Most of us who live anywhere east of San Francisco tend to associate the city with hippies and earthquakes. It is glorified by some as being the Mecca of open-mindedness and vilified by others as being the roiling hell of all that's wrong with the world. And well, both sides think of earthquakes. However you see it though, there is no denying that there is definitely some quaking and social movement going on with San Francisco women. They're on the march, but this isn't your Mama's feminism.
Meet Chris Bronstein and Christina Friedman, Founders of A Band of Wives, a social networking site for women to support, promote, help, and inspire one another. Their mission is best stated on their "About Us" page:
"Men's ability to succeed professionally has been to a large degree supported by them having wives. After centuries of meaning more or less "unpaid laborer" the word "wife" is due for some serious re-branding.
The word "friend" has been so tainted by frenemies, rotating BFF's and being able to defriend with a click of a mouse that we now need a new term for our closest friends and allies: WIVES.
We all need wives. Not in any weird kinky way, but life is more complicated and stressful and we need deep connections with each other to live happier, healthier lives."
The result is a vibrant, diverse, intelligent, talented and socially conscious community of women who, although mainly active in the Bay Area right now, hope to have bands in every area of the US. We all need wives - and come on, you've all said it to yourself at least once in your life.
Neither of the women are from an internet-based business background, yet both knew that their previous experiences combined with the wide reach of the internet could start a revolution. Christina is founder and CEO of Pretty Girl Make-Up founded in 1999. From www.prettygirlmakeup.com : "We at PRETTY GIRL, have spent millions of hours (o.k. hundreds of hours!) creating a fun line, interesting packaging, and a fantastic product for all of you PRETTY GIRLS of the world!!."
Christina has also been a contributing fashion and beauty editor to several publications.
Christine Bronstein is a graduate of Columbia/UC-Berkeley executive MBA program and a Beta Gamma Sigma member. She was CEO of one of the few women run, venture backed health and fitness companies in the nation for 8 years, Axis Personal Trainers and Spa, and president of a child-welfare foundation for 3 years. She recently spoke at a women's event at the JPMorgan Health Care Conference in San Francisco.
Between both of them, they have 7 kids, 4 dogs, 2 goats, 1 horse, 1 husband, 2 ex-husbands, one boyfriend and almost 600 wives.
I am lucky enough to have been introduced to these women and A Band of Wives by last week's Featured Lovely, Leila Radan, and have been more inspired and empowered especially in regard to YoLadies as a result. I asked them about this brand new, 3.5 month old venture, and here is what they had to say:
K: What prompted you to start A Band of Wives?
C&C: We know most women don't refer to their closest friends as wives, but this relationship is serving women in a multitude of ways. Christina coined this term, after the death of her son. On Christmas morning she found her 5-month-old, Beau, dead in his crib. He died from SIDS. Her friend-wives flew in from all over the country. They took care of her four other children, stripped the house of his clothes and furniture, handled the details of the funeral, rubbed her back, dried her tears, and tended to her husband (now ex-husband). As she says, "My wives saved my life and my family's life. We could not have even begun to recover from this tragedy without them."
We meet and fell in love over a make-up counter many years ago and have been inseparable ever since. It was love at first sight!
All this may sound like some kinky, alternative California lifestyle, or a polygamous cult. But it's actually as ordinary as it is inspirational. Like many women, we have a network of girlfriends, and we resolutely call them what they really are: wives. Because with all we have been through together, and all we will go through in the future, BFF just doesn't do us justice. "Wife" is a much more accurate term - one that describes the particular nature of our intimate bond, but with a good and appropriate sense of humor.
This pack of wives has seen us through school, career changes, the death of Christina's son, Beau, relationships-questionable and ecstatic, unhappy and wonderful marriages (to men), divorces, depressions and the births of a tribe of babies. These are the women who make us laugh when we want to cry, who always tell us the truth - especially when we don't want to hear it, and who give us that sense of a strong, unique and critical female connection.
This term is resonating. In October 2009 Chris' husband Phil Bronstein wrote about this new phenomenon in his column: Wives have wives - and that's healthy.
In December of 2009, Chris built the social networking site A Band of Wives, while in baby-jail with her now 7 month old. We thought it would be fun for our group of wives and wives of wives. It has grown rapidly out of this small core of women. A Band of Wives now has many single wives. It has married wives. It has young wives, grandmother wives, lesbian wives, writer wives, doctor wives, CEO wives and stay-at-home-mom wives. You name it, we have a wife that does it.
Women who may not have otherwise become confidantes are discovering unique ways to support each other; and "wifing" goes beyond normal online social networking. This type of platonic polygamy is not only about sharing intimate details through specialized groups and events, it's also about picking up each other's children from school, cooking meals for each other, helping each other finish books, promoting each others businesses, supporting causes together, finding joy and laughter even through divorce and postpartum depression.
For two millennia "wife" has been defined by obligations and responsibilities to a husband and family. It's been shrouded in patriarchal baggage. Today, the word wife is forging another identity.
K: Where do you see ABOW five years from now?
C&C: A global movement of women supporting one another so that they can each hold a larger vision of change in the world. How can women be expected to "save the world" like the Dalai Lama predicts if we don't have the day-to-day support we need? We believe ABOW communities can expand all over the world.
K: ABOW is currently invitation only. Does this requirement ensure better cohesiveness since the members already have some connection to at least one established wife? Do you envision opening it up to anyone at some point?
C&C: It actually is open to anyone-well any woman-that wants to join. There is a button on the main page (the only page visible to the public) to request an invitation. You don't have to have a connection to get an invite. We do this not to be exclusive, but to protect the privacy of our members. We have also had quite a few men try to join. This set-up gives us the opportunity to keep all of our member pages, blogs, pictures etc..behind a wall and not open to the public. It also gives us a way to tell the men "thanks for your interest, we are working to get my husband to start www.abandofguys.com, but www.abandofwives.com is for women only." before they get on the network. This structure is working well for us, but we certainly don't want women to feel that we are excluding them in any way. Any woman is welcome to join.
I am so happy to be able to share the story of these Wives and all of their wives with all of my own friend-wives - I hope to see more of you celebrating and joining in with the "Wife Movement" of sisters dreaming and hoping and supporting each other and kicking butt.