Is “My Sister’s Keeper” a Half Promise?
By Caroline Numuhire
The 2019 International Women’s Day’ theme was Balance for Better. I loved how, as women, we did not focus on the traditional fight against men, but rather on women taking care of themselves, and each other.
My intimate, personal experience with most women has been a different aura from the public, passionate debates that I have seen out there. Women have loved and hurt me at the same time. That brought me to wonder if we are not trapped in an indiscernible, unconscious war against each other, a fierce competition. For beauty, money, opportunities, and the most traditional, the ‘attention from that man’. We evolve in a world that has misdefined us and pushed women to forget that we were born as queens.
On my life journey, the wonderful women I met have taught me a lot: how to be a young girl, a young woman, a future wife and mother. They taught me manners, how to cook, to clean, and to love others. They helped me to build a career and to aim high. They shared their wounds with me through the most beautiful, painful stories that shaped their lives, so I don’t mess up as they did. They tried to protect me and were present to console me when my heart was broken and in pieces. Women have undeniably loved me.
And there was this other face I discovered. The same wonderful women I met have also shown me sympathy because they perceived me as the weak, the uncivilized, the half intelligent-beautiful-wealthy cocktail of their version that needed that dose of compassion to reach a certain next level. This has been so far the most captivating part of it and it brought me to fear sympathy. This particular type of support that I consider seasonal, proved to be a way for me to get permission from other women so I could be something measurably better. I was allowed to grow and improve, but to a level they had approved. I was never allowed to outgrow any woman who was supporting me in an area where they perceived me as weak. The student couldn’t surpass the master, at least not without their permission. Otherwise, the honestly expressed sympathy would turn into an open resentment. Over time, I’ve learned to enjoy to discern another woman’s reaction to seeing a peer outgrowing the standards they have preset for her. It is a kind of a moment of surprise stamped with the silent question that reveals a feeling close to betrayal:
Who allowed you to dare to aspire to that much?
I’ve seen and felt an unprecedented and unseen third aspect from the wonderful women I met. I’ve seen insecurities speak on behalf of women. It was too ugly to be compared to filth. It had the façade of, first, jealousy and envy, before shifting to disdain, and finally slipping into hatred. And I agree it is part of human nature. But I got terrified by that horror when it took the human, then the female face. It smelled such an instant poison that has paralyzed each inch of my body.
In the beginning, I was terrified by this attitude before realizing that we might actually be trapped. All of us. Trapped in the wrong belief that there is not enough for every woman. You can imagine my respite when I realized that we have been living a lie, that we have to compete for what abundantly exists for each and everyone to meet our basic needs, love included. In their book ‘The Art of Possibility’, the authors warn us that scarcity-thinking, which is different from true scarcity, drives us to ‘acquire more for ourselves no matter how much we have and to treat others as competitors no matter how little they have’. And that could take away our ability to recognize that we have actually reached our destination, our apogee. And we continue to run, while we have arrived.
Again, are we trapped? Am I trapped?
Did anyone tell us that actually there is room for every woman?
Room to be and to exist,
Room to love and to be loved,
Room to sow and to win,
Room to be beautiful and to be praised,
Room to be kind and appreciated,
Room to work and be paid,
Room to give and receive.
A Room for grace.
You might have heard of the saying: ‘Every time I judge someone else, I reveal an unhealed part of myself’. When we fail to recognize, embrace, and celebrate another woman’s greatness or beauty, it is simply an indicator that we are hurting in one area or another. And we need our full self-compassion to repair and mend our hearts so we can uproot the negative source of élan that blocks us from honoring other queens. And as we do so, we not only break this transgenerational curse where we trash each other, but we also make she-for-she is a full promise. A promise to our generation, a path to creating a sane environment for all the little girls who come after us, to sparkle. We become a hive of queens who fix each other’s crown in public and the privacy of our thoughts.