Navigating Sisterhood

Cross-posted from: The Arctic Feminist
Originally published: 17.12.14

Women are consistently held to higher standards than men are, even by other women, even by feminists. Its interesting because how I personally feel about that is two-fold. On the one hand I recognize the sexism inherent in expecting women to be pure, perfect, unsullied by fault but on the other hand I know that women are capable of change and how they think, feel and act about the world actually matters.

Karl Marx was a chauvinist who consistently mismanaged his family’s meager wealth – making them live in squalor and poverty while also impregnating servant girls in his spare time. He was a fucking prick, however very few people would sit and chastise this fucking prick about his personal life, his faults when discussing his ideas. They are irrelevant to the equation in almost everyone’s eyes. What woman of thought and brilliance can ever say the same as to her legacy?

A woman’s work will always be sullied by her personal faults because in order for a woman to express ideas she must first be free from the stain of her human error. As this is impossible no woman’s body of work will ever be appreciated in the full glory that a man’s would and has.

I wonder though, while this is certainly a double standard that must end, would the solution be to overlook fault entirely? I’m not sure I have an answer to that really.

I’m reading Sonia Johnson’s “Going Out of Our Minds” right now and some parts are electrifying but others really put me off – There’s some interesting passages about the phenomenon of “trashing” and the necessity of loving women.  I wonder if Johnson is perhaps influenced by her previous Mormon faith in the need to love so indiscriminately.  I’ve noticed a correlation between the phenomenon of trashing and the sisterhood-of-perpetual-love-for-every-woman-no-matter-what. Its that same kind of hollow feeling of love you get when you walk into a church and the people basically want you to become another member. Its all “nice” until you get under the surface and see all the backstabbing and petty shit that goes on.

So what is to be done? As a feminist it obviously hurts more when women are cruel or mean than when a man does it because we know that somewhere inside them they are capable of better. Unlike men we know they are capable of change. [For example: I also know that I am always going to be fighting an uphill battle with some women because of prejudice against class, lesbianism, looks, professionalism (their internalized misogyny) etc. ]
I suppose my only answer, and bit of advice for women this resonates with is to remember that we can’t control anyone else’s behavior. That we have a right to say no to that which doesn’t feel good and that friends are often better than sisters. That some battles aren’t worth fighting and that some resources aren’t worth exhausting.
Try not to hold women to too high a standard whilst simultaneously knowing when to say you’ve had enough.
Good luck.

In friendship.

One thought on “Navigating Sisterhood”

  1. I like the comparison you make of woman-loving feminists to a church that (impersonally) wants you as a member.

    But I don’t think trashing or “loving indiscriminately” are the only places that we can mentally reside in our approach to viewing women. I think instead that we can seek to be unconditionally positive in our approach to change the way women are viewed.

    First, we have to realize that we can be as super-feminist as we want, but there will still be people (women) that we just don’t like. It is natural.

    My personal spiritual practice puts me in a place where I strive to live with unconditional love for others. This doesn’t mean I like everyone, or that I do not have boundaries or make judgements about them. But I am very, very aware of the language I use about others and about pointing out the negative language others use when describing women that they disagree with, because I think the “trashing” that we hear, and the incredibly high expectations we have for women are rooted, of course, in roles, language, and beliefs. We have to change those beliefs to change our views.

    In this way, an unconditionally positive approach is not hollow, but real. I am not indiscriminately converting others to my path, but connecting to them and their human qualities, and persuading them to be gentler in their judgement through logical and compassionate understanding of the way women are unconsciously viewed.

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