We have been told that women hold up half the sky.
But what happens if one woman doesn’t like the woman she is standing next to in the process? What happens to the integrity of the whole when there is friction among even two?
At a time in our history where vitriol and divisiveness are worn like badges of honor, I believe that we as women have the potential to become a pivotal, united force for inclusion, hospitality, and harmony. But we are not there yet. We have yet to fully take hold of and embrace the true mindset of hospitality.
Many women’s notion of hospitality includes an apron, a home-cooked meal worthy of the rave of a foodie, a glorious well-kept home that could be featured on HGTV, dinner parties that did not require a perusal of Pinterest, and book clubs riddled with wine and chocolate pairings. But there are other, better notions of hospitality.
I grew up in the 1970s. My parents’ lives were forever changed by the activism they participated in during the 1960s, and those experiences manifested into a very unconventional form of hospitality. Our home was a haven on holidays for young professionals who, for whatever reason, were unable to go to their own “home.” Our home was a place where the garbage men received piping hot Peet’s coffee and fresh donuts every single week. Our home was where undocumented immigrants found day work and learned a skill to help them feed their families and gain independence. Our home was a place where women who had been sexually abused found a compassionate ear, safety, encouragement and support. Hospitality was an entire practice and a mindset in our house, not just an ideal concept.
Ladies, I believe it is imperative that we practice hospitality, and the first step is to redefine what hospitality looks like.
Let’s start by examining what hospitality does NOT look like. For one, there is absolutely no room for divisiveness. We must stop judging one another. In our desire for a safe place and a sense of comfort, we tend to seek out female friendships with women who are just like us. We surround ourselves with likeness, and pass off these interactions as “hospitality.” However, we do this out of fear. This fear compels us to react protectively and sets off a chain reaction that quickly spirals from judgment to an almost shunning of the “other.” Our fear and desire for comfort renders us incapable of welcoming the neighbor, the co-worker, the stranger who we assume is very different from us. This is detrimental to us all.
Being hospitable does not allow for fences. It does not allow for fear. We need more welcome mats.
Hospitality is not an event—it does not require you to be a certain type of female. It is not relegated to the women who have the lovely houses, the clean homes, the happy marriages, the 2.3 kids. It is not indicative of “arriving” at a certain social space. It also is not a form of dutiful charity—a check mark on the mental list that signifies one has fulfilled her duty and can now move on to other things.
Louis de Jaucourt defines hospitality as “the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.” I believe this definition to be in perfect alignment with women who are holding up half the sky.
Hospitality is a mentality. I believe it is a part of our intrinsic DNA to seek out opportunities to welcome the other. I think we look for it in our daily lives, no matter who we are or what stage of life we are in. We are drawn to relationship with one another. The challenge is to set aside what makes us comfortable. Have you noticed the tendency, upon walking through the door of an event, to seek out either people you know or people who look like you? The true nature of hospitality pushes us to look beyond that which makes us comfortable. And when we do practice true hospitality, we collect experiences that prove that we are capable of harmonious relationships that obliterate stereotypes.
When we show up and participate in active hospitality, fear and discord fade away. When we practice hospitality, we broaden community and become inclusive in the best sense of the word. Not only do we benefit personally, so too do our spheres of influence, of which there are often far more than we realize. When we come to a place where we can see the practice of hospitality as a privilege—as something we get to offer freely, regardless of our position and situation in life—we chip away at the walls that divide one from the other and create a space for reconciliation to happen.
So where do we go from here, Ladies? We begin by metaphorically sweeping off the welcome mat. By getting rid of the debris that deters and deflects. By being brave and being fierce. We start the practice of hospitality today.
Article first published in READY Magazine, The Fierce Issue (July – September 2016)