It's a weird and wonderful time to be a woman, depending on where in the world you live. The likes of the #MeToo movement, the Free The Nipple campaign, and the What Will It Take initiative are empowering women to stand up to the patriarchy and demand equality in both their personal and professional lives.
The advance towards more liberties for women, at least in most of the Western world, leaves us with so many important topics to discuss. But often these aren’t the kind of subjects you can merely brush over on a night out with your gal pals, in between discussing the latest episode of Love Island and the weird smell coming from your colleague’s desk. These are the sorts of things you want to have a deep, meaningful discussion about with a group of like-minded women you trust, in a safe, judgment-free environment; the sorts of conversations that might even require an agenda.
Enter the women’s circle. By no means a new phenomenon, us ladies have been sitting around in figurative circles since 800 CE, but you can read more about that here. A modern-day women’s circle looks something a bit like this: An intimate gathering of around 10-15 women that involves some form of ritual, intention setting, sharing and learning, usually with a chosen topic or theme (anything from mansplaining to the female orgasm). A circle leader, typically also the host, plays the role of adjudicator—often posing questions for discussion, ensuring everyone has their turn to speak and be listened to, and that differences in opinion are respected. And yes, there’s often food and wine involved.
Just to clarify something here: “Women’s circle” has a rather varied definition—some circles meet based on religious beliefs or moon cycles, while others are set up to support women who have suffered from abuse. For the purpose of this piece, however, I’m referring only to groups of women who come together to discuss social, cultural and/or political issues affecting them in a non-religious setting.
I am, or have been, a member of a female-identifying book club and activity group, attended feminist talks, and of course had countless nights out trying to solve the world’s problems with my girlfriends, but until recently I’d never attended something that was actually referred to as a women’s circle. I didn’t know many of the women attending, and I have to admit to being a liiittle skeptical. “Why do we need to label it a women’s circle rather than just a bunch of women hanging out, discussing a topic that’s relevant to them?” I thought.
I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from being a safe and welcoming space to openly discuss the topic of the evening—polyamory, it was also a great opportunity to lounge around on cushions and couches in some semblance of a circle, in a friend’s cosy apartment, eating good food and drinking wine.
So, I guess it is kind of like a girls’ night out—only in sweatpants, without the creepy men hitting on you.Support Villainesse