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A few months ago in school i was a part of a class/discussion group that was questioning sisterhood amongst white women and women of color; if it existed, why, why not, etc. A time marker we used was the United States Civil Rights Movement (CVM), in that in the fight for racial justice the woman's movement started to take off, for the reason that mainly white women in the different organizations felt that they were not being treated equally in leadership positions as men were in them. This feeling was felt strongly by the white women and their complaints started gaining more attention and their focus shifted from ally to their friends of color, to themselves.

(((((I myself was obviously not alive during the US CVM and others' opinions on this issue may be different, but just for reference the texts we read and went from were as follows: Personal Politics by: Sarah Evans, Black Feminist Though by: Patricia Hill Collins, and The Trouble Between Us by: Winifred Breines, various articles by Tim Wise, and media during the 2008 US Presidential election)))))

This world, woman, is white. The white woman's issues, that also tend to be middle class and straight, are elevated, are talked about and accepted as the norm, and then called woman. That is also what created the dominate philosophy of "feminism", which excludes GLBTQ women, women of color, international women, working class women, homeless women, in other words, women who are not considered to be of the status quo, (which is would describe as: white, upper middle class, christian, straight, able-bodied, married, mother, etc.) No wonder why there seems to be a gap in sister hood, among white women and women of color, as well as divisions amongst women who see themselves as similar.

In this discussion group we went around and said what we thought of when we thought of sisterhood, who it included, didn't include, etc. Almost all us white girls in the class said that when we thought about it, we seemed to feel that white women were not sisters, did not have a female bond, that it seemed like something only women of color experience. I am still trying to figure out why I thought/think this, perhaps it is true. It might have something to do with: western individualism, dominant middle class white women being "taken care of" by men, leaving them to not depend on each other, the strong role of matriarchy in families of color and working class families throughout history, which might not be as prominent in middle class white families.

I have questions and am really interested in continuing the conversation about sisterhood, and the politics of race, class, sexuality, and status. Why does is seem women are still pitted against one another? What do you think? I am really interested in what we all have to say on this issue.


Maria de Chirikof's picture

divide and conquer

I think part of it was that divide and conquer idea where if they (meaning males) can keep us separated they can keep us down.

But in thinking about it I don't think I have ever had a really good friend who was white. Even if they do not mean to project it there was always that 'I am doing you a huge favor being your friend" feel. My best friends have always been in the minority groups. There was one white girl who we kept running into each other one summer and I realized she wanted to be friends with me. We hung out awhile and sometimes went to her home but I always had to leave before her parents got home and did not like that. I knew most of my friends parents so never understood it until her parents came home early one weekend and saw me sitting there on their couch. They asked me to leave and I did. What hurt was she did not try to defend me or my character to them! All they saw was a Native and imagined the worst of me because of that. She tried to apologize the next time I saw her and said that was why she could not have me stay longer and her parents did not want me to steal anything from their house so I could never go over again. But I said I could not be friends with her. I always want to tell them that if they feel this way about Natives to get out of our country then! I have met very few white people I would actively seek to be friends with though I can put up with most of them.

During Alaska studies last year we talked about race a lot, especially about white people. I wrote a short piece about it here:

I find it very hard to discuss the whole 'white' issue since most of my thoughts are not kind and I would rather not say anything then say something that someone trying to improve their situation might find hurtful. I would love to be a part of such a discussion though since I think we should all be sisters.


aliĝngix's picture

You bring up a good point. I

You bring up a good point. I don't think some people are willing to see this.
I think it is just like first it is just someone who is just something, a cultural pride.
Then, someone grows it into, and keeps at it, "you and me...and them."
Like Maria de Chirikof, Divide and Conquer.
It's worked for centuries.
But, step one: Is to realize.
Step two: to learn, grow.
It's challenging, but I think you just took your first step in experiencing this.

I think the point you bring up, Maria is so right! Divide and conquer that is. When men keep women away from other other women and possess them for themselves, we become unconnected to women, and actually begin competing with one another, which I'm sure most of us, I know I have on countless occasions, been in that situation. We get mad at each other, when we really should be getting mad at men and broader society, and especially the media these days, for a lot of us, for pitting us against each other.

And I know we have only begun the discussion on here, but I hope it can be a place where we can be honest and say things that we believe, even if it may be out of our comfort zone, different experiences shape different opinions and world views, even though they may not be favorable to hear, they are necessary and, seriously doubtful of coming from a malicious place.

"I am entrenched in a single thing", said by Pablo Neruda, felt the same by me, Meghan McInerney.

Maria de Chirikof's picture

Divide and Conquer

I honestly think we need to get this idea into the open and talked about because it is a real thing and is a real mindset that is used against woman, countries, or anything.

I think once we understand this concept and look for it then we can begin to see why we feel things about other groups that makes us feel separate from them. Here in America is it used so prolifically that I am amazed no one stands up and says to them "Hey, we know what you are trying to do and it wont work anymore!"

I went to one NOW meeting and never went back since I felt it did not capture what I wanted to do. I think now I should have stayed and worked on it harder but other things were going on and it seemed too much of a hassle back then. If you stop and think about it, woman have such a wide variety of goals and dreams it can be so easy to see how different we are. Remembering these differences are a good thing since each person is free to pursue what interests them and should not feel isolated because of it.

I guess minorities such as myself are guilty of isolating the white woman when they don't deserve it. I guess when we all embrace each other in a meaningful way we can truly stand as one. It is one thing I like about this place though, that we can be open and honest about it since we do not mean it in a mean way when we try to describe how we see things. I guess part of it is I do imagine the white woman as thinking of themselves as the 'supervisors' to us or that sort of thing and I do not want that. But a beautiful concept I heard here was 'sister friends' and would love to embrace them as this, too.

I really look forward to seeing more of your posts! During the last few weeks it moved so fast it was easy to get lost and forget the posts we wanted to keep track of. It is good since I imagine others also going back through and looking for these posts too.



katea's picture


Thought-provoking questions. Honestly, I never wondered about those questions especially if white women have "female bonding" or sisterhood, and if this bonding is limited to a particular class or race. For one, I was never white in my life and I grew up with group/s of female friends (especially because of the Catholic background, I guess) so I always thought that it was natural to have a female bonding. But I just notice, like when I'm attending an international conference, American (white) women tend to go with their own group. It is easier for me to bond with Latin Americans, Africans, Europeans and Australians and they tend to exert effort in continuing the bond through email exchanges and personal invitations. But when it's a women's conference, bonding is no longer subdivided into categories of colors and class. (I don't know, maybe my experiences and exposures are not that wide to actually say something on the issue).

I read this book, "Women Who Run with the Wolves" by Dr. Clarissa Estes and she mentioned there about female bonding, and the term used is "kaffeeklastch". Literally, it means coffee and gossip but I feel women are beyond literal. Although chatting and sharing stories over a cup of coffee with girl friends is a great bonding activity for me. I use the term ever since.


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