You’re Not My Sister, Sister

20523 - The Dolly SistersReaders, I have a sister. She’s sixteen, snarky as hell, and utterly delightful. Henrietta is excellent at Harry Potter trivia and understands the vital importance of pretty tea cups. I wouldn’t trade her for all the Turkish delight in Harrod’s! While that may not seem like a meaningful sacrifice, the lemon variety should really be renamed Gelatinous Grace Crack. Having a lifetime supply of it on hand is one of my fondest dreams. Moral: Wee sister, I love you.

What I don’t love is when the world throws around the word sister like it’s just another noun. As soon as a group of women is put together, we’re encouraged to call ourselves a sisterhood. Last year, I was lucky enough to final in one of the most prestigious writing contests in my genre. Not only was it a huge resume bonus, but it put me in contact with a group of extraordinary women: smart, helpful, and imminently talented down to a one. However, within a week, I started getting twitchy.

“We’re sisters,” they declared!

“I didn’t know you last Tuesday!” I thought, but wisely did not point out. (It’s mind-boggling, I know, but away from this blog I’m praised for my tact. Crazy, no?)

It wasn’t that I didn’t like them or that they weren’t lovely women, it’s just…I have a sister. Not only have I known her for sixteen years, but we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve cried through movies (Well, I’ve cried. She’s pointed and laughed at me.), I’ve given her countless Talks-with-a-capital-T, and we have both endured the embarrassment that is our father talking to strangers on vacation. Kittens, I changed her poop-filled diapers. There aren’t many people I’d still love, after their feces wound up under my fingernails. Sisterhood is a big damned deal. It takes love and trust and time.  It doesn’t magically happen, just because two people have vaginas.

Sometimes, if she is truly lucky, a woman will have friends who become like sisters. It’s imminently possible. In my experience, however, these are rare and precious relationships. In my life, I have two: Kate and Mae.  They are the women I’d help creatively dispose of a body (The swamp! The answer is always the swamp!) and whom I’ve called for every dilemma, from dating problems to the breed-appropriate naming of small dogs. They are also the ones who will stand up next to me, as my maid and matron of honor, when I marry Professor McGregor later this year. Pardon the cheese, but they are the sisters of my fucking heart. I love them and I wouldn’t be who I am without them. They’re family.

Maybe I’m too reserved with my emotions.  It’s possible, perhaps, that I’m a stone cold ice queen who needs to work on letting people in. Honestly, though, I don’t think so. I think that people are entirely too cavalier about relationships, in general. If someone is your sister, you take a bullet for them. Telling someone they’re like family comes with a vow: If it ever comes down to it, I will change your diapers. That’s, pun unintentional-but-hilarious, some heavy shit. I love meeting new people and try to always ease life for those around me, but sister is reserved language.

Matching reproductive organs don’t make us family. Common experience doesn’t make us family. I believe in supporting other women, as a rule, but The Sisterhood makes me uneasy. I am a feminist. I am a citizen of the world. I am not, however, a sister to all.

Unless, of course, you have a pair of magic traveling pants. If that’s the case, welcome to the family, home slice.

– Grace

Girls Who Hate Girls Who Hate Girls

I believe in warning signs. Where there is smoke, fire is ablaze. Where there’s a siren in Kansas, tornado approaches. And where there’s a broad generalization about how all girls are bitches, there’s…a bitch.

“I just don’t get along with girls.”

You’ve heard that statement. I know you have. How do I know this? Because it is a much beloved catchphrase among a certain set. Often said with smugness, this statement is fraught with hidden meaning. It intimates that girls are catty, or that other girls have always been jealous of the speaker, or that this girl was done A Great and Terrible Wrong by female friends.The person saying this doesn’t mean she doesn’t get along with girls, she means she doesn’t like girls. She doesn’t care for half the people walking around on Earth. If you have a vagina, she’s out.

What a load of crap. This infuriates me. I wish to find a radioactive spider, if only so I could be bitten, gain superpowers, and trap people who say this in a prison of feminist rage web. While I am not the type to insist we all love each other, simply because we have matching chromosomes, I am the type to insist we not actively bash our gender.  Saying you don’t get along with girls is saying you believe gender stereotypes. Awesome. Here are just some of the opinions you have aligned yourself with:

  • Women are catty.
  • Women will do anything to land a man.
  • Women’s favorite topic of conversation: shoes. Preferably pink ones.
  • Women’s second favorite topic of conversation: men. Preferably rich ones.
  • Women are irrational, when on their period.
  • Women are dramatic.
  • Women aren’t as good at math and science.

The list goes on. I think we can all agree, these stereotypes are ridiculous. People are people. Not every woman likes shoes, just like not every man likes football. These are just traditional gender norms handed down to us by society. There’s not a single generalization you can make about the sexes that holds true. Even the ones presented by evolutionary biology don’t hold up from person to person. Not every man wants to spread his seed far and wide, nor does every woman hear a “biological clock.” So, saying that you don’t get along with a whole gender is not only awful, but ill-informed.

People, the rational ones, take others on a case-by-case basis. They don’t throw a hand out and say: “I don’t get along with people from Texas!” Even if they hate barbeque and cowboy boots, they know not everyone in Texas likes those things either. (Though, seriously, why wouldn’t you like barbeque? The mind boggles.) It must be miserable, not looking at others this way. If I seriously thought every girl was out to talk about me behind my back or steal my boyfriend, I’d probably throw myself off the nearest cliff. That’s just a lot of malice to see in the world.

Of course, I have a theory. I don’t think the women saying this believe it either. What they do believe is that saying they don’t get along with girls sets them apart from their gender. Doesn’t saying you don’t have girlfriends, because they’re catty, mean you’re implicitly not catty? They wear their gender discrimination like a badge of honor. Hating other girls means you’re above all that “drama” the rest of us supposedly live for. Well, I think it doesn’t. Saying you dislike your own gender tells me just one thing: you’re a bitch…and not in a good way.

Strewn behind this girl are the carrion of past friendships: other girls. They’re the ones who thought she was their friend, only to have her ditch them when she got a boyfriend. (“They were just jealous!”) They’re the ones who told her who they liked, only to have her go after that person the next week. (“It’s not my fault we fell in love!”) They’re the ones who suffered snide remarks over and over, until one day they couldn’t take it anymore. (“They were too sensitive!”) All too often the women saying this are the ones who actually do love female competition, as long as they win.

For most of my life, I didn’t see this. I had friends who said this all the time and I wouldn’t get it – they seemed so awesome, why did other girls mistreat them so? Each time, it took awhile, but I figured it out. Those friendships ended, because hate always furrows its way out. Thinking that all girls are evil, means you’re all too quick to throw another one of us under the bus. Now, whenever I hear those words, I hear what they really mean. I hear: Run, Grace! Run far away, as fast as your fancy red espadrilles can carry you! Because while I do love shoes, I hate drama.

– Grace