The complicated feminist sisterhood
This clip is one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, White Christmas:
My own sister and I love to sing it whenever the opportunity strikes–and strike they do, for she and I have the typically complicated relationship that the song describes.* We love each other as much as we hate each other, and we are as alike as we are different.
Here we are on Good Friday 2012, with my kids and her daughter. Our expressions are EXACTLY THE SAME. My son has her green eyes. Her brunette daughter looks like I did when I was a first grader, right down to the banged haircut.
Yet we are so different sometimes it’s hard to believe we can relate, much less be relatives. As I write in my new Minnesota Women’s Press column:
My sister and I look so much alike that often people can’t tell who’s younger and who’s older. They assume that my elegant and fashionable sister, who looks like she stepped out of InStyle magazine, must be more mature than the woman who’s wearing scuffed Doc Martens well into her 40s. As a born introvert…the idea of joining a group called Women in Networking makes me break out in a rash, but my gregarious sister has built a thriving real estate business on the connections she’s made there.
I can’t tell you how horrible I would be at selling real estate, as it requires smiling at and talking to strange people all day. The only strange people I like are my husband and children. But as her sister, I am very proud of her and her work, so if you’re in the Twin Cities and need a good realtor, call her up. She’s good!
Now, let’s talk about that OTHER sisterhood of ours…
Above is the graphic that was created by the Nation for their infamous piece “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars.” If you didn’t read it in January, I will summarize it for you: “feminism is supposed to be a sisterhood where we all get along in our pursuit of a common goal, and if you don’t agree with me, it not only hurts my feelings, it hurts The Movement!!”
I am really tired of people acting like it’s a BFD when self-identified feminists don’t get along beautifully. Again, from my column:
The relationship I have with my biological sister is among the most complicated in my life; why should the sisterhood of feminists be any different?
I admit that I’m more than a little glad that my children are different genders, born five years apart: there isn’t an automatic cultural assumption that they will get along, nor is there the belief that if they don’t then there is something TERRIBLY WRONG with them.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a couple of people in a family, let alone a few million in a social movement.
But there’s hope!
When I realized how different my sister and I really were, I had to relax many of my expectations about our relationship, but I didn’t love her any less. I learned that sisterhood is strengthened when it has the opportunity to prove its resilience.
*”when a certain gentleman arrived from Rome, Leah wore the dress and Shannon stayed home!”