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The bAw and Her Sisters

bAw and Her Sisters 5

There is a strange phenomenon that has become widely accepted amongst women, and seemingly especially amongst my black sisters (those are who I interact with most anyway). It is an almost unspoken but known occurrence. It happens usually when a group of women are gathered and a new woman comes along that they do not know. Sometimes, the group of women in question will look this new sister up and down discreetly while greeting her in the sweetest voice they can muster, all the while giving each other knowing looks about this “intruder”. At other times there is no pretence from the offset. The new lady can sense without a shadow of a doubt that she is not wanted or appreciated by the group of females she has just stepped up to. There is hardly genuine comradery and care amongst sisters especially when they first meet. I have personally experienced (and am ashamed to say have sometimes been a fellow perpetrator of) woman-on-woman “hate”/prejudice. It gives us a quick sense of who we think they’re dealing with.

We as sisters generally tend to have not-so-great-blood between us especially upon initially meeting. If you as a sister are really nice to another sister on first meeting, the other lady can even think that something’s up – you’re probably being fake or you want something from her. And that truly is sad. Especially when I see how easily and quickly our brothers get along with one another. We tend to only truly like the women that form part of our friendship circles, and even then you will find jealousy amongst female friends. We bring each other down with our looks, our words, our thoughts and we certainly do not delight in celebrating or lifting up other black African women (bAw). I believe that this stems from somewhere. My first thought is that of low self-worth which has been known to be most prevalent amongst women. Women by nature are relational creatures, and so they need validation the most. Men generally crave respect and to have their egos stroked but they don’t struggle with their value/worth the way women do. And so, when a sister meets another sister I think the initial thoughts that pop into her mind are along the lines of “What does she have that I don’t?” or “What can she do better than me?” We feel threatened because we doubt our own worth and what we have to offer. So the moment someone else comes into the picture who is similar to us (a woman) and could possibly offer what we can but only better, we feel uneasy.

It is a Psychology school of thought that the moment one feels threatened; they try to make themselves feel better by bringing down/downplaying the one who threatens them. It’s a survival tool so to speak.  It is also a way of hiding just how unhappy one is with oneself. When you are truly comfortable with who you are and you accept all your strengths and flaws, you will not feel the need to defend or validate yourself to anyone. Your behaviour, actions and lifestyle will attest to this. You will embrace others and their beauty/creativity/greatness with open arms. I think therefore that this sort of awkwardness (for lack of a better word) between the black African sisters may be partly as a result of our issues with our own worth/value. We’re afraid that the other sister will outshine or outdo us and we’ll no longer be important or valued. We may feel that we’ll become useless so to speak and no one ever wants to feel that way. And so we think that the best way to avoid that is to squash any potential threat immediately.

I also believe that another reason could be because our society today has downplayed and put down the black woman (and most especially the bAw) considerably. I’ve heard it said quite a bit that there is a hierarchy in terms of which race of women is most desired or deemed most attractive by men. I’m not too sure who is at the top of this list but the black sisters are apparently at the bottom. Statistically, they are the ones most likely to not end up married or to marry much later amongst their female counterparts (Black women least likely group to marry).   They also have to fight harder to be heard or to advance in their careers. The bAw therefore comes with a whole lot working against her from the onset, so no wonder why she’s now defensive and fearful even with her own sisters. She’s been conditioned to strive and fight to be seen, heard and accepted. This leads me to believe that maybe this is why she then struggles to accept another black sister immediately without also seeing her as competition.

Needless to say, there are also black sisters who don’t struggle with this problem and I thank God for that! It truly is a beautiful thing when you have black women who love and accept one another from the onset. One of the most life-giving and inspiring things to see is a group of women who cherish and build each other up. And so I would like to encourage my fellow bAw to first examine their own thoughts/feelings/initial reactions to other black women. Be honest with yourself about how accommodating you are and if there are any personal issues you may have that you could possibly be projecting onto others. When you know yourself better you’ll be better able and more willing to embrace other people that you come in contact with. There is power in unity my sisters, so let’s all pull together and affect the world positively.

What has your experience been with other sisters? Have you felt judged/hated on by other women or have you yourself found yourself being unkind to other women? Maybe you’ve experienced some really positive interactions with your fellow sisters. Either way, we’d love to hear about it so please do share:)

Remember that I’m praying for you!

With love,

Sonia Dube