Here are the reading guide questions answered for you to read and see if you agree with me.
Reading Guide: The Twisted Sisterhood http://www.randomhouse.com/rhpg/rc//tag/twisted-sisterhood
You know all about the trouble with “mean girls” and competitive, judgmental women. Maybe you had a cruel high school experience straight out of the movie Carrie. Maybe you find yourself anxious because your daughter’s peers are excluding her. Maybe you’ve been harassed or marginalized by other females for being something they were or are not. That’s just the way girls and women operate. But have you ever considered what all this negativity is doing to us?
In The Twisted Sisterhood, Kelly Valen picks up where her arresting New York Times essay about a painful sorority encounter left off. She pulls back the curtain on female relationships, revealing the troubling findings from her unique survey of more than three thousand women from all walks of life.
Consider these discussion questions when reading The Twisted Sisterhood!
1. Do you find that your own experiences with girls and women correspond with some of the experiences women from the author’s survey were reporting? If yes, in what ways?
I do find that my experiences are similar. For example, the part about working with men as bosses over women. As a general rule at every job I have found it easier to work with my male counterparts and not just because I felt I got away with some things but because they allowed more leeway than my female bosses. In essays, emails, telephone conversations, discussions on things I needed to talk about. It felt easier for me to interact with them. As I have gotten older though I have preferred to work with female bosses as I have learned to do things a different way. But of all the bosses that I have had, I have two that are the best for me a male and a female boss. The male taught me how to actually make better office skills and time management as well. And the female taught me that it’s okay to be angry as long as my work is done and I know my shit something that I learned in highschool a long time ago from my English teacher. Another thing that I agreed with was people being mean girls and how it affects us even as we age. When I was in high school like the author I was called a lesbian. In particular what I heard was that I was interested in sleeping with this girl I went to church with which wasn’t true but I never mentioned it. Why? Because although it bothered me it showed me that they truly didn’t know me nor care about me. I was also talked about in how I smelled because I had body odor and it was bad and I had acne. This all stays with you throughout your life so much so that if you are like me- when you are in public you go out of your way to avoid persons when you have bad body odor or bad other things. I think some of my friends have that same feeling too.
2. In thinking about your own relationships with women, did you find parts of this book surprising, unpleasant, or emotionally difficult to read? If so, which parts and why?
No I didn’t find them difficult, unpleasant to read but I did find some of it surprising. For example, I can relate and I can’t relate. Not with my mom but with friends and listening to their conversation with their moms. However, I didn’t hear any of what she calls the shit talking though. The quote found on p 142 says “ I think the apple very rarely falls far from the tree. But personally? I hated my mother’s gossipy, shit-talking nature. I rejected it completely. Patty” But I do gossip and I had to watch it and stop it. So the goal is going back to not gossiping and speaking only what I know to be fact and/or that I can back up if I don’t know for sure that it is fact. Also I watch what people say to me and what I say to them. I speak so they can understand and I speak slowly. I speak with exhibits and I speak with clarity. This way I know that it isn’t misunderstood. And I think that is a good way to be for the present and the future.
On page 125 it says “Dowd has said much the same “[W]hen you use sexism as an across the board shield for any legitimate question, “ she cautioned,” you only hurt women. And that’s just another splash of reality.” But when we think of sexism I normally think of it in work context not necessarily personal context. But it normally happens say when you have a man/woman working and the boss is upset about say a paper or an exhibit and he goes to the girl to fix It but the guy can just send out. And personally it is when you have a group of friends and the one friend just thinks that all women can’t make a decision, pay a bill raise their sons live their lives.
3. A number of women told the author they found groups of girls and women particularly intimidating or difficult to deal with, preferring a more one-on-one style of camaraderie. Have you found yourself feeling the same way?
I can agree and relate to the one-on-one style. I have never been very comfortable in a crowded room. I call myself crowd-strophobic. So I don’t like a lot of people. Going to dances was hard because I would be in a corner. The dance club in New York without the alcohol (yes I had false courage) was hard but I can do it. The school venue in a room even with my peers was hard because although we were the same age they were the hardest on me and each other sometimes even more so than my family. Like I had decided my senior year in college (and I have related this many times over) that I had decided my senior year Christmas season that I was going to be me. And that it didn’t matter if you didn’t like me because I was good enough for me and if you didn’t like me screw you. And do you know my teacher my senior English teacher said to me when I went to see him for my senior thesis that I had changed. That I was different somehow more settled not necessarily good or bad but that I was more self assured and I had gotten better. And he liked my paper. Helps too you know. And then when I went to college I was like I am just going to be me and you will like me. And after college when I started going to work for real that I was just going to be me and be a good worker and you will like me. And now where am I? Somehow back to the beginning prior to that despite all of my reassurances, and my good determination and my feelings of that I have gotten it- I haven’t really but I am getting there. All of this is to say that most of my interaction with the same sex has always been not of a good variety. They are catty, jealous, ignorant, judgmental, malicious, greedy, posers, and the will steal your guy and say to you that you are just not worth his time because you aren’t a real woman. And do you know what pisses me off about that is I really sometimes end up believing them because I have done ignorant things, and have acted ignorant, and have said ignorant things, and the men truly don’t like me and the women even less so, and I am not as experienced as they are and no matter how much I say to you or to them that I am a good enough person your ignorant behind will always say no you are not. And I get tired. So I don’t deal in a group basis well because all of the feelings of anxiety and hurt always well up. And then I found a trick to dealing with all of the women in a group- just think of them as the really very nasty jealous catty female posers that steal your men they really are. And you know what- I think it’s sad that you can’t see that’s what you are. And for the ones that aren’t then you really aren’t that way.
4. One of the more common coping mechanisms or adaptations women have reported in the wake of their female-on-female hurts is keeping other women at arm’s length and not letting them in too close — at least not until they’ve “proven” themselves. Can you relate to that sentiment or know other women who seem to relate in this way?
Guilty. You can’t be my friend from the door that is the honest to God’s truth. But I will not judge you until I have spent time with you. Only your actions will tell on you and what you say will tell on you. That is not to say that some don’t get the quick reaction of oh I’m a like you. But not as much as when I was little. I have learned that the best friendships or the ones that have a chance of getting there are the ones built over time and conversation as oppose to quick reaction and interpretation. And I can now despite holding them at arms length at least judge a little better and coming from me who has had it proven that she is a poor judge of character- that is a good thing.
5. Do you agree with the many women who feel that the hurts dealt by our fellow females often sting us in a unique and/or profound way — in ways the hurts dealt by men often do not? If so, why do you think this is the case?
I don’t agree with you on that because it hurts either way. And a man can hurt you the same way as a female.
6. The author and the majority of her survey respondents suggest that engaged, proactive mothering is a key component to improving relationships among females and fostering a more authentic, hospitable, and collaborative “sisterhood.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Do you see mothers as getting a bad rap or do you think more mothers could use a wake-up call when it comes to raising their daughters?
Chapter 8 the quote from Harriet, a 61 year old museum docent- It was agonizing to see them exclude her and make her feel so unworthy. It was like watching a movie of my own life except it’s probably worse as a mother, actually. It’s bad to admit this-they’re just kids-but I couldn’t stand those little witches. Man do I know what you are talking about.
I can relate and I can’t relate. Not with my mom but with friends and listening to their conversation with their moms. However, I didn’t hear any of what she calls the shit talking though. The quote found on p 142 says “ I think the apple very rarely falls far from the tree. But personally? I hated my mother’s gossipy, shit-talking nature. I rejected it completely. Patty” But I do gossip and I had to watch it and stop it. So the goal is going back to not gossiping and speaking only what I know to be fact and/or that I can back up if I don’t know for sure that it is fact. Also I watch what people say to me and what I say to them. I speak so they can understand and I speak slowly. I speak with exhibits and I speak with clarity. This way I know that it isn’t misunderstood. And I think that is a good way to be for the present and the future.
7. The author acknowledges that it is an ambitious goal to inspire real social change but does offer some ideas for how this might be accomplished among girls and women, including her “Handy Top 15” tips in Chapter 12. Can you imagine some others?
I can’t really think of others. However, I think that we should as she says: “Consider the lasting effects that your words and actions might have on other females, the every type of fallout discussed in this book.; Curb the gratuitous meanness and negativity.; Stop supporting the very cultural influences you say you object to, the ones that feed the negative climate of which you complain.; Be more inclusive, less exclusive.; Mothers-please quit judging.; Stop fretting so very much about your looks, your body, yourself.; Awaken from thy slumber. Strip the automatic smug, snark, cynical, and nasty from your vernacular.; Respect, tolerate and support.; Try to forgive yourself and the women who have sliced and diced your psyche.; Working women: Seriously, please chill.; Bystanders: Please start upstanding.; Please take your job seriously if you aren’t already.; Even if things seem just fine on your side of the pond, keeps an open mind about how you and other girls and women might be contributing to a negative or inhospitable culture.; Once again, with feeling: Pause. Think twice. Restrain thyself. Support.” Found pages 185-189 and although I think those are all self explanatory I would like to add: to maintain your self respect by making sure that if you have something to say that may not be what the other person considers to be true that you support yourself with facts and not fiction; that you listen and hear meaning repeat what you hear so that they know you are listening and don’t interrupt what they have to say and teach your daughters all of the above.
8. Many survey respondents believe that relations among females often improve as we age. Has this been your experience? Is this your hope?
I don’t exactly disagree with it and I don’t exactly agree with it. The reason is that when I was younger after I got into Junior High I could not maintain friendships with other women. We would be friends for a year and then that would be it. But when I went to college the friendships did last a little longer but I still had the problem of maintaining. Some I have kept throughout the years after college. After college however, I have found that the women I have met through my job may end up being the ones that may or may not be the mainstay for friendships because some of us have reconnected through Facebook and I am seeing how their lives are and I am hoping to meet them and see how they are doing as well as maintain some friendships I started in college.
9. One overriding theme in the book is that no matter how content or supported you might personally feel with your current circle of girlfriends, each of us holds a stake in helping foster a more mindful civility among all females in our society. Would you agree? What would you be willing to do to advance that goal and achieve a new status quo or “new normal” among females in this country?
I think that is true. My goal stems from the problems that I face as an African American 37 year old female two years off of 40 years old. The problems that I face are the same as those my age and some younger than me. But my goal is to have someone who is a confident when I am older in my 60’s like the other women I have known in my life that have helped to raise me such as my mother and her family. To do that I read up on self help novels, attend seminars, watch you-tube videos, listen to other’s conversations; go to church events and community events geared towards women of color and also talk with my other sisters in the community.
10. How do you think the author herself may have benefitted from conducting the survey and writing her book?
I think she learned a lot about herself and a lot about what makes her a woman.