In one of the most recent episodes of the show Black-ish, there was a line that I have not been able to get out of my head since I heard it. In discussing the recent election, one of the characters in the office (Daphne) asks one her co-workers (Lucy) where all her white sisters were during voting. Lucy responds, “Well, first, white women aren’t sisters. We hate each other.”
Something about this funny moment on the show just resonated. I turned to Jordan and said, “Actually, that feels pretty true.”
I am very grateful to have had so many wonderful, deep, encouraging friendships with other women in my life and this post is not intended to imply otherwise.
But I’m sure I am not the only one who feels like there is often a sense of competition in relationships between women. It sometimes feels like we can be friends and share some of life together, but there is this underlying tension – almost like an unspoken command, “you better not be better than me, get better than me, or do better than me.” It’s as if we are always looking to other women to determine our own worth and standing. And with that being the case, how can we really truly be sisters? Because if someone else’s success means our failure or their social ranking puts ours lower, then that starts to stir up some survival of the fittest fight or flight reactions. Claws (often passive aggressive or behind the back) come out, so to speak.
If we don’t want the best for someone, how is there love? If we’re secretly hoping someone fails or that things don’t work out for them, that seems an awful lot like hate.
We are coming out of a weekend of women’s marches all over our country, in response to the inauguration of President Trump. The internet and social media feeds were inundated with pictures of the hundreds of thousands of women who came together in solidarity to fight against the misogyny that our new President promotes. These images are powerful. The captions I read often talked about women coming together, women rising up together and fighting together and supporting one another. There were a lot of sappy feels going around.
And I felt some of them too. As someone who has some painful stories in my past and who knows too many women who have been sexually assaulted and abused, there was something beautiful about seeing voices being given to the voiceless and seeing so many people take a stand for the oppressed.
But at the same time, I couldn’t help but wish that the kind of support and solidarity shown among women in the marches was also more commonly displayed in day to day life and relationships between women. That women in close proximity and messy community would try that hard also to support one another, stand up for each other, and want the best for each other. I long to see more kindness, more forgiveness, more lifting others up even when it costs us some of our own pride and security.
It’s great that so many women showed up over the weekend. But it’s one thing to march next to someone with a clever sign and it’s another thing entirely to march beside someone in the ups and downs of her life, having her back, building her up, and wanting the best for her.
Are we showing up for the women we know right now?
And regardless of your answer to that question (we are all human, after all), I challenge us to step forward and start making change. I challenge us to start acting like sisters, deep down to the bone, rather than giving into subconscious hate.
I admit that I see this struggle in myself – this is not an observation from an outsider or an exhortation that I am not also a recipient of. It makes me sad to think of quality relationships I’ve had with women that may have been tainted with this sort of competition in my own heart.
As I tried to envision sisterhood and thought about what change would look like, I came up with these questions:
If she is prettier than you, will you still get to know her without feeling threatened? If she is more successful than you, will you applaud her rather than be jealous? If she is publicly praised, will you smile for her, even if you are in the background? If she has more than you, will you choose to seek her heart rather than be intimidated by her possessions and status? If she has less than you, will you choose to see her heart instead of judge her based on her possessions and status? If she is weeping, will you weep with her and shoulder some of her burden? If she is being attacked, will you step in and defend her? If she has been mistreated, will you seek justice on her behalf? If she needs to talk, will you listen? If she has an opinion that differs from yours, will you ask questions and hear her out instead of writing her off? If she does something wrong, will you give her grace instead of tearing her down? If her name comes up with someone else, will you choose to say good things instead of gossiping about her? If she falls, will you lift her up?
Sometimes I think the term “frenemy” was invented by and for white women and that deep down, it is actually how we function in many of our female relationships. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to let this be true. We can actually start acting like sisters in the most real and tangible way with the women around us. And this is what the gospel of Christ calls us to. It’s the call to lose your life for the sake of Jesus and, in humility, to put the interest of others before yourself (Matthew 16:25, Matthew 10:39, Philippians 2:3-4).
It won’t always be easy. But in “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”, we can do this (Ephesians 3:20). We seem to have a proclivity towards rivalry and we can be catty, let’s be honest. But we can also be fiercely loyal and loving and incredibly influential, and I believe God intentionally wrote this into the DNA of women so that we can build one another up in love.
If we could channel into our relationships the same courage and passion that so many displayed over the weekend, I truly believe we could change the world.