When we first started meeting regularly and I grudgingly accepted the title of president, I told the Lovely Ladies who were daring enough to make me a leader, that I only have one rule – No Catty Bitches. I know, I know – potty mouth! But, I have no tolerance for women who talk crap about other women when they are not around and are sweet as sugar to the same woman’s face. We talked about how, as an organization of women, this may be a challenge given the passionate nature of working as an advocate. So, I said, “If someone says something at a meeting and you don’t agree with it, or it makes you feel upset, uncomfortable, etc. SAY SO. Right then and there. And if it doesn’t hit you until you are on your way home, or reflecting back on it the next day, call that person immediately and say, ‘I didn’t like the way you said x,y and z.’ But DO NOT call up other members of this organization and start talking about it.” And I am happy to say, we have managed to avoid all manner of ugliness by being direct and open with each other. How refreshing!
“Well, bully for you!” you might say, “but what does that have to do with midwives?!” I’m so glad you asked because the answer might surprise you. . .did you know that long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, women used to only be attended by women in birth? Generally, there was one wise woman or shaman in a village who was the healer. She would go to the house of the lady in labor and so would the mother, sisters, aunts, grandma, daughters, nieces, female neighbors, etc. and they would proceed to take over the running of the household. These ladies were referred to as “Godsibs.” Now, imagine the scene – a houseful of women, cooking, drinking, doing laundry, cleaning. . .and talking. And talking. And talking. The word “gossip” comes directly from this word. Huh. It would be really hard to get away with much in a village of so few who shared so much, so much of the time. The ladies probably could take a ribbing and dish it out, confident in the shared love of their Godsibs.
And then came the witch burnings. Essentially, physicians came on the scene and were in cahoots with the church. The wise women, and all their knowledge about natural remedies were a threat to physicians and the practice of medicine, so the church invented some crazy crap about how to spot a witch, and the madness began. Now, I am REALLY over-simplifying here (for more info, check this out), but the results are the same either way. Women began to turn on each other – “I’m not a witch! She is! Burn her, not me!” Women were tortured, starved, beaten, and eventually they would start naming names. So, what did mothers start teaching their daughters? “Don’t trust women.” And we began to not trust ourselves, or like ourselves very much.
And the same can be said for birth. If you were around women giving birth from the time you could crawl, and the event was a celebration, a gathering of the people you cared most about, you would look forward to your turn to take part in this rite of passage. When our wise women, our Godsibs were taken from us, we lost something powerful. We lost our ability to witness birth. We were robbed of the opportunity to see women in the raw – at our most vulnerable, we are at our strongest.
So, the next time a girlfriend breaks down and shares something personal or painful, make a promise to keep it to yourself. It is in our ability to show our weakness, that we find strength. And the next time someone says something, or behaves in a way that is upsetting to you, tell them! We need to start re-building the trust among women that was taken from us. NO CATTY BITCHES!