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Sisterhood is a rather vexed word. It's one I'm steadily coming to distrust.

I'd never felt that I fit in particularly well with other women. I had about equal numbers of male and female friends, so it wasn't that women frightened me or I didn't like them. But I didn't feel I had anything special in common with them. And the stereotypical women that I knew, even the smart ones, frightened me. I wondered why they were popular, why they were acceptable, and I was a freak. I liked being a freak, but I also still lonely and judged a lot of the time.

When I finally discovered feminism, the idea of sisterhood was fascinating. All of a sudden, I wasn't this strange being who was barely a woman. I was someone who was like them, someone who had many of the same fears and faced many of the same dangers. Someone who experienced many of the same struggles. And we could talk about the struggles and what they meant, and not seem strange or oversensitive. It was so wonderful to finally, after so long, find people who didn't deem me oversensitive when I winced at the way I saw people treat women on my television.

But gradually I saw people wanting women to have the same opinions, to feel angry at the same images, to feel hurt or attacked by the same things. I knew I didn't always feel the same, but I chalked that up to my freak-ness and tried to bite my tongue (unless it was about BDSM...)

And I watched some women (in my case, I started to see this first among trans women and women of color who I conversed with) roll their eyes at this, or reject feminism entirely. At first this upset me, because it seemed like the same thing I did way back when I assumed that I could never be a feminist because Andrea Dworkin hated BDSM. White, cisgendered me wanted to bring these women back into the fold. I wanted to show them that feminism wasn't a dirty word. I wanted sisterhood.

Of course, that was the height of arrogance. That was me wanting other people to accept my word and my community rather than being willing to listen to why they felt driven away. And that's why don't like the idea of sisterhood any more. Because I don't think many feminists are talking about really treating other women the way that we treat members of our family who we disagree with, yet treasure beyond price.

We're talking about common ground based on accepting the same ideology. Based on assuming there only handful of opinions that are right for women, and our bond is based on sharing those. Based on assuming that we put our sisters first, even in situations where other oppressions that we share with our brothers mean that they need us more.

Now I'm leery of the word sisterhood. I'd like that to change. But I don't think it will. For it to mean something real, it has to mean what I said above: viewing other women as beloved family even when you disagree with them. And this is always possible with individuals, but very few if any of us can look at an entire group in the same way we look at chosen family. I don't think it's realistic to ask that of people, and I don't think it's useful to use the word to mean something less.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 10th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
i never felt a sisterhood until i got into the BDSM community. i felt a bond with my sister submissive, as i feel in part with all other submissives. and i see a great bond between all the female Dommes in my life.

but as far as feminism, too many feminists are assholes to really feel a bond with the whole community, imho.
Apr. 10th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
thanks, trin...
Apr. 11th, 2007 01:59 pm (UTC)
I think the big mistake of the sisterhood idea (or brotherhood idea for men) is thinking that all you need to have in common is a pair of X chromosomes and then you'll have common ground about everything else. If you buy that, you'd have to basically buy that there really were only two kinds of people in the world, XX and XY, and given the massive differences between some people who are even in the same family, I'd say that is a shaky foundation for association.
Apr. 11th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
Even basing it on chromosomes is flawed. That allows you to exclude transwomen from sisterhood, or transmen from brotherhood. In which case are you really united with all women or all men? No.
Apr. 11th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
Yes, that is another consideration. Ultimately, it makes about as much sense with finding common ground with someone because the first letter of their first name starts with a letter in the same half of the alphabet as yours. Sure, you have that in common, but does that really mean anything when half the population of the planet (well, if you go phonetically) has that in common with you?

I think the only way to really tell if you really have something in common with someone, in a real meaningful sense, is to talk to them and get to know them.
Apr. 11th, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC)
I think the only way to really tell if you really have something in common with someone, in a real meaningful sense, is to talk to them and get to know them.

Apr. 22nd, 2007 01:05 pm (UTC)
I believe Sisterhood occurs when we join together and do something positive together.Talking amongst ourselves isn't enough. Theory isn't enough. There has to be action, and through collective action, the understanding that we have power in our joining.

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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