August is Women’s Month here in South Africa and we have just celebrated National Women’s Day on 9 August.
Finding home again in this land of my birth, I have spent a little time reflecting on why the need for a day, a whole month even, to celebrate women. My bestie reckons every day should be women’s day and he is right. But then I do wonder if these ‘days’ provide a good time to pause and consider the theme of that ‘day’. For example, we acknowledge Lions on 10 August and Elephants on 12 August. Actually I love that these two species’ ‘days’ fall in Women’s Month. A chance to champion Matriarchs and Lionesses in all their wisdom and fierceness!
My ponderings this August have largely centred around my femininity and how I feel about being a woman in the world today. I realise this is an incredibly personal experience and I am only speaking for myself in what I am relating here.
My femininity is something I have never struggled with. I am innately feminine despite many interests perceived as more masculine in nature.
Feminism, on the other hand, is something I have struggled with over the years. I should not struggle with the concept of Feminism, right? With the definition as ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of gender equality’, what is there to struggle with?
I suppose part of it comes down to that human failing of taking things to extremes. Our quest as a species for equality and balance seems a constant challenge. So, where perhaps many others have been faced with toxic masculinity in their early life experience, I have come into contact more with toxic femininity labelled as feminism.
Not in my family, please understand. I have the most phenomenal of female role models amongst my relatives and I could not be more overwhelmed with gratitude to my mom, sister, grannies, great grannies, aunts and cousins for their love, support and ‘sisterhood’.
Female friendships are what I have found difficult over the years. Being part of a group of girls always seemed complicated with lots of mind games I was not cut out for. That stuff utterly perplexed me, still does. I wear my heart on my sleeve and so was totally out of my depth in this ‘mean girls’ world. As a result, most of my closest friends growing up were male.
What I am learning is that much of the negative experience around female friendships is born from trauma and disillusionment with society’s expectations of us as females. I think many of us have repeated, unconscious societal messages that pit us against one another instead of fostering kindness and compassion and embracing each other in our shared feminine experience. More recently, as I have started to delve into the concept of ‘Sisterhood’, I am beginning to realise the magic that lies here. The first time I was really intrigued by the Sisterhood concept was in reading The Awakened Woman: remembering & reigniting our sacred dreams by Dr Tererai Trent. I am currently working through the book again, this time as an audiobook which is read by the author. The beautiful African lilt of her voice makes experiencing this book an extra special experience. Dr Tererai has a whole section of her book talking through the power of female friendships and forming a sacred sisterhood.
the feeling of kinship with and closeness to a group of women, an association, society, or community of women linked by a common interest
I have become aware that my strong bond with the females of my family is a form of Sisterhood. I have also become aware that I have stumbled into a Sisterhood of women in Conservation – our love of Wild truly connects us. I think to some extent it is that shared trauma and disillusionment with society’s expectations of us as females that I mentioned previously that connects us. I started trying to list the names of these phenomenal women I recognise as part of this Sisterhood. I lost count. Wow, what a privilege! How is this my life!? To be aligned with these ecowarriors, to know their names, to have shared the road, to have spent time fireside under starry African skies, to have belly laughed and ugly cried together in our shared Sisterhood is a beyond-words honour.
And on top of all this, I have my Anam Ċara (Soul-friend) Sisterhood….
“Anam Ċara is a Celtic phrase that loosely translates as “soul friend.” It describes a sacred relationship that is founded in connection, authenticity, trust and respect….. a Celtic philosophy….. that two souls that experience a unique and deeply personal connection will be stronger together than they are apart.”
So this month of August here in Mzansi, I am full of love and gratitude for all the amazing women in my life – my Sisterhood. I am thankful for what it means for me to be a woman in my world. It is safe and full of love and care unlike the female experience of so many other women in this world. I am also aware in appreciation for the wonderful men in my life and how they are just as much a part of this celebration as my Sisterhood. I see you all. I am because We are.