caught up in such narratives.

Pits Women Against Each Other

It may not sound like it but it can certainly do this. For a long time, women have had to fight back from this notion that they can’t get along. It’s still an ongoing struggle but the truth is such narratives may not really help. Every situation has to be contextualized. Unfortunately, at times, the moment you politely decline to advance the needs of your fellow woman, this act is only met or remembered harshly. And they talk about you very badly which defeats the purpose of what catchphrases like “the sisterhood” should be about. 

Perpetuates Stereotypes

What stereotypes? There are so many that women have to deal with. Well, that women can’t think on their own. Yes, this one. Perhaps you might think we are over-analyzing but the culture of “the pack” doesn’t take care of women who could be described as the “lone wolf”. We should allow women to think differently. It shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, we should cherish this. This is not to mean that the “lone wolf” will not always support women, no. But when their opinions run contrary, hold them in high esteem and appreciate them just like you’ll do when they give you the nod. 

What Happened To Independence?

Women want their independence. With the same token, let’s also afford one another a slice of it. It’s the liberty of the mind. Let me have the freedom to share my own thoughts, respectfully. Give me the chance to explain my opinions. We don’t always have to agree. That’s not even the point of having conversations. It’s the diversity of thought that makes engaging more interesting and will help advance the agenda of women supporting women.

Don't Pretend

There is no need to pretend just to make sure you aren't the odd one out. Your sisters may like you for it but that's not what friendship is and should be all about. This are the type of friendships where you are the best of friends when together, but behind each others backs, you are saying how so and so did this and this and they were wrong or it wasn't right. You can't say it to each other's faces. That is not the true spirit of sisterhood and all this pretense has never done anyone any good. 

Shout Out...

To the women who support other women, you don’t go unnoticed even though it might seem so. Do it because you mean it not because you want to tick a box on someone’s checklist. Don’t feel pressured into giving either. You can politely decline a suggestion of doing something or perhaps push back on it and revisit later.