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I've been thinking about sisterhood and what it means.
I've been thinking about writing and what it means.
I've been thinking about the importance of bringing both together.
I value our many voices and access to a platform to share our voices. I also understand the positive and negative consequences of that sharing. I am growing and learning so much about myself throughout the process of writing and thinking through different ways of presenting information and narratives, especially online. I receive both encouraging and negative feedback in response to my articles on The Black Educator, Blavity, and The Daily Texan. I never write anything in anticipation of 100% positive responses and I welcome the critique and suggestions of others for improvement and learning as I expect to do the same for their work. It is a painful and uncomfortable growth process to sit with those who misunderstand or disagree with my work, but it has made me better over time.
I recently experienced, for the very first time, what many Black women experience time and time again. I now know how it feels to lose trust in someone with whom I thought I discovered a sense of community, friendship, and sisterhood. I watched similar situations take place on TV, in movies, even in my world of academia, but I never thought that it would happen to me. I finally got a taste of the feeling of betrayal that makes so many women decide that sisterhood is not worth pursuing- the feeling that accompanies a perceived solidarity being ruined in one quick sweep. The whole idea of Feminessay is based on the pursuit of sisterhood, giving each other the benefit of doubt, and being virtuous and honest in our sharing and reading of each other’s stories. When I finally experienced the opposite, I understood how some Black women decide that they are better off on their own- living in a vacuum of focus on their own success- even if it throws someone else (maybe even a fellow Black woman) into the fire.
It’s ironic that this negative experience was tied to something that I wrote. My writing suddenly became political. I met with the editor-in-chief of the newspaper that published my powerful piece that a few others had already complimented and encouraged me to share, and I made the difficult decision to remove it from The Daily Texan. I chose to silence myself in lieu of any further political drama that might affect my reputation as a student, writer, and researcher even though it was all based on a false accusation. Following that conversation, I vowed to myself “Never again.”
Never again will I allow a fellow Black woman to make me feel like my published work needs silencing because it strikes a chord within a common thread of our narratives of belonging, responsibility, power, and confidence in environments that overlook our resilience in seasons of struggle. Never again will I engage in a face-to-face conversation with a fellow Black woman as she attacks my character, whether she realizes it or not, and leave that conversation without communicating to her exactly how layered and implicit her accusations are. Never again will I allow myself to get so angry at another Black woman for seeking out her own interests at the cost of potentially ruining my reputation that I neglect to consider that my writing comes with consequences, which I may eventually have to defend.
Looking back on that experience and how it influenced my vision for Feminessay, I realize the commitment that I have to this community is so much more than I ever expected. In that moment, Feminessay became much more than a passion, and it didn’t matter that I was still determining the direction in which I wanted to lead us. It didn’t matter that there were people out there who did not understand the meaning and value of this space yet. All that mattered was that I knew that I became a Black woman who experienced a moment of doubt in the possibility of sisterhood with other Black women in a community void of jealousy and a false sense of competition.
I am committed to providing this space, but I also want it to be a place where we all can relate and learn when we can’t relate. I want there to be stories of identity, sexuality, lifestyle, religion, education, politics, love, family- anything that can help us learn and grow together through our writing.
I’m all about sisterhood. Sisterhood doesn’t mean that we have to be friends, we don’t even need to speak to one another, but it does mean that we won’t hate on each other. We will not have any ill-will toward one another- intentionally or unintentionally- which means that even when you think you're not messing with someone else’s reputation or image, you make sure that you’re not. I truly believe that if one of us wins, we all win, so sisterhood does not create competition where there should be solidarity. I am making sure that Feminessay exists for the women who believe in and seek sisterhood in a community as well as for those on the brink of losing all hope in such a dream.
Sisterhood is real, sis. I experience it every day when I engage with people like Denisse Mayers Paulino, my friend, marketing consultant, and manager, who heard my little idea of Feminessay, and worked tirelessly to create a beautiful brand and website that brings my vision to life because she believes in me and my ability to create such a beautiful space for women who look like us. I feel it when I speak to my advisor, who encourages me every time we speak to never stay silent and to “use your voice.” I know it is real when I receive constructive critique from those who have nothing but good intentions and speak to lift me up instead of tearing me down.
We are building a sisterhood with those who trust that Feminessay is a worthy space to share our stories, the readers who share the site with people they know, and the writers who submit their personal thoughts for publication. Sometimes that means exposing your work to people who don't understand community, sisterhood, and the vulnerability that comes with sharing your words with the world, but if you’re going to write, write honestly, raw, and don’t ever doubt sisterhood. You can find it here.
— Tiye Naeemah Cort,
Editor-in-Chief + Founder