On Not Feeling Part Of The Sisterhood

March 9, 2015

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Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Amongst the articles celebrating women who broke the mould there were posts all over the place about how great it is to be a woman. To be part of the sisterhood. Feminism is a hot, trendy issue and the supposed markers of womanhood seem to be everywhere.

Certain attributes seem to crop up more often than others. Wanting to make the most of your appearance. Playing around with the way you look. Harnessing your sexuality in order to get what you want. Having long, rambling friendships with other women. Getting catcalled on a daily basis. Life-long girlfriends who “get” you. Having the upper hand over boys by being alluring and mysterious. Hating your periods. Having days where you sit around and do nothing and imagine you look gross. Knowing how to be glamorous. Being simultaneously sexy and smart.

I would categorise the above markers as being different from the traditional stereotypes associated with women because these are the kinds of things women are saying to each other in an effort to bond and connect. I’ve seen these things on countless reports and articles – and more worryingly, on the blog posts of my peers. The prevalent message is “we’re all in this together because we all know what it’s like”. Statements like ‘Hey sister, period pains? I feel you’ or, ‘Ooh look, even *blah female celebrity* has those days in a sweatshirt with no make-up, she must be a real woman like us’ or ‘I was just having one of those days where I felt shit – you know when you can’t even look in the mirror’.

Laila tapeparade red skirt floral jumper feminism womanhood sisterhood feeling a part of something

I’m sure lots of people can read that list and nod along in renewed camaraderie. That’s great. However, anybody not covered in that self-constructed manifesto gets shoved out. I can’t even describe the number of times I’ve read a post supposedly celebrating all the best bits about being female – or alternately, reflecting on the trials of being a woman – and been left feeling like some weird alien who doesn’t get it. The bad parts must be awful, and the good parts must be great, and I’m happy and sad and conflicted for all the women who experience these good and bad things. But I can’t correlate my own life into that mix.

I end up feeling completely invalidated as a woman because none of those things apply to me. I actually feel more comfortable when people jokingly describe me as an “alpha” because at least those words have some identifiable tropes I can connect with, rather than the self-perpetuated ideas I’m offered by my own gender. Except I don’t want to be the alpha. I want to be me. There’s not one way to be a woman. I’ve tried to talk about this to other women in the past and I am primarily met with disbelief. “But everybody has those days” or “You must feel like that sometimes” and so on.

The message is that I’m either lying or weird; NOT feeling the same as everybody else isn’t an option. Other times I’m met with anger or disregard- “Well, you must be one of THOSE girls then” or “We can’t all be like that!”, followed by an abrupt pause in the conversation. I feel like shouting, one of what girls? What are you talking about? When was this secret code of womanhood created and why didn’t I get a copy? Laila tapeparade red skirt floral jumper feminism womanhood sisterhood feeling a part of something

SWITCH IT

Look, I am here for the intersectionality. I am here for inclusivity. Let’s fill this town with feminists. But let’s not use shallow generalisations to inspire a feeling of community and empathy with our fellow females. In our efforts to bond and rally round each other, let’s make sure we don’t fall into crass generalisations. What kind of equality doesn’t include everybody?

It’s never a good idea to speak on behalf of everyone. It’s ridiculous to imagine every woman on the planet could feel the same as every other woman and it’s stupid to think we all go through the same things. We need to remind ourselves to think outside of the white, cis, het, able-bodied box. So, let’s not use random made-up tropes to communicate with each other. Let’s just talk. And let’s not create empathy with things women are supposed to understand. Let’s just find common ground and empathise over that, on an individual level.

We can get over these universal signifiers to communicate with people and just BE PEOPLE. Let’s not ostracise (even accidentally) people who don’t fit the mould – let’s welcome everyone in. That’s what equality means. The great thing about equality is that you get to be whoever you are and it’s valid. You can be a woman without an opinion on menstruation, or a girl without girlfriends, or a tomboy who has never once harnessed her appearance, or a magical solider wielding a flamethrower mohawk, or whatever the hell you want, and it’s still valid. Let’s make that the marker of our sisterhood.

Laila tapeparade red skirt floral jumper feminism womanhood sisterhood feeling a part of something

15 responses to “On Not Feeling Part Of The Sisterhood”

  1. meg says:

    I totally agree with this. I’m a feminist, yes, but it’s supporting women for what they are, not trying to fit under some kind of umbrella. At the end of the day, if you want equality, that’s all that matters to me!

  2. I really enjoyed your post. I appreciate when people say how they feel online, that is not easy and is a way or feeling connected. I personally think that feminist should mean different things for each woman and we should not impose a list of points to be part of any group. It’s about each of us choicing what make us happy 🙂 I recently wrote a post about feminism is you would to read it 🙂 http://www.stylemarmalade.com/2015/01/what-being-feminist-really-means-in.html

  3. Ellie Carter says:

    Totally agree!! Also I love your blog 🙂 x

  4. Denise says:

    So now let’s be “hated” together for what we think or maybe, what we don’t think. Not only I totally agreed with what you said, and yes, I’ve read the whole post (many won’t, you know. More words than pics and we are discarded). I completely agree on everything. You will never find a post on my blog celebrating how good it is to be a woman, but to exist, as a person. I didn’t greet any friend because I always thought “a people’s day”, not this or that. Morgan Freeman commented on that, when a repriter asked him “are you have for the Black conscience day?” he said, “NO. Let’s not celebrate we are black, white or anything else, Asian, etc, let’s celebrate that we are people”. How to be gorgeous and sexy? I have friends who try to patronise me, and I only answer I never intended to be sexy, but to learn things that add something to me. And horrible in the mirror? That’s so absurd. Lately I had some months of problems with a friend. It was about your topic now, and I can’t tell further because it can be read. I used the proverb “do you want to be always right or to be happy?” I know who I am. I don’t need to show my wardrobe if I don’t want to, cause I believe I am much more than a wardrobe. But people just didn’t want to acknowlegde my thoughts, and I did kind before, but now… I don’t want to be always right, but happy. Let the ones who think differently get my respect, everybody is entitled for an opinion, but I just don’t have to have the same. I loved your post and be sure you will find many people with the same opinion – just, where are they???? The blogosphere is very superficial sometimes (or many times)! Sorry for a too long comment!
    DenisesPlanet.com

    • tapeparade says:

      Thank you Denise for a really insightful comment, I often think of that Morgan Freeman quote. I hate the word feminist for that reason and always say I’m for equality instead, as those are two different things to me.

  5. As a feminist, I’m aware that the movement is not perfect, it lacks in many ways. And I’m sorry if you felt left out in some way. Thinking that womanhood is lived by every woman in the same way is really wrong, a mistake that men already made in the past (it was dangerous to let women be elected in the Parliament because they could create a coalition against men to pass the laws of their agenda, that’s what they said, as all women have the same interests, ideas and issues). We surely have to think differently. I’m glad that you spoke your mind and explain your point of view, it is so important. But what I think is trying to not be too harsh with all this celebration of being a woman (and I don’t like the 8th of March, at all, I think it is handle very wrongly). With the attention and the excitement that there are right now we can maybe achieve something, change something. Anyway, as I said, it’s really important that you and everybody else bring their views in the conversation and call out what needs to be call out.

    • tapeparade says:

      I don’t at all think it is wrong to celebrate being a woman, I just don’t think we should a attach a single thing to what that means. So celebrating a woman can be left right there, it doesn’t need to be followed up with a specific list of what we’re celebrating. For some people the things that are regularly pointed out probably ring true, which is great, but if we don’t bring up any specifics then we aren’t running the risk of shutting people out basically. That’s how I feel anyway. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  6. I completely agree with this post – we are not all wallflowers or militant feminists and yet we feel pressured to be one or the other.

    Lizzie Dripping

  7. Sterling says:

    This is definitely an example of people twisting the word Feminism to mean what they want it to mean, or to contour it to fit in with their personal agenda. Make-up, periods, girl-talk, boys, what it means to “Be A Woman”… none of that is what Feminism is about. I think that’s part of the problem. How is there even just one way to Be A Woman? It’s great that people are talking about this kind of thing, and the “resurgence” of Feminism is all good, but it’s not all just about Girl Power and Period Power and whatever else. Ahh I have a post about this I need to get out there. You seem to be writing my own thoughts up here!

  8. Jen Saxton says:

    Loved this one! Thanks for your honesty and realness, even when some of the people reading this are probably people who would put you in the “weird” box. Not me. I’ve spent the last fifteen years not believing I could be feminine or a “proper woman” as I wasn’t skinny. Who said skinny was a prerequisite for being a woman and why have I believed this?! You are so right, we should be cheering each other on with all our differences, in all our uniqueness. That is a better promoter of equality than trying to fit us all in a box.
    Also, thank you so much for your so kind words on my post a while back, I realised I never replied to your comment. I’m so sorry for your losses too. Grief is hard, isn’t it?
    Hope you’re having the time of your life in Japan! Apologies for the essay!
    Jen x

  9. […] On Not Feeling Part Of The Sisterhood: this is the only post I’ve ever written that I thought might receive more attention than normal which goes to show my terrible knowledge of my own audience (hey guys!). […]

  10. ankursurin says:

    Reblogged this on is it monday already and commented:

    For feminism stands for equality…

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