One of Barbra Streisand's first big "hits", in 1964, was a song called "People" written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill for the Broadway musical "Funny Girl". I loved that song. In fact, just before sitting down to write this, I listened to it on YouTube. The first line is:
People, people who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world.
I agree and I like to take it in a slightly different direction by substituting women for people ... women, women who need women are the luckiest people in the world, especially when they know they need each other and do something about it.
Why even have this conversation or make it the topic of my blogette? Because women are still perceived as not trusting or even liking each other and it's more than a perception for many.
OK, so next question ... How did this come about? As Pamela Madsen wrote in an article in "Psychology Today" in 2013,
"One theory is that we want men to like us -- a lot. More than anything we want men
to validate our beauty, our desirability, and our brilliance. After all, many women have been taught their entire lives that we are not worth anything unless a man tells us so. We cut our teeth on learning how to flirt and gain the attention and approval of men. And if the current masculine culture says that women are not to be trusted, that women are sneaky and snarky; we learn to stay away from women too."
Another observation is based on when it became the norm to create an atmosphere of women being suspicious and wary of each other. There is evidence that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were pretty egalitarian. Over time and especially as Christianity became more prevalent it seems that men became more concerned with being "in charge". Perhaps, instead of simply seeing that both men and women are each more capable in some areas and not so much in others and choosing to celebrate that, some men felt threatened. Fearing that women might increase their power by banding together, they set out to undermine that bond. As the saying goes, "United we stand, divided we fall."
In whatever way we arrived at where we are today, now is the time to make an adjustment and question our old beliefs and what we've been "taught" without even knowing it was happening.
Let's get back to the why ... Why is it important for women to understand that we are not the enemy?
Very simply, if we hate other women, we have no choice but to hate ourselves. If we truly accept that women are untrustworthy, unkind, mean-spirited, and have whatever other terrible attributes we assign to them, we must swallow the bitter truth that that's who we are. This alone absolutely terrifies me.
When men and women are stressed, women release way more oxytocin than men causing our response to be "tend and befriend". We naturally want to turn to each other for comfort and other women get this.
The survival rate for women with life-threatening illnesses is greater in women with a supportive circle of girlfriends.
The Nurses' Health Study from Harvard Medical School showed that women are happier and age better/stay more active when they have close, women friends.
Women heal by telling their stories. Other women are much more open to listening and then, sharing their own.
As Melissa Healy wrote in an article for the LA Times:
"Women are keepers of each other's secrets, boosters of one another's wavering confidence, co-conspirators in life's adventures. Through laughter, tears, and an inexhaustible river of talk, they keep each other well, and make each other better. [And,]... the power of girlfriends is beginning to yield its secrets to science. For women, friendship not only rules, it protects. It buffers the hardships of life's transitions, lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity and promotes healing. It might help explain why women, on average, have ... longer life expectancies than men."
That last sentence has a chilling significance as more women either don't make close connections or fall away from their friendships as they become more involved in their careers, families, and life in general. Heart disease and other ailments once thought of as more common with men are on the rise.
What if we find ourselves somewhat "friendless"? It's never too late to get out there and make friends! Seek out groups or clubs or places where women with similar interests to yours come together. Look up old girlfriends -- they're probably wondering what you're up to just as much as you're wondering what they're doing. I've become part of many groups with different focus points over the years. I'm currently driving cross-country from Boston to Oregon and staying along the way with women I've befriended in those different collections of like-minded souls.
One of the best gathering of women I've ever experienced for forming strong bonds with others is Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts (www.mamgenas.com). As she says, "I am here for sisterhood" and she means it! She is offering her signature Experience, a two-day event December 1 & 2 this year and again in February. Go to her website and check it out!
Whether you laugh or cry, are loud or quiet, in a large room or simply with one other woman, get lucky and make the time to nurture yourself and another her. Being with each other might just save our lives ... this is what I wish for you.