“Sisterhood”. Guilty as charged, I have used an abstract concept — a term that is used so frequently to try to point out, rationalize, explain, and sometimes to criticize so-called ‘natural’ relations between females. There are many other variations of the notional term, including specific words for aspects of male bonding too: “bromance”, “brother from another mother”, “my bro bro”, or the ribald phrase: “bros before… [you can fill in the blank]. Some don’t believe the sisterhood exists, and complain that on so many occasions they witness girls or women gossip, backstab, engage in acts of jealousy, and other negative behaviors. Yes, that does exist, but these are personality traits in so many people, and in many respects it is simply human nature to sometimes engage in such a negative fashion. Irrespective of gender, tensions can arise, and there are many ways that these situations can be handled.
I take an alternative view to the notion that the sisterhood is a fallacy. There are plenty of examples to show that it does exist. Like all social interactions, the sisterhood is complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all. The same goes for feminism.
I heard the “bros before…” comment on rare occasions in college, but admittedly when used (at least within my earshot), it was for friendly teasing, and to stir a reaction, that led to, “only joking, I love ya” mantra. When I did hear it, it was being used to describe a “boys night out”, while the men partied, and the women organized “a girls night” — often that involved films such as Beaches (1988) or Now and Then (1995), and food where calories were not mentioned, and the drinks were stronger than soda.
My male friends are (and were) not sexist, and when I look back on my college years, there were so many people who looked out for others, and took steps to make sure no one would wonder off from a party in a vulnerable state. I recall a pretty good system of walk-or-cab-buddies. I do not recall any of my male friends thinking the term “ho” was an acceptable way to address a woman. They knew it was important to look after their “sisters”, and vice versa. Many of us “sisters”, in college, could help to identity a negative situation a male friend might have gotten himself into, and offered some sisterly advice that was appreciated. Even to this day, so many of my college friends and I are regularly in touch. We offer advice and support.
On many occasions I did (and do) point out, that some terms rooted in sexism or racism, for example, even if used for comedic impact, can help to perpetuate discrimination — a point that, as a friendship unit, we agreed upon. I cannot take a moral high ground, either. We all make mistakes, and learn that language is important. Most of the men I socialized with in college were extra protective of their female friends, especially in nightclubs, or any establishment where alcohol was available. I recall one male friend telling me to be careful of “the meat market”, and to never leave my “drink unattended”. My parents gave me the same advice, as did my big brother (two-and-a-half-years my senior).
Some feminists today appear to take credence at what they refer to as “patronizing chivalry”, but personally I think some opinions go too far, and make the modern feminist movement, in parts, look petty. I am a feminist, but prefer intersectionality. I have written on the subject of modern feminism before via the news site Practical Politicking. Not every man believes that all women are second-class citizens, and many are simply engaging in polite behavior, and showing concern for humanity. My friends and I were not perfect when we socialized, but most of us had seen, or were aware of, televisions shows such as the BBC’s Crimewatch to know we had to be careful. (PS: Yes, I grew up in the UK). Moreover, most of our mothers had cell phones by then, and often us “college kids” would get messages from home, (or from other biological, or non-biological elder figures), reminding us to “stay safe”…and also to look “both ways before crossing the road”, and “remember to go the library” (!) Another one: “Remember to eat healthily, and don’t stress too much”.