First, I'd asked for submissions on womens' relationships with other women. Some of the following are direct responses to that request, some not (that I know of).
Root Cuttings at Taking Steps. Little Light writes of her grandmothers, and of human complexity:
My grandmother, in all of her socially-conservative, old-fashioned everything, was not just any doctor--she was a doctor in women's health and, moreover, the doctor the queers went to.
...I think maybe this is the point--not just in our relationships to women, or to family members, but in all of our interactions--not just to avoid forgetting, but to assume there are layers we don't know about. We don't know--especially when it comes to our elders--everywhere someone has been, everything someone has been...
The Cynical Anti-Orientalist explains how she's started Decolonizing [her] Parents:
Let me just say first that talking to my parents beyond superficiality is a bit overwhelming because I didn't have the awesomest (is that a word, 'cause I just made it one) time with parents who constantly pushed me to be the model minority throughout my childhood years. I was rebellious and dyed my hair a bunch of different colors until my mother threatened to shave my head. I was also very very bad at math...
This is not some pet project that will be done once it's done. Trying to communicate and build a positive relationship with APIA parents for a lot of us can be challenging especially because many APIA daughters & sons try to separate themselves from their parent's generation and their "traditional" and "Asianness."
With that said, I have been making the effort...
A White Bear of Is There No Sin In It? writes of a complex relationship with her mother:
For the rest of the day, she would be talking to me, and her eyes would range up to my hairline, and suddenly the conversation would go sour. She can’t talk to me with my hair gone flat. It enraged her.
femigog of Sable Feminist News muses on her mother as well, in the course of an ode to the Good Woman (Hard to Find):
My mother took care of her first husband until he succumbed to lung cancer when I was just about 6 years old.
She cared for me and my 2 brothers on her own until we all had graduated highschool. There were'nt streams of boyfriends coming in and out the door and there was never an occasion when we didnt always know exactly where she was at every moment of the day. She was not a pampered woman, but she should have been. She is a good woman, and I yeah, I inherited that trait from her.
...She remarried and is now taking care of my stepfather who has diabetes and high blood pressure. She doesn't frown on doing it and he lets her know constantly that she is appreciated and over-generous in her efforts. To my stepdad, my mother hung the moon. Now young bloods could take a lesson from him. Man the fuck up and start appreciating the glue that holds together your shaky existence.
Bint Alshamsa of My Private Casbah spells it out: "I Just Told You. She's My Sister."
One of my sisters is Japanese. I'm really sensitive when it comes to discussing her and how she came to be my sister. I usually refuse to talk about that with people. I used to do it. We'd go some place together and, I swear, people would act like they just couldn't control their rudeness. I used to indulge their curiosity when people would ask us who we are to each other. However, I'm at the point where I just don't feel like I should have to do it. Frankly, it's none of their business. Once we say we are sisters, that should be the end of it. In fact, telling a random stranger that much is going above and beyond what they are entitled to know.
Today is different though...
Kaite, whose grandma was a suffragette, also has a significant other who doesn't share all her signifiers:
She doesn't define herself as a feminist, but she does define herself as a Conservative. She likes Ani but wishes someone would introduce her to a razor. She's non-scene, and uses the word 'gay' as an affectionate but mocking epithet - but she likes women. If Eddie Izzard is a male lesbian, then she's a gay heterosexual. There's a scene in But I'm a Cheerleader - see, I said I was a cliche - where Clea Duvall's character introduces herself by saying "I like girls. A lot. Oh, and I'm a homosexual." Although this scene is set up to parody your average AA meeting, it says a lot about how queerness is defined. It's about the clothes you wear, the activities you engage in - Megan, the lead character, gives the film its title when she insists that she can't be a lesbian because she's a cheerleader, as if those things were mutually exclusive. Why do some lesbians refute these signifiers, and why are some drawn to them?
Sassywho remembers a childhood friend: "Our bodies were our transgression:"
We never fought over guys, clothes, makeup, rumors, things that typical teenage girls do. In fact, even though she looked like a woman and at times acted like a shy young girl, she had the soul of an old Italian grandmother. Quick with a comforting hug, and an even quicker instinct to go motherbear on anyone who may harm her cubs. She always seemed to wrap me in a blanket of warmth and protection, even if that wasn't her intention.
Having lived in the area a little longer than she had, I had already started to make friends/alliances, but I was increasingly disillusioned with the superficial relationships. There is something to be said for girls who have always known each other and middle/high school girls introducing new competition is not well received. The other girls may accept you, but, somehow, you are never one of them. Especially if your breasts and hips serve as a visceral reminder to teens and adults alike the sex your body advertises...
Rosie of Smokey Mountain Breakdown writes of a funeral for a friend's mother in The Crimson Mourning:
But that first visit, she was feeling okay. She showed me her glass paintings of chickens and sun flowers on old windows. I thought they were amazing examples of outsider art. I've never been able to get paint to do that on glass. I've tried. I loved her art and encouraged her to keep at it. I told her about my friends from Atlanta who would love such work.
She smiled and dimpled. Then delicately spat a brown stream of tobacco juice into an empty coke can. She wiped her mouth daintily with a handkerchief.
Her son, Bobby, had been up to my place to cut wood for me a few times. Their family knows their way around a saw mill. Bobby is tall and handsome. All of the members of this family are extremely comely. I watched carefully as Bobby used his boot to manipulate the big log as he sawed through it. I learned most of my own chainsaw technique by watching him.
So, I was sad to hear that her Momma had died. I hadn't been keeping up with the local papers and had missed it...
a black girl muses on her 90 year old downstairs neighbor, aka The Mad Woman Below:
The Mad Woman Below is both a reality for me and a metaphor...
Old (white) feminist literature had her hanging above my head... in attics.
The mad black woman is below. Deep within. She shakes me from the feet up. She screams all night (and some days) trying to convince me that she is human, that she deserves attention. Sometimes her convincing sounds like a question and I have to answer to her, yes you are, yes you do...
Aunt B of Tiny Cat Pants shines light on an understudied dynamic: "The Pretty, Pretty Princess and Her Plain, but Smart Sidekick" Lots to chew on in the comments thread as well.
The pretty, pretty princess expects to be the one having all the adventures and she just kind of expects the obvious plain, but smart sidekick to enable those adventures. There’s a hierarchy and if you don’t stick to it, you are a bitch who must be taken down.
It’s hard to talk about this kind of stuff–the roles that women expect each other to play. We can talk about the Madonna/Whore problem, but that’s outside society prescribing roles for us. Talking about the ways we organize our own social world, actually putting a name to the weird damaging things we do in our friendships?
Over at The Strangest Alchemy, trinityva considers the "rather vexed" concept of capital-S Sisterhood:
...I don't like the idea of sisterhood any more. Because I don't think many feminists are talking about really treating other women the way that we treat members of our family who we disagree with, yet treasure beyond price.
We're talking about common ground based on accepting the same ideology. Based on assuming there only handful of opinions that are right for women, and our bond is based on sharing those. Based on assuming that we put our sisters first, even in situations where other oppressions that we share with our brothers mean that they need us more...
Sage of Persephone's Box has an even more basic dilemma:
Typically I hate women, present company excepted of course. In fact, my addiction to blogging is almost entirely due to finally meeting women that are speaking the same language as me. Practically the only women I really admire are on-line, and I don’t even know what they look like. Weird.
...This is a gross generalization of course, and there’s plenty of room for exceptions, but from my experiences, women are the parents and men are the kids. It’s the stereotype in almost every sit-com since the Honeymooners. And every stereotype at least somewhat comes from reality, or we wouldn’t laugh at it so much. But when it’s time to go out to play, I want to play with the kids. I want more venues open to attend and fewer rules to keep us all in line. I want to be able to say anything without a round of feigned gasps of shock because I’m deviating from the norm. I want to open up a dialogue, not just repeat crap we’ve all heard over and over, clichés and truisms. I want to go to bed at an unreasonable time...
Clio Bluestocking has a somewhat different experience of offline Women, Groups:
In spite of my dislike of myself and of other women, I desperately yearned for some kind of human connection, especially that kind of connection that you have with people who "get it" because they have experienced some of the pain and frustration that you have. I yearned for other women who understood, especially as I stopped disliking myself for being female and started to become angry at all of the messages (and some of the messengers) who told me that I was wrong simply for having two X chromosomes. I yearned for a community of these women, and doubted that they even existed.
At the Women's Group, for probably the first time in my entire life (and I was over thirty) I found a group of women whom I could trust...
And at Desperate Kingdoms, Winter talks of Sex, Lies and Women-Only Space:
I’ve noticed that heterosexual women often invest in a certain view of women-only space as de-sexualised, a place where they won’t experience unwanted sexual advances. This makes it difficult to acknowledge the erotic and sexual dynamics often present in women-only spaces....
...In the interests of keeping the heterosexual matrix firmly in place, we have a long history of denying the erotics often present in relations between women (of all sexualities). We also have a long way to go yet before women will be able to talk to each other openly and honestly about desire and sexuality. The fact that white middle-class women tend to dominate women-only spaces (a whole other post) brings in all sorts of unacknowledged baggage, especially in terms of women lying to each other and channelling anger into all kinds of destructive aggressive behaviour, rather than dealing with it assertively and honestly.
I think there's still a lot of work to do.
There were also a number of tributes to theorists, artists, and other inspirational public figures.
Louisefeminista of The Socialist Unity Blog salutes socialist feminist Lynne Segal: still making trouble after all these years:
[Segal] reminds the reader of the gains the women’s liberation movement made. But today those fragile connections have collapsed. Neo-liberalism, imperialism and globalisation are rampant, Capitalism is much more coherent in pushing its ideology.
But as Segal argues staying politically active, “means keeping hold of some narrative of the self”. The continuing building of new connections, activism, solidarity, bonds, attachments, comradeships and friendships. The overall upheavals and struggles in our refusal to abandon the collective spirit. The fight to transform this society into a better and equitable society.
...Reading Segal’s book reminded me of my optimistic and youthful activism. In dialectical terms, wanting a better world and the dynamic for social explosions are always here “since the world will not stop changing”.
brownfemipower continues her Radical Women of Color Theorists series (unofficial subtitle: "Because Audre Lorde Was the Beginning and bell hooks is Over Quoted")with a look at Ida B. Wells-Barnett:
Ida B. Wells-Barnett is a woman who has inspired me from the moment I first read her words. She is one of those women who seem to have no fear–who, in spite of being the child of two slaves, in spite of the lynching deaths of three friends, in spite of the threats of lynchings she received, fiercely spoke the words nobody wanted to hear. She demanded the world listen, and went to pretty much any length to get them to do so...
be sure to read the comments section, where there's more commentary from bfp and others (the O.P. is mostly quotage from Wells-Barnett herself).
When She Speaks-I Hear the Revolution's Rebel Grrl also has a series running, hers dedicated to--guess--musical artists. This week's installment is on Patti Smith:
The future is now,” Smith yells out, defiant to the core. Like any punk anthem, this one talked about being outside of society. However it wasn’t a negative ‘we’re alone and there’s nothing we can do about it’ theme.
“We’re alive!” Smith shouts, “we have the choice, we have free speech to celebrate–and take that positive energy and go change the world, we can start right now, we can build a new world–TONIGHT!”
...The future IS ours. As the generation I’m a part to comes of age, it’s harder to deny that we will soon be part of the bigger system, and we will have an ability to make things happen. Civil rights is not a fight that has finished.
Meanwhile, olvlzl of Echidne of the Snakes is Embraced Beyond Words by jazz musician Mary Lou Williams:
Mary Lou Williams was not only the foremost “female jazz artist” of her time, she wasn’t only a jazz musician who could stand with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus as composer and performer, like them, she was one of the great creative geniuses of music of any kind.
... She was just about entirely self-taught and didn’t learn to write and read printed music until well on in her life as a working musician. Many people might be surprised to hear it said but that might have been one of the things that made her such an excellent and curious musician. She learned music directly, as sound and feeling, learning to produce sound as sound not as symbols on a page or names of chords...The results were noted by some of the best musicians working since after she learned to write out music, she was one of the most sought after arrangers and composers of her time. She influenced some of the greatest of them, Jack Teagarden and Bud Powell (both proposed marriage to her), Monk, Garner, etc. How she too often becomes a footnote instead of a chapter heading has to be due to her gender.
Sheila O'Malley of The Sheila Variations has been posting a Daily Book Excerpt for a while now. Here's the first of a number of excerpts/analyses of Margaret Atwood's collected oeuvre, this one from The Edible Woman:
I got into Atwood in college when I read The Handmaid's Tale, which blew me away. So I quickly went out and read her other published books. Cat's Eye was still in the future at that point- that is, hands down, her best book - and one of my favorite novels of all time. But still - there are some other GEMS in her repertoire. The Edible Woman, however, is not one of them...
...It's a first novel - so it has the flaws of a beginner - but still: you can feel Atwood in there. You can feel the embryo of Atwood's brilliance - her coldness, her ruthlessness, her unblinking stare at reality as she sees it...Atwood is so good when she is describing a certain TYPE of woman - the type of woman who doesn't fit into an easily classified box. Like - it is assumed that motherhood comes naturally to women. Atwood has never felt that way - at least not across the board. It might come naturally to SOME women, but Atwood isn't interested in those women. She's interested in the ones who struggle with it, who maybe do not have the soft-focus glow of maternal glory running in their veins - who LOVE their kids - but who really have a hard time settling in to new roles, and giving up their old ones. This is Atwood's milieu.
continue to part two