In which women talk about women (an interview)

I read Sarah Cunningham’s book, Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation, years ago and loved it. Like many of you, I’ve followed her work online for a while and was pleasantly surprised to be included in her ongoing series Women Talk Women. She interviewed me a few weeks ago and today the full interview is up at her blog.

We discussed everything from friendship to jealousy, cattiness to criticism, even Madeleine L’Engle and my sister.


Sarah Cunningham: Have you had an easier time building friendships with men or women? And what do you think are the challenges of both?

Sarah Bessey: I do have friendships with men, primarily professional friendships or through my husband. But my deepest friendships are with women. I think one of the great lies of our culture is that women can’t be trusted. We hear from reality television and some church people alike that women are catty, insecure, jealous, gossip-prone. My experience has absolutely been the opposite. On the whole, I’ve found women to be funny, strong, supportive, motivated, wise, and deeply spiritual. Anything else tends to be the excepting minority.

I think women in the church today are rather tired of being pitted against one another and I believe we want to transcend the competitive staging of our relationships. For instance, the “mummy wars” are usually more of a myth to sell magazines than my actual experience. I see women around me – in work, in my neighbourhood, in many faith traditions, in professional encounters, even online – as very committed to each other’s well-being. The underlying sense of sisterhood among women of faith is strong. I have found women on the whole to be willing to be friends even without point-by-point agreement on every aspect of life.

SC: Love. Why didn’t I interview you earlier? As a strong leader, you’ve probably occasionally run up against another woman who acted “catty” toward you. What do you do with that?

SB: Cattiness from women is usually gossip about surface things – my weight, my looks, my mannerisms, that sort of thing. (And that can get under my skin almost more than someone who thinks I’m a heretic!) But I don’t confuse criticism with cattiness. Someone can disagree with me very well without being catty, so I try to separate out “catty” from “critic.” I’ve been attacked by women, but I’ve also been attacked by men. I’ve been gossipped about, sure, but it’s not gender-specific.

Read the rest of the interview at Sarah Cunningham’s blog, Crowdsourcing Life.

My thanks to Sarah for the invitation! She’s one to follow.


  • Shauna

    This reminds me of an occasion last month, when I was with a group of ladies who began chatting about “*sigh* oh, women.” There were plenty of lines like “I find it easier to be friends with men,” or “I find women catty” etc.

    Finally, a man listening in on the conversation spoke up.

    “You know, you only hear women say that.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You never hear men saying ‘I can’t stand men. Men are like this, Men are like that. I don’t like having male friends.’ You just never hear it. But almost every woman I know says ‘I just can’t stand women!’ and I don’t know why.”

    He was right. I don’t know why either, but I really appreciate your answer to that first question, Sarah. I have found the same. I think this is the attitude we need to have towards each other.

  • Nikki Webber

    What a great interview! I particularly enjoyed your remarks about separating cattiness from criticism. Eshet Chayil!

  • TracyRae

    I love that you love Madeleine L’Engle. I feel like I am constantly telling someone to read Circle of Quiet or Walking on Water.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for pointing people to this. We seem to have unearthed an L’Engle fan base. :) And thanks for the kind words about Dear Church, which has a funny sort of irony for me since it came out of a pretty angst-driven emotive stage of life (but alas a real one). Seems worlds ago now but am going to release a slightly updated version next year. Would love to connect more. Drop me a line anytime!