The Antonym of Female Rivalry is the Female Sisterhood. Who’s in Your Circle?

The Antonym of Female Rivalry is the Female Sisterhood. Who’s in Your Circle?

Be around the light bringers, the magic makers,
the world shifters, the game shakers. 
They challenge you, break you open, uplift + expand you.
They don’t let you play small with your life.
These heartbeats are your people.
These people are your tribe.”

Rivalry Between Women. Continually I seek testimonials from women about their experience of rivalry between another woman in the working environment. I’ve captured so many stories from brave women who have opened up, bared their souls and shared their most personal and often excruciatingly negative experiences with me. These stories ooze vulnerability, shame, and sadness... Some of the stories will make you cry. Some of the stories will make you angry. Some of the stories will completely blow your mind. There is a tragedy to so many of these stories because often at the time of the incident occurring…their voice was not heard. And because of that they suffered silently, in great pain.

Recently I’ve extended my To Be research about rivalry between women to beyond that of the working environment, to scenarios that occur in everyday living. I want to better understand why rivalry occurs, and how those experiences impact females in their everyday lives. I want an enhanced knowledge of what the various types of rivalrous personas are; the age it typically begins; does it ever really end; the damage it can do, the internal and external social perceptions of rivalry; and how to overcome it, etc. 

The negative side of rivalry between women is that it occurs so frequently in pretty much every-single aspect of daily living, at work, home, socially, in sports, at school. You name the place and there is no doubt that it exists. The bottom line however, in as much as there are certain types of personalities that judge, compete, rival and hate… There is another side. 

There are also personalities that support, collaborate, respect, love, uplift and empower. The antonym of rivalry between women, the favorable side to this negative behavior is the female sisterhood. This is the positive side of relationships between women and when it works, it works so very, very well. 

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The science behind the sisterhood. Before diving in to what the female sisterhood really means. Let’s take a quick look at the science that supports it. This post is not a slam against men. We all have males in our support system with whom we have wonderful partnerships and relationships. Women however, just have a special bond with one another. Female friendships tend to be different types of friendships, then what males traditionally have. 

Researchers have studied the power of female relationships and the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and plays a role in social bonding. When men and women experience stress they release the hormone cortisol which promotes aggression and withdrawal responses. To counter the cortisol, the body also produces oxytocin as a means to combat stress and calm down. Furthermore, in stressful situations men produce higher levels of testosterone and women produce higher levels of estrogen. In men, testosterone decreases the calming effects of oxytocin. In women, estrogen heightens the calming effects of oxytocin and promotes the internal yearning for social support.

In a nutshell, women release hormones to other women that are healthy and help to remove the stress hormones. Dr. Shelly Taylor, UCLA Scientist summarizes, “Aggression and withdrawal take a physiological toll, whereas friendship brings comfort that diminish the effects of stress. This difference in seeking social support during stressful periods is the principal way men and women differ in their response to stress, and one of the most basic differences in men’s and women’s behavior.”

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The Female Sisterhood. Author Louise Bernikow said, “Female friendships that work are relationships in which women help each other belong to themselves.” Think about your own female circle, your squad, your tribe, your sisterhood. Whatever you call it, these women have your back and share a special bond with you. They bare their souls, support, empower, encourage and nurture you and as do you, in return. To circle is to surround, enclose, encompass. A woman’s circle is a safe and sacred place for women to come together, to use their voices, to be heard and seen, to empower each other and share wisdom.

In primitive times women shared much more of their daily domestic living with each other than they traditionally do today. Communal lifestyles were common and in this domain, they cooked together, participated in the care of each others children, hunted for food, gathered for shelter and fire, all done in tandem with other women. 

In this day and age, although women are still customarily the pillars of their family life and communities, shared living is not a commonality. Women are much more isolated from each other, they live in their own homes versus a collective setting, they have their own schedules and own immediate self and family needs. Occasions to get together are fewer and together-time, lessened. For females, coming together is not as much of a natural everyday, support process, as it once was.

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Most women have several types of sisterhood circles, comprised of 1-2 women, or more. I know I certainly do. These tribes can be driven by a personal or professional need, socially, location lived, etc. Sometimes the people in them overlap from one group to the next. The circles I am a part of have manifested at different periods and stages in my life, often appearing when I most needed them. In certain situations, I did not actually know how much I needed these pillars of support until they were already interwoven in my life. 

The picture for this blog post depicts friends I’ve known for over 30 years, my oldest circle. The photo doesn’t show all of the ladies in this particular group, but it is a great reminder of who they all are. The great thing about this circle is, even though all of our lives have gone in completely different directions from how we were when we first met. Even though we have a few wrinkles, a grey hair or two, have moved, have our own families and have met new friends and made new circles along the way… When we are together we are still the same people as who we were when we were 18.

I mean that in the sense of our personalities and mannerisms being the same in the fact that we truly are ourselves amongst each other. I’m not saying I am not myself around people I’ve met since then. At all. But these ladies know me inside and out, from the time I was a teenager. They know my goofy stories, the crazy boyfriends, the bad shit. And I know theirs. It is a bond of time.To have these type of people in your life throughout distance and time, is a blessing. It’s a gift to be cherished. 

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There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
-Madeleine Albright

Rivalry between women deprives women of female colleagues and companionship. It prevents women from relying on their natural allies, each other. Traditionally, especially in the working environment, women have been taught to compete with one another because there have been fewer positions at the top. With more women having high powered jobs, and overall more women embracing the workforce, competition simply does not work anymore. We have to raise each other up and reverse the stereotype that women do not support each other. Collaboration versus competition is the ticket to do so.  

As an individual woman, you have power. Collectively however, as a group of women, you have impact. Just think about that for a second and let it sink in…  Now take a look at your circle. Who is part of your tribe? Who are the strong women? They are the constant, the ones who uplift, expand and empower you. They are the ones that are there for you, no matter what, through thick and thin. They build up, not tear down. This. Is. A. True. Friend. 

If you don’t have a circle, a squad, a tribe… you need to find one. The female sisterhood is vital for your health, happiness, wellness and personal growth. There is solid truth to the fact that women cannot live without each other. 

I am always searching for stories about competition between women – negative or positive. Please reach out if you have one to share. Additionally, if you are struggling with rivalry from another woman at work or in your personal life, or if you have a group of women who could benefit from additional knowledge about this important topic. Email me at amber@tobecoachingandconsulting.com. I can help you with that.

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