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Haylee Linton

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[A Cauldron Full of Stars] The problem with Sisterhood

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UK Pagan
I have no sisters by blood.  I have two half brothers who aren't really a part of my life, and who have never, not once, tried to learn anything about me.  I've always wanted sisters, and I've come to truly appreciate those women in my life who fill the role of sisters. 

About a year ago I joined a group that promised sisterhood. Today, I'm reminded that sisterhood is problematic in Western women, especially of the upper and middle classes.  We're supposed to celebrate together, be visible and appealing together, but we have no responsibility to each other.  It becomes a superficial club that caters to vanity. Sisterhoods, as formal groups, are often lacking in the biggest part of actual sisterhood- support.  Sisters should hold each other in times of crisis, in moments of pain, and help us to hold ourselves together when we're falling apart.  This group I joined is all love and light until such time as anyone has need of actual empathy, support or discussion, then the charge of "too political" gets levied and the censors jump in and sweep it away.  It pleases the shallow souls who want to feel good all the time, those who cannot look beyond themselves, and makes like tidier for them, but for others, it creates pain and distrust.

There are many women who embody true sisterhood, and they are shining examples to us all.  They are the women who sit with you silently when you express your pain or anger. They are the friends who bring you food while you're sick, and the ones who give thoughtful critique when you chase your dreams.  They are the women who glance at the news headlines and know that you might be triggered, and call to check on you. They are the people who sit on the floor with you and giggle at silliness after helping you drink an entire bottle of Moscato.  They are the ones who stay up talking all night with you because it's been so long since you had time to catch up with them.  They are the people who call you for advice or an ear to bend or shoulder to cry on because they trust you to be there for them.

Sisterhood is only powerful when it embraces both the celebrations and the responsibilities of the role.  Without that balance, sisterhood is a membership card that collects dust in your wallet. It's useless, symbolic of nothing, and ultimately, self-defeating.

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Are there different kinds of friendship though? I've struggled a bit for a couple of years with some mental health inconvenience which my very best friend in the world hasn't been much help with, but I have other friends who have carried me through the whole thing. There's not as much chemistry there but a huge amount of practical love. Nothing could ever come between me and "S" and their lack of empathy on this particular issue does nothing to cloud our friendship. The whole situation could easily have been the other way round. My general friendship group could be no help with something, or run out of patience very quickly, whereas S might be (and often has been) an angel (in the powerful sense).

This year, in World Mental Health Week (or whatever it's called) I noticed quite a few public social media posts from people I know barely or not at all. They posted very general stuff like "make sure you talk to someone" or "make time for your friends" or "ask colleagues how they are". As an experiment, I replied to quite a few of them in a supportive but slightly needy manner. One post that I made got a few "likes" but nobody actually replied to any of them. So, just based on my tiny experiment, the personhood might make a few supportive noises on special occasions but basically does nothing.

I'll stick with S.

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