A few years ago, I would have said it didn’t interest me at all. I like men. I have more male friends than female ones, I feel more at ease in male company, and I like mixed groups for most things.
Then came The Coven – an all female singing group. There were nine of us at the outside, although we’ve lost a few on the way. Women at different life stages, united by a desire to sing and a willingness to turn up at my house once a week.
It was like nothing else I’d ever done. A wholly different dynamic. Supportive, nurturing, playful, creative. We talked about the sorts of things you can’t say around the guys – issues of menstruation and menopause, of partners and offspring. It was liberating.
So much of what we go through, we face unsupported. The trials and challenges of our bodies, our sexual identities, parenting, relating to men (such strange creatures they are!). A woman with a strong family, a mother or sister to turn to has a lot of advantages, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.
I was wary of groups of women because I hate bitching, and conversations about nail polish. Shared obsessions with dieting and conformity were my formative experience of female friendships. It all revolved around what we imagined might make the men interested in us, and then I’d seen the way in which with older women, female relationships became a space for bitching about the men. However, I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be like that. All female groups can be positive, nurturing spaces. It’s good to have a safe place to vent, even better to have the wisdom of those who have seen it all before and can at least shrug and tell you it’s normal. Sisterhood does not have to mean man-bashing. Although we can laugh about them, and sometimes that’s really necessary.
Diversity is good, and that should mean it’s ok to have all female or all male groups for some specific purpose. Or other focused get togethers. Sometimes we need the company of people who understand because they’ve experienced it too. All female groups can be incredibly healing and supportive spaces.