Sisterhood – an ideal that is not upheld

We were treated to an illuminating session which focused on scripts of gender roles — they influence almost every aspect of what we see on a daily basis. It becomes an invisible force that tell us what is natural for men and women. It is also a force that is extremely constrictive due to the associated character traits and assumptions that define how men and women should act. We attempted to discuss spaces in society that exist as gender free zones – that are not laden with gender roles and scripts that shape what we believe to be normal. We were hard pressed to come up with anything. Our speaker for the day, Sujata even highlighted that bic pens invented a pen just for women, naturally it is pink and purple, glittery, and has a cushion for the fingers. It sounded so ridiculous that even pen production has become gendered, but ideas like this one infiltrate the advertising world. Sujata pointed out that it is evidence that these gender scripts are working when we are not critical of them. It was an important reminder of the need to ask questions in order to be resistant – a theme that applies to our gendered norms and far beyond.

Through learning about 2nd wave feminism, we saw how it focuses on equity and equality, and brought ideas about education and employment access for women in view. It is important to always seek to recognize the layers of power dynamics at play. The idea of ‘benevolent sisterhood’ that arose during 2nd wave feminism sought to bring these ideas to a global scale, but there was pushback about how this negates social realities. Benevolent sisterhood steps into a realm of overreach, as it assumes that the experience of a privileged white woman has inherent similarities to the experience of a woman of color. Although we have a tendency to recognize humanity’s differences as opposed to similarities, we have to be careful to not make assumptions about experiences completely different from one’s own. Claiming sisterhood with women for whom we are the colonizer, oppressor, and an imperialist power has real consequences for overlooking realities that we have no experience with. It is another example of where we need to be learning, through hearing voices that are not traditionally heard, and acknowledging privileges in order to address the silencing of many groups in society.

A theme throughout our course has been creating positive peace instead of negative peace. Positive peace is a long process, an objective that sometimes feels impossible, an effort to create justice as opposed to silences. Seeking positive peace aims for equity for all, and requires an ethic that is adopted and worked at constantly. Is it an ethic we are ready to fully embrace? It has real consequences for how we view the world, our work, our interactions…everything. If we aren’t working for positive peace, what are we doing that we see as more worthwhile? Or is it just something easier? Today’s session exposed another powerful example of the spectrum of voices in the world that are distorted. Using a feminist perspective to redefine peace, power and justice challenges us to rethink these power dynamics, and believe that they can be transformed through a long journey toward equity.