What Happened to Sisterhood?
In college, I worked at the Women’s Center as an Administrative Assistant and Counselor. Not a counselor in the licensed sense, but as a listening ear for women facing struggles on their college path.
I co-founded a 24-hour crisis line for survivors of sexual assault.
I participated in a feminist Consciousness Raising Group. We read books like Sisterhood is Powerful and The Feminine Mystique to raise our awareness of inequality, awaken our power, and transform society.
I went on plenty of dates with men, but my circle of girlfriends nurtured and sustained me. We waited tables in the same restaurant, wearing a ridiculous uniform that featured a gathered skirt and puffy sleeves. At 2 am, after the doors closed, we took off on wild adventures like driving to the California desert for sunrise, searching for the Integratron, and then turning around and traveling miles to the coast for sunset.
After university and a few other jobs, I became the director at a Battered Women’s Shelter. Later, I served on my city council’s Committee for the Prevention of Violence Against Women.
All this would be considered second wave feminism. There was a third wave to come, but I missed it entirely.
The Decline of Feminist Awareness
What happened to my feminist awareness?
I entered the spiritual life. I immersed myself in Tibetan Buddhism.
From a spiritual perspective, you’re a soul, a spirit, or pure awareness that’s beyond gender. You might be female in this life and male in the next. You might have ended up with a female body due to a karmic debt. For example, having treated women poorly in a past life, you’re now on the receiving end.
That doesn’t mean anyone deserves to be treated unfairly, subjected to violence, or denied an eduction. But ultimately, you can only break the cycle of rebirth in these ever-changing forms, by recognizing the transitory nature of the self and reality while also cultivating spiritual qualities like love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.
I didn’t consciously take leave of my feminist concerns, but they took a backseat for decades. I didn’t place my attention on the patriarchal, hierarchical, or oppressive aspects of Buddhism, which certainly exist. I focused instead on making the spiritual teachings, which I believe to be the cause for ultimate liberation, available to others. I concentrated as well on my own spiritual evolution so I could be of service with a kinder and clearer heart.
Did Sisterhood Disappear from Your Lens Too?
Did sisterhood simply disappear from my lens only or has this occurred for others too? Maybe I’m no longer in the right circles, but I rarely encounter discussions of women's rights in, what some consider, our post-feminism or anti-feminism era.
Fortunately, the movement for women’s rights in developing countries is alive, but is it receiving the attention it deserves?
It seems like priorities in the West have moved away from social action, flower power, and equality to personal concerns like:
- Habit change and productivity
- The power of introverts
- The search for personal happiness
- Simplicity and decluttering
- Healthy living in the face of devastating diseases like cancer
Sure there was the "occupy" movement a few years ago, but where is that now?
Is It Time to Revive Sisterhood?
Is sisterhood relevant any longer?
A few months ago, I wrote about unifying the masculine and feminine for the Joyful Wisdom Circle. Suddenly, I felt the fire of feminism alive in my belly once again. But it took a different form. Maybe I should call this urge something other than "feminism" because it includes but goes beyond equal rights to consider the survival of this planet.
If I attribute any specific qualities to the feminine or masculine, I know I’m guilty of gender bias. But let’s be honest. For the most part, men are still in charge. During their reign, the world has gravitated dangerously toward qualities like aggression, power, and unbridled consumerism at the expense of qualities like intuition, collaboration, and nurturance.
As we collectively stand at the edge of survival, I feel sisterhood is more important than ever in taking a stand against violence - just like these women said no to violence in their town. I feel sisterhood is more important than ever for ensuring equal rights for women around the world. I feel sisterhood is more important than ever to give rise to an earth-centered, collaborative, and receptive mode of being that may indeed save this world from self-destruction.
Coming Together As Women
However, if we wish to revive sisterhood, we need to be intentional about it. Men gather via the Mankind Project to focus on "building and supporting the emotionally mature, accountable, and compassionate male role models that our communities need."
How are women gathering to reclaim their power, activate their wisdom, and engage in social action in our current times?
If we wish to reconnect with our feminine power and act boldly on behalf of this world, it's essential to be wary of an over-focus on the self as well. A sole focus on the self cannot bring lasting happiness. Whereas thinking of others naturally brings our own concerns into perspective, making them feel far less consuming, far less imprisoning.
It’s not a question of spirituality, smoothies, or simplicity versus social action. All of these can be integrated into a balanced approach, if you wish. In addition to sitting on meditation cushions, many Buddhists engage in social action. My friend Maia Duerr from the Liberated Life Project blends these two aspects of working for inner and outer peace well.
But there's not one right way either. If you don't work with your mind, social action can become a venue for negative emotions. And secluding yourself in a three-year retreat provides value to the world in a way that may not be immediately obvious.
I don't know what's next for me in terms of sisterhood. But putting this question out in the world is one action I can take. I would also like to support women's rights in developing countries. And I would like to be more aware of what's already in motion when it comes to connecting with our sisters and our own feminine power.
So I would love to hear from you. Do you think sisterhood is important? If you're a woman, how do you connect with other women? How do you connect with and express your own feminine power and wisdom?
Just scroll down to join the conversation. I would love to hear your thoughts.
P. S. I'm grateful for my small tribe of women in the Joyful Wisdom Circle, where we explore mastering our own minds and hearts. Although I haven't restricted the group to women, it's naturally evolved that way. Want to learn more?
Thank you for reading! If you have a moment, please share this article with others. Until next time, may you be well, happy, and safe. With love, Sandra