I just read Christa D’Souza’s article on ‘The Sisterhood’ in March’s edition of Vogue, and it intrigued me. I know, I know, Vogue doesn’t quite count as a book, but I found the ideas touched upon in the article interesting, so I thought I’d share them with you lot.
The general premise is the rise in popularity of the ‘girl gang’ – women-only parties, pats on the back on Twitter etc. The article is more an exploration than a clear thesis, but it draws on the theories of a number of high-profile and outspoken women, so it’s a useful springboard to the discussion format that blogging allows.
My initial response was to instinctively wrinkle up my nose at all of this, and treat it with suspicion. It feels dangerous to say it, in the current climate, but I cannot help but be wary of modern feminism. One of my ten year old students said to me the other day that he didn’t want help with his homework from anyone, as if he did well it wouldn’t really be his achievement, so he’d be more pleased just to do okay and know that he’d done it all on his own. That’s sort of how I feel about feminism. Women are NOT the weaker gender, but saying that we need extra help only proves otherwise. I’m sure other people will disagree, in fact I’m certain of it, but my opinion is based only on my own experiences.
I was always a tomboy when I was growing up, preferring to climb trees and generally do dangerous, challenging and muddy things outside rather than play at tea-parties and dolls. Not that I didn’t like wearing pretty dresses! I still remember the battles I had with my mother (between the ages of 4 and, oh, 18?) when I wanted to wear my best clothes out to play in, and she knew they’d come back covered in mud, permanent paint, and generally completely destroyed. Being sporty and active, getting straight back up if you fall over, even if your knees are bloody, having strong opinions, subverting or ignoring societal and fashion rules… these maxims are what make a tomboy, and in the world we live in today none of these prevent you from also being feminine. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for company, it’s usually going to be boys who want to risk their lives for adventure and build dens all over the place.
I do have a handful of close female friends these days, but they’re all tomboys in their own way. They’re tough. And I love them for it. I’ve found them all over the place, often in the strangest places, so we’re not a gang as we’re all very different people on very different journeys. We all demonstrate characteristics that society typically positions as being very male though, and I think we understand each other better as a result of sharing these. Our drive, our eagerness to try new things, our ability to switch off our emotions in order to get the job done, the fact that we typically prefer male to female company!
Tom was very surprised by this side to me when we first met, and I think he still struggles to get his head around my being more comfortable hanging out with his male friends than with other women. I just find them easier to talk to! They’re not playing games, or being driven by neurosis; they won’t take offense at my many unintentionally-offensive comments, but see the intended humour instead. My gang-that-isn’t-a-gang of tomboys are the same, but we’re thin on the ground. Girly-girls often seem perplexed by us, even frightened. My instincts tell me that we’re doing just fine being ourselves, but I am vaguely curious about the benefits of being one with the sisterhood.
I’ve been organising my ‘hen do’ recently with my maid of honour (well, I’m organising it, she’s sort of cheering me on), and the issue of girls-only came up. We paused for a moment, a little stunned to realise that there wouldn’t be any men present (male strippers will NOT be invited, as I’m keeping the precise address we’re staying at under lock and key. Unless Steve Backshall wants to pop in for a cup of tea. And then, you know, if he wants to strip that’d be okay). Then I realised that, actually, I’m sort of looking forward to being part of a girl-gang, just for a weekend! I’ve never done it before, so maybe it’ll be fun?! Katy looked at me suspiciously when I voiced this thought.
One point that struck a chord from D’Souza’s article was voiced by Laura Bailey, regarding her dependence on “a virtual creative female sisterhood via Instagram”, which provides, amongst other more utilitarian benefits, “support for a friend’s cause or a new business venture, and [says] I like what you stand for, I like your style, I like your pictures (I just like you)”. Women are the experts at this form of support. Not that we need validation for who we are, but it’s quite nice isn’t it. I see this in blogging all the time, when likes and thoughtful comments are left by people you’ve never met. They’re not just left by women though; many of the detailed and thoughtful comments I’ve been sent were from male bloggers.
What do you think? Do you have a girl-gang, or does the very idea make you run for the hills? Do women provide each-other with a very special kind of support, or are we stronger as individuals? Are we giving support to strangers more readily today than the internet-is-the-death-of-society brigade would have us realise?