Friday, November 16, 2007

We're In This Together

Today I received an email from my Aunt. It was one of those standard issue emails that goes on about sisterhood and valuing the women in your life. It was sweet and well-intentioned and, while I may have seen those emails a bazillion times, I was pleased that she thought of me.

Someone on her list responded first to my Aunt, and then apparently thought about it and and decided to send her response back to everyone on the list.

She wrote an enormous paragraph about how, in the 60’s, she bought into the idea of sisterhood and then she learned that she couldn’t depend on other women. She railed against feminism and ranted about how she had been let down by her fellow females. She went on. And on. And on. Bitterness, vitriol and verbal bile just spewing forth. First at my good natured Aunt and then at everyone else who had the misfortune to be on that list.

Now, it’s a shame this woman doesn’t have positive female relationships in her life. But her rant was about women on the whole letting her down. Like she expected complete strangers to help her because of their shared sex - without any evidence that she has treated other women in this fashion. Sometimes women who do not know each other offer each other support, that DOES happen. But that’s NOT what my Aunt’s email was about.

Sometimes we forget the value of the positive and close relationships we have with other women. We get wrapped up in dealing with husbands or boyfriends (who are in some cases wonderful partners and some cases horrible mistakes), with co-workers, with difficult family members, with people who do not support us or whose relationship with us is transitory. But if you are lucky enough to have a close relationship with even one female relative or a lifelong girlfriend who you can depend on - then that is a treasure. And it is important to stop and look at that and value it and remember not to take it for granted.

And while we're on the subject - I am SO SICK of hearing women say, “I really don’t like women. I don't meet women I like being around.” If that is the case, then you are not looking hard enough. We often fall into the trap of feeling as if we are simply competitors. There are only so many jobs that are going to go to women, only so many men to go around, only one woman can be the prettiest woman in the room - and yes, some women get wrapped up in that too much.

You cannot depend on strangers to support you, male or female. But you CAN form relationships with members of your own sex. WAKE UP! If you feel like “other women aren’t like me” then you haven’t been paying attention! We are as widely varied as can be. More so than men on the whole, because we get less flak for embracing both our feminine and masculine inclinations than men do. (Yes, people give a masculine woman a hard time and there are certainly cases of violence against transsexual men - men who were born with the bodies of women - and I do not wish to belittle that in any way. It is very serious. I am just saying that if you ask any transsexual woman to talk to you about her experiences you will learn a lot about the greater level of freedom that society affords people who are born with female “parts” to explore their options.)

I hate the word tomboy. I am sick of the word tomboy. Women use this word to say, “Look, I am more like men than women. I am proud to show how much closer I am to them than I am to you.” Oh, bite me. Do you have any idea how many women say they were a tomboy? Straight women, lesbians, skirt wearers, jeans women, tough women, soft women - it makes no difference. Like 90% say they were a tomboy. Which is to say that as a child you identified easily with boys, you liked to run around outside, maybe you fished for tadpoles or thought bugs were neat. Some boys played with dolls and pretended to clean house and explored play in nurturing roles. It’s part of being a child. It’s not a male or female thing. It’s a human thing. It doesn’t make you different. Get over it.

I play video games. I love science fiction movies. I am not afraid of spiders. I like to climb trees. I am not alone in this and I am not a tomboy. I am a woman. Plain and simple.

There was a time in my life when I said that I could not connect with women - that I was male centric. I took pride in this as thought it made me interesting and different. I thought all other women were stupid and “girly” or - excuse the word - evil, competitive bitches. Then I realized that a lot of women think this. It’s like this moronic rite of passage that huge numbers of us reject our femininity and connection to other members of our sex because we don’t realize that part of us can live side by side with our more traditionally masculine attributes and interests. Women backstab each other sometimes. Guess what? So do men. I feel sorry for any woman who does not realize the value of her relationships with other women and I feel sorry for women as a group that we have one less woman who wants that closeness to us.

In a perfect world, women would all be supportive of each other. Big shocker - we don’t live in a perfect world. But try going out your front door in the morning and looking at other women - women of other races than your own, women who are straight and gay, transsexual women, old women, young girls, women of different socio-economic circumstances - and interact with them while realizing that we have a common thread. Try looking at them as fellow members of a long line of women instead of competition. They understand things about you that no man ever will. There is a connection between women, even women who are strangers. Not all of us stop to feel it or are willing to feel it but, like it or not, it’s there. A common history of repression, of having once been considered property instead of peers. A common debt to the women and men who fought for us to have the right to work, to own property, to have a say in our government... to have any say at all. A common history of victimization and violence but also a common history of strength, of persistence, of shared knowledge, a common history of being nurturers and creators. You cannot depend on all women embracing this but you CAN make an effort to be aware of it yourself.

There’s a lot of good there. There is value in these connections. It's not about a movement or an issue or making a stand, it's your birthright. It's part of who we are and has the potential to enrich our lives. I am SICK TO DEATH of watching women refuse to see this.

My Aunt sent out a friendly reminder to the women in her life that she is there, that she values them, that we are connected. How pitiful that one of those women was too bitter to see it for what it was - a gift.

And now I'm going to go punch a wall.


  1. Oh, do you know how much I like you, Marisa?

  2. awww. Thanks. :)

    I eventually decided to reply and sent an email out to everyone on the list with a much more concice assessment of my feelings. My Aunt sent me a thank you for defending her. Made me feel a bit better.

  3. This post really struck a chord with me. I have to admit, I've rarely felt comfortable with members of my own sex, because well, I haven't had any great examples of sisterhood in my life. Every single one of my female friends had nothing in common with me. Every single one somehow betrayed my trust in one way or another. I've been repeatedly let down by friends and even family throughout my life. Almost all of them. I know it's not right to knock the rest of the female population because of this, but you can't blame me too much for being a bit leary with new friendships. Pavlov's dogs- you begin to expect the usual, you know?

    What's helped me find this elusive 'feminine community' (a sisterhood, if you will) is the internet. I've never (virtually) met so many women who seem to have the same values and thought processes as me. It's comforting to know that they are out there, even if I don't get to have a real relationship with them.

  4. Taryn - I think one of the things that we don't always realize when we make these connections online is this - these women obviously exist around us in the real world. Online it's just easier to find them because we are reduced to what we have to say and what we really think - things less freely expressed in daily life. It's harder to make these connections in the physical world where appearance and competitiveness and hesitation to speak freely exist, but it's worthwhile to look for these connections there.

    Nothing beats having a girlfriend you can sit back with and drink daquiris and talk about the things that men will never understand. ;)