Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Sisterhood: Obsession Rhetorical and Real

Obsessed by rhetoric, I have a new body to contemplate: the review headlines that my book, Sisterhood Interrupted, have spawned in the weeks since its recent release. "Why Can't These Mothers and Daughters Be Like Sisters?" asks the New York Observer. "Can Mothers Be Sisters?" muses the header on an interview I did over on Chicago Moms last week when I was in town. I'm fascinated with the whole mother-daughter-sister thing. Truly. And for those who haven't, do check out Astrid Henry's book, Not My Mother's Sister, for more. But what interests me, really, and what I've been talking about on the road is this: Sisterhood is generationally interrupted, but feminism--"young" and "old"--runs strong.

Just not together.

I use the word "sisterhood" with nostalgia and a tinge of irony in the title (wasn't ours supposed to be an ironic and self-contradictory age?!), and in the conclusion (spoiler alert?!), I talk about its limitations as an organizing metaphor for a social movement. Still, I can't help but think a lot, these days, about sisterhood metaphorical and real. Of all the questions I've been asked, one of my faves was from an interviewer (Veronica Arreola) who had read my previous book, Only Child. Veronica asked me this:
Q: "Considering that you're an only child, what does sisterhood mean to you? I have friends who are best friends with their sisters, others who rarely talk, and then others in the middle and can understand how they frame 'sisterhood.' I'm curious to see how someone without a sister frames it."

I thought I'd share my response with folks here, because I'm curious how others, veterans and novices alike, those with sisters and those without, feel about the concept of sisterhood in regard to feminism these days. So here we go--here's me:

A: As an only child, sure I idealized the idea of a sister—always wanted one—but I also saw the reality to be far more complicated. My best friend growing up was a twin, my mother's a twin. My best friend was (and is) very close with her twin, but my mother and hers didn’t become close until mid-adulthood, and they have an older sister with whom my mom has a troubled bond. I‘ve watched these sets of sisters suffer hurt feelings and envy in addition to enviable closeness and great love. So my closest models of biological sisterhood were of this loving but tempestuous relationship.

Historically, for the women’s movement, the concept of sisterhood was powerful. But the idealized vision many had quickly erupted into something much more difficult, but, I think, far more real. Sisterhood (metaphorical or real) is not about twinship—looking into the mirror and expecting to see oneself—though sadly I think that’s sometimes what happens when you get swept up by an ideal. The word “sisterhood” today elicits an eye roll from many women under 40 (confession: myself, sometimes, included!) and particularly among a younger generation of feminists who are more conscious than their foremothers about the intensely significant difference of race in particular, but I use it in my book’s title to evoke a profound sense of lost common ground. Metaphorical sisterhood to me doesn’t necessarily mean sameness, or agreement, but rather recognizing commonalities across our differences. Solidarity. Generation is a new, salient difference, but the finger pointing going on right now (“younger women are throwbacks—they’re letting feminism down by dropping of careers, and flaunting their sexuality!” “older feminists are out of touch with our issues!”) has reached a new low. Women across generations have lost sight of what we do share in common—namely, lack of affordable childcare, reproductive justice, access (still) to many of the nation’s top jobs, equal pay (77 cents on the male dollar!)…I could go on.

And on. But I want to hear from *you*. C'mon, sisters big and little, tell me what you think. Got sisterhood? Got a new, 21st century metaphor? A free book goes to the commentor with the best new metaphor - for reals.


teabird said...

I don't think I'll be able to say anything better than you have....Since I was part of the first modern wave of feminism, I've seen the mistakes that every feminist group seems to have made by allowing the movement to be defined by its own minorities, and its leaders to seem (at least to others)elite. (Really, how many women could identify with Gloria Steinem? I certainly couldn't - and didn't even want to!)

I think those issues are at the heart of each generation's "I'm not a feminist but..." crowd, just as many women who breast-feed will say "it's the best for my child, but... I don't think it should be done in public."

Feminists should have started with the basic issues, those that are the most rational and visible, such as the need for affordable child care and salary equality, and stayed with them until they were mainstream. It was - is - a mistake to throw in so many issues that the conservative elements (shall we say) could reject the basics because they could ridicule the rest.

It's not that reproductive rights, rights for gay women, etc. are not crucial. In fact, they are not really women's issues, at heart. Lack of decent birth control and access to abortion affects men who have to raise and support unwanted children, or, worse, abandon them. Rights for gay people in general are crucial - why did the movement identify only with gay women? Etc.

What you said about sisterhood is spot on, I think - that it need not mean loving or identifying with any other woman on earth. In fact, the idealism of those who would define it so - of any generation - is more narcissism than sisterhood.

Sisterhood, feminism, any social movement should be, simply, about identifying goals and working towards them with others. Just as NAFTA and GATT brought together such odd bedfellows as Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan, the goals of a sisterhood should supercede all else. Not all feminists need be liberal, or interested in gay rights, or in agreement on anything but the defined issues.

tea leaves

tea reads

Jackie said...

I have been thinking about sisterhood since I read the blog the other day - I have to confess I have NOT read the book YET - had to order it from local bookstore, a long time feminist, a woman who grew up with 2 sisters, and a family therapist who has been listening to stories about sisters for over 20 years, I can say this.........sister (and sibling)relationships have the greatest longevity over the course of the life cycle......sisters are close, then more distant, then close again through the years......they struggle with their relationships......have difficult conversations......depend on each other from time to one shares the same history - the same intimate details of early life.....after I lost my mother I came to love seeing her sister, my aunt, because her hands were so like my mother's that I found myself staring at them.....the similarity stunned me. Sisterhood is an apt metaphor for feminism because it locates women as having a shared experience/history because of our gender and the structures that oppress - although not all in the same way. The experiences for women of color, poor women or women who do not participate in heterosexuality do differ in significant ways- and, still there is much we share. I have witnessed the magic of this in my own relationships with women as well as the sisters, families and groups I have worked with over the years. Sisterhood is the instant 'knowing' and recognition of the experiences of being a woman that don't get talked about much but exist nonetheless - like the microaggressions we experience daily.

Anonymous said...

There are ed hardy shirts
,pretty ed hardy shirt for men,

ed hardy womens in the ed hardy online store

designed by ed hardy ,
many cheap ed hardy shirt ,glasses,caps,trouers ed hardy shirts on sale ,

You can go to to have a look ,you may find one of ed hardy clothing fit for you
Top qualitymen's jacket,
These cheap jacket are on sale now,you can find
north face jackets inmage on our web
Ralph Lauren Polo Shirtsbuberry polo shirts

Do you wannaghd hair straighteners for you own , we have many
cheap ghd hair straightenersin style and great,you can choose one from these
hair straighteners
Authentic chaussure puma
chaussure sport
And chaussure nike shoes
Come here to have a look of our Wholesale Jeans
Many fashionMens Jeans ,eye-catching
Womens Jeans ,and special out standing
Blue Jeans ,you can spend less money on our
Discount Jeans but gain really fine jeans, absolutely a great bargain.


Adi said...

Oes Tsetnoc one of the ways in which we can learn seo besides Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa. By participating in the Oes Tsetnoc or Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa we can improve our seo skills. To find more information about Oest Tsetnoc please visit my Oes Tsetnoc pages. And to find more information about Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa please visit my Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa pages. Thank you So much.
Oes Tsetnoc | Semangat Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa

Daniela said...

Interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting. I’ll likely be coming back to your blog. Keep up great writing. Find your great Travel News and sing the songs at Free Song Lyric or you can watch the drama at Korea Drama Online one of great korea drama is A Love to Kill if you go to travel to Indonesia learn Learn Indonesia Language first! And find your home cari rumah or make a blog Belajar membuat Blog find your home again rumah dijual and again at jual rumah the point is cari rumah, jual rumah, rumah dijual, download youtube and find blog widget and then if you want buy a new laptop see the Laptop Price List or you can buy a New Blackberry and then take care your Health & Jewerly good job, very great article Cari Rumah, Jual Rumah, Rumah dijual Thanks ever so much Cari Rumah, Jual Rumah, Rumah dijual very useful article Cari Rumah, Jual Rumah, Rumah dijual Great information Cari Rumah, Jual Rumah, Rumah dijual I like your blog Cari Rumah, Jual Rumah, Rumah dijual I will be checking back for any new articles Cari Rumah, Jual Rumah, Rumah dijual just bookmarked it for later reference Cari Rumah, Jual Rumah, Rumah dijual, free scholarships, Wikilaw, eporchshop, free wallpapers, free gadgets. Thanks for kindly sharing it with us. Very well done indeed

sad said...

guoweigang When it comes to the discount pandora pieces of jewelry that you would like to pursue pandora sale are among gemstones like rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. pandora jewerly You will want to also think about discount pandora beads peal and opal as a gemstone that you would like cheap pandora beads to incorporate into the design of the jewelry new pandora beads . You will find that there are many different pandora bead designs that you could go with, but why not pandora set go with your own design?When it comes to the cheap pandora sets jewelry.