Review: Sisterhood Interrupted, Deborah Siegel

What is it about infighting that I find so enthralling? Siegel suggests that American culture has a fetish for girls (women) fighting, and that’s certainly true, but in my case I am just very interested in the distinctions people draw between the groups they belong to, and the nominally similar groups they insist they couldn’t be more different from. I am reminded of Lucas in Empire Records: “Some people say it doesn’t make a difference, but I say it’s the difference that makes it.” Lucas is talking about vinyl, but the principle is, I feel, a universal one.

Sisterhood Interrupted is about feminism, its different waves and iterations and the squabbles — well, you know, the ideological differences – between them, from first wave to post to post-post-feminism, Betty Friedan to Ariel Levy, Kate Millett to Katie Roiphe. (Deborah Siegal is very reasonable about Katie Roiphe, more than I think I would be. It’s not even her conclusions that infuriate me (though they are certainly irritating), it’s the shoddy methods she uses to arrive at them. “If one in four of my friends were being raped, wouldn’t I know about it?” is not an argument! The plural of anecdote is not data! #grumblegrumble)

As a self-avowed feminist (by which, incidentally, I do not mean that society doesn’t act like a poop to men as well as to women), it was fascinating to read this overview of the different movements and changes within feminism. Siegel plainly admires many of the figures in the feminist movement, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of her objectivity. She readily brings up the problems in the rhetoric and actions of the various groups of feminists, and explores the ways in which these problems translated into divisions and discord.

I nearly got this book for Indie Sister for Christmas — in fact, that’s why I checked it out at the library, to see if it would be a good Christmas gift. Then I found gifts for her at the Brooklyn Flea, work book sale, the Strand, and PaperbackSwap, which means I am giving her a bunch of stuff. The other problem is that Sisterhood Interrupted is so short. It’s only 168 pages plus notes and bibliography, and while it’s a fantastic overview for its length, it is just that: an overview. I feared that Indie Sister, who attends anarchist feminist meetings and reads Germaine Greer in the bathtub, would already know all of the knowledge contained within Sisterhood Interrupted. And would sneer at me for supposing that this book could teach her anything.

Overview seekers, this book is for you! Read it!

On this leisurely Saturday morning, I am virtuously linking links. Then it’s off back to the Strand to buy more books and gaze longingly at the Lyttelton-Hart Davis correspondence and Hyde’s Wilde: The Aftermath (seriously, they have a ridiculous number of Oscar Wilde books at the Strand, like three shelves of them, including some books I don’t even own).

Other reviews:

Book Addiction (thanks for the recommendation, Heather!)
The 3 Rs

Ha, that was easy. But tell me if I missed yours.

22 thoughts on “Review: Sisterhood Interrupted, Deborah Siegel

  1. It would be interesting to know how one could do a good overview in such a short book. On the other hand, if one just wants an overview, why not a brief one?

    Oh, “off to the Strand…” wish I could say that!

    • True! It is good for creating a small network of associations in your brain for further reading — so when I encounter these figures again, I will be all, Oh, yes, Camille Paglia, I remember her name.

      The Strand is miserably crowded at Christmas, if that makes you feel any better, and wayyyyy too hot. I am hoping it has calmed down a bit by now.

  2. I don’t think I’d be very reasonable about Katie Roiphe myself either #grumblesalongwithyou

    This does sound a bit frustratingly short, but I think I want to read it anyway.

  3. Ooh I am a fan of books about feminism (even if I think it would be nice for all us girls to agree, just on principle, to make us strong) and haven’t read one in an age. I’ll have to look out for this.

  4. I haven’t read much about feminism, so I feel that I am a bit like a fish out of water when it comes to the subject, but this review does bring to mind a piece about feminism and female aggression that I read awhile ago. If I can find it, I will have to send it to you.

    • Oo, I hope you can find it. If you don’t know much about feminism, I think this is a goodish introduction to the different waves of the movement. And it is well-written too!

  5. A brief overview might be just the thing for me; I’m going to look for this.
    Also, if you’re interested in the idea of arsenic creatures, read Joan Slonczewski’s The Children Star (dedicated to me and Ron, so of course I think it’s a good book).

  6. I’m glad you found your copy and finished it :-)! I agree with you re: wishing the book was longer, but Siegel packs a lot into those few pages, and it’s a very balanced overview. Thanks for linking to my review!

  7. Whoa, your sister sounds amazing. I want to hang out with ladies who read Germaine Greer in the tub!

    Personally I’ve reached more of a details/primary sources place with feminism than an overview place, but this sounds like a great resource for those wanting a quick primer on the different currents in the movement! I think for a lot of folks, the label “feminism” has become confusing just because there are so many different shades of philosophy that get collected under that heading.

  8. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I agree that it could have been longer, but like you said, it’s an overview and I think a good one. ๐Ÿ™‚ I certainly learned a lot from the book!

    • Me too, and I am glad that I finally got around to reading it. Sometimes I am embarrassed at the massive lag time between my reading a review of a book I want to read, and then actually reading that book. :p

  9. I just got an ARC of Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life, which I will be reviewing in January. File under related reads! I will track this one down in the mean time.

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