Over the last month, Ellica and I have been busy at work-- improving DiabetesSisters’ messaging, brand, and image. (Yes, that’s what happens when you bring on a new Development & Marketing Manager!) The goal was to clearly lay out our programs, their benefit, and why the average American should care about the great work we are doing at DiabetesSisters.
It has made me think long and hard about what I (as the Founder and CEO) really want DiabetesSisters to be as well as what I don’t want it to be.
Over the last five years of leading a woman-focused organization, I have learned an incredible amount and I have come to realize a lot about the idiosyncrasies (both good and bad) of women. Coming together for a cause is certainly different from creating a sisterhood. While these two concepts have some commonalities, they are very different. There are lots of things that women come together on (a bill to supports women’s rights, a disease that ravages our children, or a television show or book series that grips us), but sisterhood doesn’t always emerge from it. Creating a sense of sisterhood involves maintaining a sacred bond among a group of women over time. BUT-- sisterhood can only be nurtured into existence if its members 1- let down their walls, 2-are willing to be vulnerable/open up, 3-are receptive to learning from others, and 4- are willing to share with others. In addition (and VERY important), each woman must be committed to building each other up any time the opportunity presents itself. At first glance, it sounds simple, yet we have encountered challenges in maintaining an environment that embodies these attributes.
What are the challenges? Well, let’s face it—it’s hard to love on each other and build each other up when the world is constantly encouraging us to ‘hate’ on each other. And yes, hate is strong word. In fact, it’s a word that I was taught to NOT say growing up and one that I don’t allow my daughter to use. But there’s no point in tiptoeing around a topic that can wreak havoc on an entire sisterhood. What we are seeing regularly on television and in our daily lives is women acting badly toward each other. In fact, there are new terms to describe this kind of activity: “throwing shade”- a new slang term to describe women criticizing or demeaning friends or acquaintances ; “haterade”-a slang term describing the beverage of choice for people who are filled with negativity; “hateration”- a slang term to describe intense negative emotion and energy directed at others.
The degree to which I have come into contact with this phenomenon among women firsthand over the last few years is alarming—and the vicious cycle is hard to stop once it starts. Many women are sucked into it before they realize what is going on. The conversation starts with one woman’s dislike of something (it could be anything, really!) and it is met with agreement and disdain from one or more in the group. Before you know it, the group is discussing (=complaining about) it every time they get together—finding more and more things to dislike. To make matters worse, the more they join in, the more women get a (false positive) feeling of belonging and bonding. Essentially, they are trying to create sisterhood over their mutual ‘dislike’ of something. Is this something you have bonded with women over recently? If so, I’m not here to beat you up about it. I just want to draw attention to it so that we can collectively do our part to not engage in it.
It DOES NOT have to be this way. We don’t have to give in to society. We can stand strong, as Sisters, to love on and support each other. When someone starts pushing a negative agenda, we can stick strong to our “sisterhood” agenda. When others don’t feed into their negativity, two things usually happen: The person either 1- changes their tune to discuss positive things in order to fit into the group OR 2- leaves the group entirely in search of a new group that will entertain their negative discussions.
As you can see, I have given a lot of thought to the challenges associated with creating sisterhood. Not only is it important to me for us to work toward fulfilling the mission for which DiabetesSisters was originally formed – to improve the health and quality of life of women with and at risk of diabetes; and to advocate on their behalf— but it’s also essential that we not become distracted by the sidetracked by society’s influence. Over the course of the next week, make note of those around you who engage in the kind of negative bonding discussed above. Even more important- take note of how YOU react to the negativity. Do you give in to it or do you lift up women?
After all of this deep thinking, there is one thing that I am absolutely clear on -- As long as I am at the helm, this Sisterhood IS and ALWAYS will be about lifting up women with diabetes and it WILL NOT willingly provide opportunities for negativity to creep in.
Have a Blessed Month!