PATRIARCHAL societies like to deceive women into thinking that women cannot get along, work together and stand in support of one another. Given the patriarchal history of society, it has mostly worked to keep women in their places and apart from each other. This is why we hear so much about women against women,
but not that much about women supporting women. Today, on International Women’s Day, I will highlight some of the ways women can, and do, support other women.
Recognising significance of sisterhood
IT IS said that we cannot choose our families, but we can choose our friends. I am thankful that it is the case. My female friends are my chosen sisters. It is important for every woman to have meaningful connections that keep us grounded and feel supported. Female friendships are far from the catty relationships that are
often exhibited in popular culture and media. I second what Roxane Gay said in her book Bad Feminist: ‘Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to slow women down.’
Allyships can be developed at workplaces as well. Research shows that three in four women experience different kinds of biases at work, including being passed over for jobs and promotions. Women with traditionally marginalised identities, especially because of skin colour or ethnicity, LGBTQ+ women and women with
disabilities face more acute biases. Yet, only one in three employees, including managers, challenges such biased behaviours when they experience or see it. Women, who are in decision-making positions, need to challenge such biases and take meaningful actions towards progressing gender equality at workplaces.
Combating the biases women face at workplaces is critical to get things right.
WOMEN can support other women by helping them to silence the noise of negative self-talk and self-doubt, by showing confidence in each other and by supporting them to gain confidence so that women’s fates are not determined by their circumstances only. Confident women do not question their abilities and qualities;
rather, they shine bright and constantly work on themselves to find more reasons and ways to celebrate their lives, light, love and purposes. Only the women who are confident in their own skin can genuinely celebrate others. Complimenting each other and giving one another credit for a job well done, for trying one’s best
or for having good intention — all this can go a long way to boost confidence.
Supporting in challenging situations
WOMEN need to support women more, and not shame each other. I cannot emphasise enough on the power that comes from having a peer-support group. Finding the right female mentors can be a life-changing experience. Women who are older and have more lived experiences should share their valuable insights for
the benefit of other women while having an open mind to learn from their mentees as well. Media and popular culture teach us that women need to be cold-hearted or mean to succeed. It is high time we busted this mean-girl myth and ditched such attitudes. Women can support each other to find solutions to different
kinds of problems by sharing their lived experiences and life lessons. They can get together to brainstorm solutions. Women who have certain privileges need to understand that their privileges grant them certain kinds of power to create positive changes. They need to use their privileges for the benefit of other women.
At workplaces, the responsibility of encouraging women to raise their concerns and helping them to get their due shares mostly lies with those who are already at the top. Peers can also support each other by collaborating collectively instead of competing against each other. In this way, women are more likely to get what
they want and deserve on their own terms.
Believing other women’s stories
THROUGHOUT history, women have brought about monumental changes and societal shifts by organising as a single powerful force. In the recent past, we have seen some powerful moments, such as the #MeToo movement, that showed women that they need to believe in each other and support each other to speak up
and stand up for themselves. It becomes possible for patriarchal forces to oppress women only when women do not believe women.
For instance, at workplaces, if every woman responds negatively to misogynistic humour and speaks out against all forms of harassment and abuse, whether it is happening to one’s self or to their peers, this will lead towards creating workplaces that are free of abuse and harassment. There is a Latin phrase: Qui tacet
consentiré videtur. It means ‘silence gives consent.’ When we say nothing and do nothing when it comes to injustice towards women, we are consenting to injustice.
PATRIARCHAL societies as well as colonisers have always taught us to behave and do things in certain ways, putting pressure on us to follow the dominant culture, stay at the centre and not shake the status quo. Such rules have always been more strictly applicable for women, one of the segments of society most
discriminated against. At homes and workplaces and in societies in general, women often have to live with subconscious fears of either being labelled ‘too nice’ for being agreeable or ‘too aggressive’ for being opinionated. It takes enormous courage to go against the tide, break the norms and set our own rules. The
women who are ahead of the time are forging the path forward for other women to follow and, perhaps, travel more comfortably in the future. Women need to appreciate such rule-breakers and trendsetters who work towards positive changes. Such rebellious women are struggling and challenging traditional and cultural
norms every day. They are trying to make the path easier to follow for future generations.
I will say this again: women supporting women can be a powerful tool to fight for everything that women deserve, and to fight against sexism, racism, misogyny, patriarchy and more. Let us affirm today that we, the women, are enough exactly the way we are. If we can nurture the right attitude, we can stop fighting against
other women. Let us thrive towards creating a sisterhood by asking at least one woman today what they need to feel supported. Let us keep the sisterhood alive by supporting women the way they need.
Faria Rashid is a human rights activist advocating for women empowerment, gender equity and refugee rights.