This month it has been hard to write. I am really resisting getting myself organised. I really want to just dilly-dally around and be unfocused and disorganised. I am grieving about Brexit and I want someone to tell me what to do and tell me what to write. I need leading. I need my own inner leader to sort herself out a bit.
There is quite a lot of talk about feminine or female leadership. I even heard the phrase “leading from the middle” recently, which really struck a chord with me, because I am more of an usher than a leader. I started wondering about this idea of leading from the middle because it meant that I too, could be considered a leader even with my not-very-leadery style, and wouldn’t that be awesome. Where I work management got very into the idea of personality traits and all employees did the Myers Briggs personality test. It was very interesting, and my results showed that according to their model I was no leader, that’s for sure. But that’s because the model is flawed, right? There are so may different styles of leadership and not all of them fit the current (patriarchal) paradigm.
Holding a Red Tent is a form of leadership, isn’t it? Stepping into a space of vulnerability to speak out to others known and unknown to help them to feel safe to get involved in the activities of the circle. But leading a Red Tent requires more than the usual characteristics of leadership. Red Tent leadership is much more about the middle. The juicy circle where listening, managing relationships, holding the core of the community’s values, keeping your mind open and learning and weaving are the important leadership skills modelled by Red Tent holders and participants all over the world. One of the greatest skills of leadership is how to prevent and manage conflict.
Talking about the ways we employ our leadership skills to hold Red Tents, the latest issue of Juno Magazine has an article by the founders of the Red Tent Directory Aisha Hannibal and Mary Ann Clements, discussing how they see Red Tents as revolutionary spaces where we reclaim our right to slow down & connect to each other.
This edition of Juno also has a focus on plastic-free periods and period poverty and so is full of inspiring and juicy stuff you might like to read! You can get your copy shop.junopublishing.co.uk.
Spoiler alert: Aisha and Mary Ann have also written a book about all of this & it’s coming later this year from Womancraft Publishing. We are really excited about our Sitting in Circle piece this month, as Tessa from Red Tent Caversham shares a little about how she has managed conflicts in their tent.
Stay beautiful and love your middles.
Sitting in Circle with Tessa from Red Tent Caversham
We hold our Red Tent in a yurt in a field on the edge of a beautiful wood, which slopes down towards the River Thames. Women come in alone, or pairs or threes and find a space, get a hot drink and we open the circle with introductions. Then I talk everyone through a relaxation or visualisation to let go of the day and to settle into the space. I then go through the ‘ground rules’ like confidentiality and non-judgement, before talking about the theme for the gathering. We have a closing practice of holding hands around the circle and making a final connection.
We have been gathering for over 5 years now, so of course there have been conflicts along the way. For example, there have been a few times when the donations were small and there was not going to be enough to pay the venue hire. I clearly communicated what had happened and that I felt I wanted to not have to worry about this! People heard this plea and we found effective ways to address it.
When a new Red Tent started up nearby by a sister from our Caversham tent, I made it clear that she would need to have her own Facebook group. In terms of confidentiality this was paramount as there are some sisters that go to both and some that only go to one. She hadn’t thought through this issue of confidentiality so there was some mentoring that went on.
Another challenge has been the growth of the Red Tent. There are women who are highly sensitive people who find a big group overwhelming so I am anticipating some issues around this and have considered creating a smaller closed group in the past. However, women inevitably move on so for the moment it remains an open group.
Most women who come in through the door feel like they’ve come home. Some come once and not again, and the feedback I get is that it’s “too much”. Too much sharing, too taboo subjects, too much cycle talk, too much self-reflection. I know the gathering won’t be for everyone, but the door stays open.
The Red Tent that started up in a different part of Reading is run by a lady who is still very much part of the Caversham Red Tent community. Despite the potential conflict this could have created, it went really smoothly because of the way we talked openly and constructively. This is testament to how our relationship was deepened through sitting in Red Tent circles together. I was so pleased because we need a Red Tent on every street corner!
Tessa published Ruby Luna’s Curious Journey last summer (a fun book with relatable illustrations about the female body and periods for 5+) and a follow-up for girls approaching their menarche is available on pre-order now called Ruby Luna’s Moontime. www.cyclicalwisdom.com/books