EXTRACT | ‘To My Sisters’ by Renée Kapuku and Courtney Daniella Boateng

15 February 2024 - 12:41
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A frank, funny and fabulous guide to sisterhood from Courtney Daniella Boateng and Renée Kapuku, the hosts of the hit podcast and global community, To My Sisters.
A frank, funny and fabulous guide to sisterhood from Courtney Daniella Boateng and Renée Kapuku, the hosts of the hit podcast and global community, To My Sisters.
Image: Supplied

'A testament to the revolutionary power of sisterhood' – Kelechi Okafor, author of Edge of Here

'A guide to manifesting sisterhood that lasts a lifetime and nourishes beyond the surface level' – Dazed

About the book:

From the hosts of the hit podcast, To My Sisters, comes this frank, funny, and essential guide to sisterhood – for fans of Keep The Receipts and Slay In Your Lane.

Join online big sisters Renée Kapuku and Courtney Daniella Boateng as they share their lessons, learnings and stories on sisterhood, and teach you how you can find, build and nourish lifelong friendships. Using their friendship profile framework, you’ll discover what kind of friend you are — open, demanding, reserved, strong or closed— and how this impacts how you show up in your friendships. From setting your own goals and dreams, to outlining what you desire from your platonic relationships and identifying where you are being underserved, this book is your essential toolkit for building sisterhood.

Relatable, accessible and practical, To My Sisters contains all the resources you need to build healthy friendships, community and sisterhood.

About the authors: 

Courtney Daniella Boateng and Renée Kapuku are on a mission to see women win. The founders of To My Sisters, a global community of thousands of young, enterprising women with a mandate to change their lives, they help women reclaim their power through sisterhood with live events, resources, productions and more.



Sisterhood with a big ‘S’

‘Sisterhood’ is a word often used to describe women’s solidarity. It’s a term employed to rally women together and create an impression of oneness and support, especially in the fight against gender inequality. However, as with many phrases used across the academic, commercial and corporate worlds, it can become misused and somewhat of a cliché. As we embark on learning more about building authentic friendship and sisterhood, it is important for us to deconstruct this term, not only for what it means in our personal lives but also what it means politically.

‘Sisterhood’ has long been used in feminist rhetoric as one of the greatest devices women have in our arsenal in the fight against sexism, sexual violence and many other things that women fall victim to on a daily basis due to patriarchy. As we challenge ourselves to build authentic friendships with other women, we must contend with our beliefs about them. Patriarchy and the systems that enforce it have not only taught us how we are to relate to men but it has also dictated to us how we should or should not bond with women.

Growing up, many of us watched films, read books and had conversations with our families which trained us to believe that men are the ‘prize’ and that male approval is the measure of our ‘success’ in womanhood. This belief dictated much of our own behaviour, from the way we dressed to how we spoke. You might recall magazine articles or even YouTube videos sharing top tips to make yourself ‘irresistible’ or teaching you how to ‘please’ a man. Or you may have memories of a family member making you feel bad about the way you looked, suggesting it would make you ‘unappealing’ to men. Maybe you decided against pursuing a career in a certain field because it was deemed too masculine. Many of us have been there. Centuries of programming have led us to believe this is a ‘man’s world’ in which a woman’s place is to simply be an accessory, a perfectly constructed image to be gazed at and consumed. The majority of us globally find ourselves having internalised this idea.

There are, however, many women who have never bought into this sexist rhetoric, not only openly disagreeing with it but living in a way which defies such expectations and pressures. Such women often find themselves being called ‘radical’ or labelled ‘feminists’ as an insult. They are not only chastised but also ostracised by the men and women in their own lives. Whilst men are the oppressors and benefactors of these harmful structures, we have all to a degree internalised the unwritten rules of patriarchy, and thus people of any gender, orientations, class or creed can become complicit in enforcing them on a daily basis. Even if we profess to have embraced feminist discourse and that we all believe in ‘equality for women’, a main point in the to-do list to achieving true equality is all of us noticing and problematising the unconscious bias we have against women, even as women.

One of the biggest ways we can see this unconscious bias play out is in our treatment of other women as competition or a threat. That the women around us are an obstacle to our success, not only in finding a partner, but in our professional lives too. Fuelled by our fear of ‘time running out’ on our reproductive window, we are made to believe that men are scarce (the good ones, at least) and that we should compete with other women to capture their attention. Or that there can only be ‘one woman at the top’ in our professional field. These feelings of fear and scarcity lead to comparison, competition, jealousy and individualism.

These are also things which are sometimes associated with female friendships – that they are filled with cattiness, gossip and fakery. And as much as we believe wholeheartedly in the power of sisterhood, we cannot ignore that this is reflective of some women’s female friendship experiences, and relationships can become toxic if we do not put in the effort to confront our internalised misogyny. But, be encouraged, we are here to tell you that there are women around you and all across the world who not only desire meaningful female friendship but are also willing to do the work of inspecting and challenging themselves in order to build it.

Sisterhood is as much about becoming a better person and a better friend as it is about unbecoming most of what society has told us as women to be. Unfortunately, society often illustrates women – and some more than others – as aggressive, dramatic, hysterical and generally unpleasant. Our job here isn’t to suggest that women cannot be these things, but it is rather to challenge why we are so quick to give women these labels in the first place. We must come to the realisation that many of us have been programmed to believe it is not beneficial to have women as friends. Given that the approval of men is regarded as determining our value, the pursuit of other women and their friendship can be perceived to be pointless (unless it is a tool for us to bond with men).

It would be easy to conclude here, as many feminist writers have, that, plainly and simply, ‘sisterhood’ as a political movement is the solution to many of these issues women face due to gender inequality. That our solidarity, as we metaphorically hold hands and braid each other’s hair around a campfire, will give us the hope and comfort we need to continue on in this long fight against oppression. However, true sisterhood cannot be achieved until women also confront the inequality which exists amongst them. We must take an intersectional approach to sisterhood, or else it ceases to be sisterhood and is instead about the most privileged women taking centre stage, using ‘othered’ women as support for themselves, unaware that they have simply built another hierarchical structure in which they sit at the top, using their power to oppress, marginalise and render invisible the women who do not look like them or have their resources.

bell hooks unpacks this in her writing, Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women. She explains that we cannot band together as ‘sisters’ to fight against men as our common oppressor based just on the shared identity of being ‘women’. What it means to be a woman and the day-to-day realities that come with that varies globally and culturally, with unique experiences emerging at the various intersections of gender with class, race, ethnicity, geography, sexuality, disability, religion and more. If we are to build true and authentic sisterhood in our personal lives and within the feminist movement, we must not only become aware of these differences in lived experiences but we must also honour them. We need to make it a priority to use our resources to support women in their fight against all forms of oppression by sharing our resources and knowledge. We as sisters, cannot be gatekeepers to the little power that we may hold in our respective spheres – instead we must become gates to give women access to equip themselves better in these battles. This cannot be done by paying lip service, using sisterhood as a meaningless slogan and catchphrase, it must be done through sacrifice, the true cornerstone of revolution.

We must give all women the stage to share their story and be willing to identify and accept where we have occupied the role of the enemy in their lives by hindering them from achieving full freedom, safety and liberation. Our stories don’t have to be made into films or published in books for them to be told or for them to be important. Our lives matter and are dignified purely because they are ours and they are true. They deserved to be told. Women so often feel as though they must be silent, that their words don’t matter and that their voices shouldn’t be heard. Throughout this book, we will encourage you to have conversations with the women around you, both the easy and the hard ones. Sisterhood is a place where we are able to take the muzzle off of our mouths and are granted the privilege to be honest. It is the arena in which we not only have the freedom to tell our stories of pain and joy loudly, but where we come to listen attentively too.

  • To My Sisters (Bluebird Books for Life) is locally published by Pan Macmillan

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