working + writing with women


Reclaiming Gossip: Some Thoughts on Woman-Power

If you are a woman, chances are good that “gossip” holds a negative connotation for you. Perhaps you have been negatively affected by gossip in some way, and possibly you have harmed others, as well. I understand both sides. And I’m here to challenge our modern definition of gossip and propose that we, as women, reclaim it as one of our feminine strengths and powers.

The etymology of gossip is interesting. Merriam-Webster claims that it originates from words having to do with relatives and God. Both of these are things rooted deeply in love, right? If this history is correct, then “gossip” originated as a type of conversation you would have with someone you trust completely: a baring of soul and truth to someone you love. And why would you share these things with someone you love? Because you need to. Because this is how we process and heal. By sharing. By sharing the story. By seeking reflection, comfort, understanding, advice. (In today’s world, you see this type of thing showing up as: “checking in,” “soul speak,” “connecting,” and lots more terms that embody this practice).

I’ve not dug in much deeper to learn exactly how the word evolved so negatively. The dictionary indicates that it later began to mean “idle talk.” Idle talk was associated, of course, with women. As women struggled to survive in Old England (oh boy), their traditions did, too. And their honor. Honor was hard to come by for women, and ritual that was based in sisterhood was generally punished, both in a familial sense as well as on a broader societal level (those bitches be witches!). From what I’ve learned about women in history (especially in Old England), it’s easy to see how god-speak (gossip) was seen as threatening to the patriarchal establishment and so it was villainized. Because oppression.

Women speaking to each other in private is powerful. It can move mountains. It can heal rifts, it can bring people back together, it can tear people apart. Gossip is not just a sharing of information, it is a sharing of feeling, of intuitive ideas.

In its highest form, gossip is a healing balm among the sisterhood of women.

As soon as we get around our girlfriends, the desire hits: We might call it “catching up,” often times sharing what has been going on in our lives. All of us know the feeling of “I can’t wait to talk to [my best friend] to tell her this.” Again, we tell it because we have to. Because to keep it inside would be like keeping a plant in a closet. Stories are meant to move and be shared. They are the wild colors of a sunset, always shifting, always moving, meaning something different to each of us.

Being caught in negative storytelling doesn’t feel good to anyone. But “gossip” is not always negative, despite the negative feel that it’s adopted. Of course I must to surrender to modern definitions in order to be understood, but I want to also let women know that it’s okay to “gossip”, as long as you are standing in the light and speaking in love. And when there are dark things to process, by all means, do it. Be respectful. God-speak/gossip was not designed to tear other people down, or to make you feel better about your shortcomings. It was developed to heal and to lighten loads. To connect and to rest easier. To open our hearts to each other. To mend broken bonds. To share information that gets lodged and stuck in the non-communicative mouths of men.

Throughout history, it is God-speak/gossip that has helped to win wars, to warn heroes of betrayal and trickery, to find medicine in times of need, to build community where it lacked, to provide comfort for those who had none. It has aided many men and women in missions that would not have succeeded without the invisible power of it, and it has soothed many, many sad or exhausted souls.

Whatever we choose now to call it, let us give a nod to the gossip of yore and the women to whom it belonged.