Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Foul weather friends

The other day I visited a friend who has just completed the first draft of a book length work. It's her first manuscript, and she's excited about it, but also disappointed at a lack of enthusiasm, encouragement and praise from some of her friends.

I said, in effect: "Join the club." I have been writing for publication and pay over the past thirty-odd years (some of them very odd) and can count on the fingers of one hand my women "friends" who have respected my chosen work. (Two elderly father-figures used to, but they're dead now.)

Mulling over the matter, I remembered something Naomi Wolf wrote quite a few years ago in Fight Fire With Fire.

"Sisterhood is problematic," Wolf wrote. Girls bond as intimate friends who share thoughts and feelings, rather than as members of a team. The sisterhood model, she contends, "gives women little practice in accepting the notion that someone has legitimately won a leadership postion through her own merits and that the prize is open to all. Men's organizations, Wolf wrote, are not necessarily "relentless, one-on-one competitions" but can be very "collaborative and supportive", while women's groups can be "rife with veiled aggression and competitiveness."

Now, neither my writing amigo nor I would claim to be in "leadership" positions as writers or anything else. We're just pleased at having created something.

Recently I read the novel, Le Divorce, by Diane Johnson, in which one of the women characters sympathizes with our gender because she understands our "historical circumstances...centuries of oppression." It's hard to be openhearted and generous when you've been brought up in circumstances of scarcity - especially scarcity of opportunity.

Both my writing pal and I are women of a certain age. I'm hoping that younger women are free from envy and rejoice in each other's achievements.

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