I have never been a big believer in some great international Sisterhood of Women (TM Oprah). It has always seemed like a bunch of hokum completely divorced from reality. I have never felt some kind of special connection with other females of the species. When I was a kid, I never made friends easily, but my closest and easiest friendships tended to be with boys, not girls. (This may have something to do with my inability to see "signals" from interested men. Light teasing and flirting is just how boys talk to you, in my experience; it doesn't mean they're interested, just that you're "one of the guys.")
I went to a women's college: partly because I needed a school that would let me attend a year early and without a high school diploma, partly because I felt so beaten down by the Texas good ol' boys network that on having any males on campus sounded extremely restful. While there, I learned the full depth of cattiness and nastiness that women can display towards each other, and and lingering illusions I may have had that women share a common bond regardless of background were quickly shed.
I have been rethinking this position a bit, lately. Yes, women can be horrifyingly hurtful towards each other. Female bullying, slut-shaming, fat-shaming, the list goes on and on. But perhaps it is the very idea that we should understand each other on some deep level that makes these things so hurtful. The same insults, from a male, have power, but not the same kind of power when wielded by another woman. A case in point: I get extremely bad cramps with my menstrual cycle. I have, on occasion, had a hard time convincing doctors of this. When male doctors dismiss my concerns, I get frustrated and angry and feel diminished, but I can still have a small part of me that thinks, "Well screw you, Mr. Man! You don't even know what the fuck you're talking about!" But when a female doctor dismisses my concerns, I am devastated. I feel completely invalidated. I feel like a drug addict trying to work the system for pain killers. And I don't even have the recourse of knowing that this person has no personal experience with the problem. She does.
It is this deep-down recognition that as women we DO share common experiences that makes rejection of our understanding of those experiences so painful. Which is why I have finally come to believe in the Sisterhood. As women, we absolutely share a deeper understanding of each other's experiences. And, as sisters, we can use that deep understanding to hold each other up or beat each other down.
Luckily, I have recently been having more experiences recently that help me see the "hold each other up" end of the sisterhood equation. I have been dealing with trying to leave my husband for months now, and every step of the way, women who don't know me from Eve have gone out of their way to help me and make things easier for me to get out. Women in perfectly happy marriages, who have no personal experience with the sorts of issues have I been dealing with, and who know nowhere close to the whole story, have pulled strings and opened doors and generally brightened my days, and for no other reason than they see a sister in trouble.
So, while my relationship with my Sisters has not always been a good one, and has not always been supportive or healthy, in many ways that is what makes it even more a Sisterhood. And right now, I am leaning on it and being help up.
I am more grateful for all of my Sisters here than any of you will ever know. I am grateful for my internet Brothers as well — you are all honorary Sisters, in my book.