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.