Trust Women

On a cold wintry day like today in Hancock, New Hampshire, when it’s minus 7 degrees and three feet of snow sit like piles of meringue glistening in the morning light, hibernation instinct kicks in and I just want to hide in my cave. I notice the cave needs some tidying up though, and I start with a pile of miscellaneous papers on my desk. As I sort through the bills, notes, notices, I find a bumper sticker that says “Trust women.”  I think I picked it up at a booth at a conference.

Trust women. I’ve been going around the country jump starting conversations for women in what we call “Iron Butterfly Circles.” These are consciousness raising groups to increase women’s awareness of how to make an impact on our policies and environment—the opportunities and obstacles. With a self-empowerment focus, women are not alone but are supported in their collaborative leadership styles. It’s also an opportunity for creating bridges between generations of women.

Iron Butterfly Circles are places where the question unfolds: “What happens when you get a bunch of powerful women together with the full intention of transforming the meaning of power, leadership, success, the world?” It’s creating conditions for women to actualize their collective power and to evoke their collective wisdom. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it’s urgent!

Another way I might characterize these influential women leaders is that they aren’t women who would tend to seek out women’s groups. If pressed I think some would say they don’t really trust other women. Why is that?

Partly it goes back to a long history of women competing with each other. But it wasn’t always that way. Historically, it’s fair to speculate that women had a different role in hunter/gatherer societies; their work was not gender driven but egalitarian. As gatherers, they provided 80 percent of sustenance (20 percent came from hunting). They had resources, a revered position as creators of life, and power to determine the band’s movement and location.  I write about this in the second chapter of my book.

However, the past 5,000 years of uncompromising patriarchy changed all that. Those five millennia witnessed a relentless effort to eradicate feminine wisdom and power through a systematic economic and political subjugation. After all, it was a little over a hundred years ago that women were allowed to own property and even less time to earn the vote in the US.

Consequently, women competed against each other for resources and for men. There is a long history of women not supporting each other and a deep distrust among women for these reasons. Certainly, older generations can quickly conjure moments they felt betrayed, hurt, disillusioned by women. It seems as if these hurts feel more painful because they were inflicted by a sister. I myself have felt bewildered when I found myself standing alone when I expected to be standing with other women.  I wondered as I scratched my head why there was so little traction for working together, so little effort for supporting each other. I flashback to junior high school when all those issues of inclusion/exclusion are so painfully played out with girls. On the other hand, discovering the power of a collaborative effort with women is simply thrilling.

The younger generation has a much better start because of the opportunities that the woman’s movement opened for them. And their involvement in team sports taught them to cover each others backs. They have access to resources and they don’t rely on men in the same way.

Women supporting women is revolutionary, and a profound shift happening as we see a plethora of organizations and programs dedicated to supporting women and cultivating their leadership. Women are learning about collective power: they can collaborate with each other to compete.

True collaboration requires an openness, a trusting of the other as you find mutual ground that benefits both. So, if in this journey of learning to collaborate with each there are remnants of distrust and pain in women’s relationships to women, women will find themselves in an environment that can heal. Taking the risk to trust other women is a necessary step as they lead the way in developing more collaborative and humane environments, at home, at work, in their communities, and in the world.

 That little bumper sticker. “Trust women.” Two words that run deep.


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48 Responses to “Trust Women”

  1. Jealously is the root to many problems in our society. It causes one to harm another, it causes one to steal from another and in life, it causes the lack of trust in people. When I was asked to work for National Geographic and the assignment was larger than I wanted to take on, I told them I wanted to bring on a woman who in business is my competitor- she is a creative consultant for photographers just like me. She and I worked together on the project together and the end result was not only a very successful project but a friendship that is stronger than a sisterhood. If we remove jealousy, open our minds, we can learn to trust. But that trust can only work with like minded people.

    • Jealousy is a curious emotion and differs from envy. Usually we are jealous when someone has what we want but it is also possible for us to have it.Envy is wanting something that you know you can’t have. If we focus on, “I can have it too” rather than “she has what I want,” that can open doors, as you point out Suzanne, to a true collaboration.

  2. Mary Liepold says:

    I enjoyed this, Birute, looking out over the closest thing to New Hampshire winter weather that we get in DC. I’m wondering, though, about Suzanne’s caveat “that trust can only work with like minded people.” Seems like sometimes we have to take a flyer, try trusting someone and see if their mind changes. Or ours does!

    • I agree with that assessment, Mary. If we can only trust like-minded people, that seems limiting. I think what is more important is that they are authentic and honest and even if you don’t agree, at least you know where the other stands and is trustworthy that way.

  3. Cindy says:

    Awesome post Birute – you’re so talented – thanks!

  4. Michee G. says:

    Love it, two words that run very deep indeed!

  5. Anita Hedrick says:

    Sandra Bullock echoes this sentiment exactly when sharing her reactions to winning the Oscar for best actress.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Ladies, I’m sure you can think of at least five women who have significantly helped you succeed in your life. Unfortunately the truth is I’m also pretty sure you can think of one or two who haven’t been helpful at all. Maybe she even blew you off completely, never called or emailed you back despite your best efforts to contact her for help. Or maybe she’s purposefully made life difficult for you.

    Madeleine Albright apparently wasn’t kidding when she once said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

  6. Jack says:

    One thing I don’t get is why everyone is equating not trusting women with hating women? It’s not the same thing. Just because I am saying I do not want to open up my heart and make myself vulnerable to women anymore because they always hurt me and I cant trust them does not mean I hate women as a general rule. They are two totally separate things.

  7. Anonymoous man says:

    Yeah I know, maybe it’s a really retarded thing to do, air your dirty laundry about how unahppy your relationships have been on a blog. Might as well put up a big sign that says “DON’T DATE ME!”, but you know what? I don’t care. This is how I feel. I don’t trust women. There it is, I said it, I don’t trust them anymore. Every woman I have ever been close to in my life has been determental to my self-esteem, including my mother, Yeah, I have mother issues.

    I get used and abused in relationships. My first relationship was with a girl who I dated for five months before taking her on a long weekend trip to a resort on north west coast of Vancouver Island. It was a gorgeous cabin on a boardwalk in the rainforest, near a cliff above the ocean. It was winter so there was a rainstorm every night and we would fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing below. Yeah it was wonderful and romantic. She told me she loved me that weekend. Of course she also told me she had herpes, after four months of us not using condoms because we were exclusive and she was on the pill. A month after that cheated on me, ****ed another guy, and dumped me the next morning.

    I didn’t have another relationship for more than a year after that, but I didn’t have sex with or date anyone casually either because it’s just not my style. But then I met a girl who I fell completely in love with, and who I do believe loved me in return. In the early days was had wonderful times, we went on trips together, we had fun together, and yeah we had the best sex I ever had. But she wouldn’t give an inch, I was the one sacrificing everything to be with her, I moved, I chnaged jobs, and nothing was ever enough for her, despite telling me she loved me, she became more and more controlling and demanding as the relationship wore on. Towards the end we were living together and I realized that we did not live in our house, I lived in her house, with her rules, her choice in furniture, everything was hers, not ours. I was like an accessory in her life, there was no “we”. And to ad insult for that I found had been maintaining this online relationship with another guy with whom she had exchnaged half naked photos with, and had (though not while we were together) at one time had a very flirtacious relationship with. She wouldn’t let it go and was unapologetic, so I left her, and she cried and begged me not to go. And me, like an idiot stayed in contact with her and comforted her and helped her through it for the better part of two months, only to have her suddenly stop calling or texting, and as it turns out she has someone new and has no need for me anymore. So once again I get to hurt.
    I have just had it, I am a good guy, I’m smart, sincere, I have so much to offer, and yet I get used and abused and mistreated, and I just don’t trust anyone anymore. I am really at the point where I want no one. I just want to say **** it to all women, you will not use me, abuse me or hurt me, and just go around ****ing anyone I can get my hands on, like all those other guys I used to despise so much.

    • Oh, please, don’t despair! You sound like a wonderful person. When you love and give of yourself, you don’t lose. But are you loving yourself enough? Are you protecting yourself? As a life coach/therapist, I think coming to terms with your relationship with your mother would really help you. Seems like a pattern keeps repeating itself here that goes way back and you have the power to break a cycle, perhaps one you inherited from your mother. Thanks for your honest response.

  8. Joann S. says:

    Stick together? Check this out:

  9. Anne 1971 says:

    I think this is so true. However, many of us lost our way and our friends after getting married and moving. It’s not that easy to find real friends.

  10. Dorothy Ferrell says:

    Thanks Birute. In today’s impersonal world, it’s more important than ever for women to stick together. Whether it’s in person or via email, connecting with other women can enrich our lives in many ways. So call up an old friend, or make an effort to make some new ones. You’ll be glad you did.

  11. Claire Henry says:

    Yes girlfriend! C’mon WOMEN, we need to stick together!!! Stop fighting against each other Sometimes just get tired of seeing women always fighting with each other and really there is no purpose in fighting. Women need to UNITE and focus on what’s really important while we still have time. We are living on borrowed time

  12. Barbara M. says:

    I do believe that there is strength in numbers. Women do need to stick and support each other more. Because I have twin 11 year old daughters who watch my every move, I try to lead by example whatever it is that I’m doing 🙂

  13. Kyle Blalock (wonder child) says:

    Life is full of distractions, but nothing adjusts our focus clearer than altruism in the form of reaching out to one of our own.

  14. Sandra Grossman says:

    Let’s be the women who have been there and who willingly reach a hand down to help the woman who wants to get there.

  15. Mark Giralledi says:

    It’s not easy to trust women. When you consider the fact men are expected to ASK for every thing from Dates to your hand in marriage. During all this asking we tend to get turned down about 90% to 95% of the time.

    Most of the time we get shot down women are respectful, and mature about the situation, BUT there are women who feel they are doing society a favor by “PUTING MEN IN THEIR PLACE” They take opprutunities to be rude , shallow and I have had personal experiences of women who make it there personal mission to break each and every heart they can. They say I have a right to be a “BIT*H”.

    Now I have been very fortunate to have dated some really Increadable “LADIES” and I cherish those memories, BUT I have had the misfortue of crossing the path of a few “women” and that experience has not been plesant.
    Only patient with the one you care for can overcome the negitive past experience he may associate to dating women.
    All I can suggest is BE a “Lady” and ask to be treated as a “Lady”, and you will find he will come to understand the differance soon enough.

    • It does seem unfair that we often expect men to put themselves out there first, very vulnerable positions. There are a lot of immature, insecure people out there who treat people badly, both men and women. Just remember that those aggressive, hurtful acts don’t come from a position of strength but fear.

  16. Dana says:

    We don’t know each other yet, but I have 11 year old twin boys’. One has recovered from autism and one is almost there. I agree about us Ladies sticking together. I wish I had had more support from friends who were going through the same thing when my kids were little.

    • It sounds like you did an amazing job as mom on your own. But seek those places of support. There are more organizations than ever of women supporting women. It’s part of the revolution underway.

  17. A. Fields says:

    A very salient point. Sadly, women often pick each other apart when we should be building each other up. I am grateful for the large swath of female friends I have had throughout my lifetime, as well as the new ones I’ve made this year. It takes a village to survive modern life, and I wouldn’t want to do it without my tribe of girlfriends (many closer to me than blood family members).

    Another point is how crucial it is to educated our sons and young boys to respect and honor women. No small feat in this culture where internet pornography is creating a culture of limitless perversion and breaking down the ability to have strong inter-personal relationships.

    • Amen, girlfriends are critical to women’s well being. And point well taken, teaching boys to honor women. I write about men holding love, and love makes them immediately vulnerable which men are generally ill-prepared to manage those feeling. We need to let our boys learn to handle feelings of vulnerability constructively rather than telling them to deny it and suck it up.

  18. Jose says:

    i dont know why i havent been with anyone but i feel like women cant be trusted like theyre just waiting for any semi hot guy to have sex with like i know im not good looking so that makes it harder and i have low self esteem issues so i feel like the girl im with feels forced to be with me ive seen so many women cheat on guys and i feel like a woman doesent have the will power to controll herself i feel like im putting women down and stupid but i dont know how to explain it i know everyone is different but ive seen this happen too much even years in the marriage how do you know who the right person is…by testing them? help me

    • Putting women down won’t help you; it’ll work against your needs. If you open yourself and listen deeply, you will know the one who is right for you. Many women seek loyalty as much as you do.

  19. Hazel says:

    In the U.S., 600 women are sexually assaulted every day. One woman is beaten by her partner every 15 seconds. Despite education campaigns, law enforcement, and penalties, violence continues to threaten women throughout America. What can we do to make women safe? Birute is pushing for this, are you with her ladies?

    • thank you for saying this. In a village in Africa, all the women were given a whistle. If they were beaten or abused in anyway, they would sound the whistle and all the women would run in her support, overwhelming the man. There’s a metaphor in there.

  20. J. Pugh says:

    Birute, thank you for saying what we all need to hear. It’s exhausting to battle the world and everything in it without having your girlfriends at your back. Love you and everything you do for us all.

  21. Audrey Olson says:

    Birute, there is a very special understanding between women. and it certainly has made all the difference.

  22. AmyAdams says:

    Do you really trust women? Or are you perfectly willing to override their choices if you feel they threaten your comfortable position in society?

    And you expect me to think you’re any better for my rights and needs than pro-lifers, why?

  23. love it; thanks for pointing me in the Trust women direction