I Am My Sister's Keeper: How to Forge a Sisterhood Beyond the Stereotypes

By Thea Monyee. Photography by Deun Ivory. 

Creating spaces for women to gather and share ideas, wisdom, and encouragement is a significant contribution to our collective well-being.

At a particularly challenging time in my life, a good friend directed me to a book entitled, The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant. The main character of the book is Dinah, a biblical character who is barely a footnote in the bible, but takes center stage in this novel. Dinah is the only daughter of Jacob, therefore, she’s the only child his four wives can pour their wisdom into each month when the women are sent to the red tent during menstruation. The week they spend gathered beneath the lush red fabric and away from the prying eyes of patriarchy becomes a safe haven for healing, ritual, laughter, and legacy. The moment I finished this novel I committed to creating similar spaces for the women in my life.

Gatherings like the one described in The Red Tent are intended to support the development of one’s unique gifts with the hope that these gifts will be used to elevate the entire village, tribe, or community. With the community invested in the healthy maturation of each member’s purpose and gift, the challenges of life can be endured with the knowledge that someone is always praying, cooking, singing, or physically standing by. Imagine what an individual in today’s society can accomplish with this level of community support! Instead, many of us look ahead and limit our destiny to what can be shouldered by a sole individual, struggling to face difficult circumstances without the support of a village gathered around us.

In spite of our desperate need for communal support through gathering, creating intentional gatherings in a society that worships competition and individualism can be challenging. Discussions of inter-connectedness are often reduced to primitive beliefs or viewed as an attempt to erase one’s individuality; though nothing could be further from the truth.

Our current paradox of the global world becoming smaller through technology as our interpersonal relationships become more isolated with every software update, makes this the precise moment for a re-commitment to village-like support, sisterhood, and communal gathering.

Similarly to the women sharing their culture and traditions beneath the safety of the red tent, we are in need of spaces to discuss our spiritual practices, our daily frustrations, and our greatest dreams. Creating these gatherings on a weekly, or even monthly basis, can provide the affirmation and sense of belonging so many of us are desperately searching for, and widen the possibilities of what we believe our futures can hold.

As beautiful as the vision of thousands of women engaging in communal gatherings may be, there are barriers in that prevent us from making this a reality.

Competition Amongst Women

This is one of the most toxic narratives created by patriarchy. We need only look at our modern society to find examples of women supporting and uplifting one another everyday. One such example is the famous image of actress Taraji P. Henson applauding vigorously for Viola Davis and Regina King during the 2015 Emmy Awards. Though nominated herself, she viewed their success as a collective triumph and celebrated with her “tribe” in a beautiful display of sisterhood. The fact of the matter is that our species couldn’t have survived this long if women hadn’t worked cooperatively. Historically, when men were absent for various reasons, women gathered to raise children, fight wars, and keep our villages and cultures alive. This remains true to this day.

Fear of Rejection

Fear of rejection can be powerful. Often there are opportunities we don’t seize or ideas we allow to rot because we are afraid if we lead, others won’t follow or support. One way to overcome this fear is to remove yourself from the equation. If you create a space for women to gather, surrender that space to whatever intention you have set: Healing, joy, release, etc. By doing this you ensure that no matter if one person shows up or one hundred, the intention is fulfilled.

Lack of Confidence

Many of us feel moved to create beautiful spaces to share with others, but we doubt our ability to carry that inspiration into manifestation. My advice is to lean towards simplicity. A year ago I decided to open my home to women in my circle bimonthly because I realized women have a tendency to recharge one another. I didn’t want to wrestle with the potential barrier of not having money for food and beverages at each event, so I made it a potluck. This worked better than I could have imagined! Not only was it a way that each women could express themselves and offer love to other women, but it was also a great way to share wisdom through recipes. The simplest gestures and ideas can grow into powerful acts of change. Don’t overthink it!

Geographical Limitations

Let’s face it, some of us live in towns or cities that may not support our views and values. For these people, the idea of a gathering must transcend space and geographical location. One of the benefits of our shrinking global world is that village can be created online. Both my partner and I belong to healthy online communities that offer support and encouragement for our individual journeys. Similarly to physical villages and gatherings, online gatherings are subject to conflict, but so long as the outcome of these conflicts is growth, these cyber gatherings can create deep and meaningful connections that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

Each of us has the power to create a “red tent” of our own. It doesn’t have to be perfect or frequent. It doesn’t have to be expensive or expansive. It only has to be intentional. Ask yourself,“What do I want the women gathering here to gain from this space and time?”

It can be as simple as an evening of fun, or as complex as a healing circle to address past trauma. Whatever the intention, sew it into the space with your words and your actions. You’ll find that the rest unfolds organically and beautifully with little effort, and maximum possibilities.

How will you bring your sisters together this Women's History Month? What do you think will further build community amongst women of color?

Thea Monyeé contributes to BGIO to join forces with black women who re-member their powerful abilities, and consider it a part of their divine journey to assist other black women to re-member theirs. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Thea stays connected to her highest self through yoga, chakra meditation, reiki, crystal healing, and spending time with nature and loved ones. You can find her on Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr/Facebook using the handle @theamonyee.