I recently conducted a brainstorming session with a group of women that I work with. The goal was to pick their brains about the type of content and discussion they’d like to hear on the TJMS. Intimate relationships, money and family were among the topics that these ladies couldn’t seem to get enough of, but also, the relationship that they have with the other women in their lives, from co-workers to mothers and girlfriends to sisters, was one they wanted to see explored..
Our conversation brought on the much-asked question: Why can’t black women get along? (To be clear, I mean the actual “conversation” inspired the question – not the dynamic between these sisters. We’re pretty evolved around here!)
This is a question that always seems to spark a heated debate but yields no real answers.
These days, the phrases “she’s just a hater” or “she brings too much drama” get thrown around as often as “Good morning.” “Hating” seems to have turned into some sort of sport, and fortunately, I didn’t get the memo.
We can be the most hateful, mean-spirited witches in the world to each other, and most times, it’s for no reason at all. We don’t speak to each other in the street, and if you dare smile or say hello in passing, some will reciprocate, but others give you looks like you’ve just stolen their last dollar or slept with their man.
We work overtime to tear each other down, downplay each other’s dreams and dog each other’s men when we should be each other’s greatest support system. Who else understands the uniqueness and peculiarities of being a woman than another woman?
Let me say this: I’m sure women in different ethnic groups have the same problems, but I notice the drama more so in the African-American community than others. And that concerns me. But what concerns me more is if we as adult women can’t get along, then how are we going to teach our daughters, nieces and goddaughters the importance of the female bond? What kind of legacy are we leaving?
Sisterhood, self-knowledge, self-development and self-esteem – the four empowerment principles of Sisterhood Agenda, Inc. – were the elements that founder and executive director Angela D. Coleman saw lacking in young sisters when she started the organization in 1994. Not surprisingly, Coleman sited lack of self-esteem as the primary cause at the root of the many challenges that black women face. She went on to say that we, as a sacred sisterhood, needed to tackle our lack of self-esteem sooner rather than later because the consequences of letting it fester are too far-reaching to comprehend.
So now that we know, what do we do about it?
I think most of us would agree that we don’t always feel as confident about our appearance or capabilities as we should. But instead of taking responsibility to work on ourselves, we turn our frustrations and anger into a ball and viciously hurl it other women. Bottom line: Women need to stretch beyond their insecurities and issues and just get our existence together. The only way to overcome is to embrace our whole selves, including our faults and issues. We’ve got to develop a well of self-love and self-respect, otherwise, the drama will continue. And life’s too short to entertain such pointless negativity.
It’s easy to look around and see the unsisterly behavior of other women, but let’s take a second and look at the sister in the mirror. What message are we sending to the young, impressionable girls in our lives? When we come home from work, are we saying uplifting words about the women on the job or do we complain and put them down? When they have problems with their friends, do we try to come up with positive ways for them to work them out, or do we pile on and keep the problem going by saying things like, “You might as well learn now that women can’t get along?”
Sadly, a lot of our problems with other women stem from how we feel about, conduct ourselves and react around men. When we’re just with our girls, things can go along pretty smoothly, but throw a brother in the mix, and a lot of us change – in our friendships and our work relationships. Men, if you’re reading this, you bear some responsibility also. Some encourage cattiness and don’t take female co-workers as seriously as they take males.
As women, the best way to counter these attitudes is to give them as little to work with as possible. Just as we should watch what we say about other women in front of the young girls in our lives, we should do the same with our boys. They too are forming ideas about how women act around and toward each other, and as they grow up to become mates, co-workers and bosses, a lot of their attitudes will be based on what they’ve learned at home.
It all begins and ends with respect, across the board – for each other and ourselves.
When a woman loves and respects herself, she becomes unstoppable. When we combine forces with another woman of the same mentality, we will have more women-owned businesses, healthier children, more stable marriages – all of which will translate into a better world.
So, smile when you pass each other in the street. If you don’t, you could be passing up an opportunity not only to make yourself feel better, but to also set a positive precedent for generations to come!