Illustration by Marietta Kosma
A couple of weeks ago, I was out for a walk in the city center of my home island in the South Aegean, Rhodes, with my best friend and his partner who came for vacation. As the wind started travelling across the beach, a stamping noise like a herd of elephants was audible. I could tell that my best friend’s partner was shivering but when I asked her if she needed my jacket, she politely refused. I later found out from my friend that she was indeed cold but did not have the courage to let me lend her my jacket. Recounting this story to our other friends and describing her hesitation made me realize the importance of sisterhood. Through sisterhood, women can make lasting emotional connections and can receive and give the emotional support we all want and need.
From the Suffragettes to the contemporary #MeToo movement, ‘sisterhood has many forms’ it can be a sorority, [a] political organization, or simple friendship. This diversity caters for all types of different women and accommodates for their diverse economic, social and cultural needs. The concept of sisterhood has always been a central tenet of the women’s movement and it has been filtered into popular cultural representations. Sisterhood for me is the warmth you feel when you are at your worst and get that hug you were longing for but never admitted you needed. It is knowing that there will always be someone there for you. It is the feeling of comradery on a night out when you see your ex and you are secretly crying in the bathroom, but a stranger sees you, wipes your tears, and helps you fix your makeup; it is counting on others and being counted on.
Our own stories need to be heard in order to be validated. By voicing our stories we can come to the realization that we are not alone and that other women may have had a similar experience to ours. As a first year DPhil student, it was important to me to share my struggles with other women who would listen to me without judgment. My female student advisor and a friend in the department of education were, for me, a support team. I consider myself lucky to have found comradery in those women because it made me realize that other women I admired for their work ethic and academic skills had faced similar issues during their first year of their PhD. These women are a powerful asset to the English department because they have set an example; that one can be dynamic yet acknowledge their vulnerabilities at the same time. These women’s influence has been immense for me as they have played an integral role in my professional development after gaining my trust.
Women benefit from a sisterhood more overtly as well. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, women have more chances than men to achieve the highest possible levels of success in their careers if their inner circle is made up of other women. I can also personally attest to that as I felt like I had more possibilities to excel in my workplace when other women in my field psychologically supported me. A couple of years ago I had a job as a guest relations executive in a luxurious five-star hotel on my home island. At first, the prospects of this job terrified me as I did not have any relevant experience in that field but I really needed the job to save money for grad school. From my very first shift, I was lucky to have a sisterhood of women supporting me. They helped me through actively proving that there is room for everyone in the job and by far increased my chances of being heard, whereas I am not sure if they would have been that supportive if they were male. My two supervisors supported me throughout, showing me how to approach guests and teaching me negotiation secrets that they used themselves when facing similar situations. These women actively listened to my concerns, brought me warm donuts from the hotel’s kitchen every morning and even covered for me when I needed to be hospitalized to take my appendix out.
If all women were taught how to love each other fiercely instead of competing with each other, we would be living in a different world. The sisterhood around you should provide you with a safe space where you can feel it is okay not to be okay, where one feels secure enough to share both the darkest part of their lives to be consoled and the brightest parts to celebrate their success. Validation of other women’s experiences when they need it is priceless. To have other women offering you advice and support throughout your academic endeavors and professional career is indispensable in order to overcome the challenges you face. Especially now, during the post-pandemic era it is necessary to bring together different voices to co-build a bright future.