Welcome. :)

Welcome to my blog. Here I share my successes and failures along my journey to becoming an anthropologist. My most prominent interest anthropologically are the new approaches to handing food security/healthy eating in the US, particularly in urban "food deserts". I enjoy the Anthropology of Tourism as well; combining food and tourism has scholarly promise. My other interests which have converted into anthropological hobbies of sorts include converts to Islam, diaspora of Muslims, and MENA in general. I also have some interest in historical archaeology.

I welcome comments, discussion and even respectful debating. I will however keep discussions to a respectable level. I reserve the right to ban anyone from this forum.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sisterhood (not of the traveling pants!)

I am taking a break out of my crazy busy life to write up what I believe to be an important topic of interest, especially to women.
Lately I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about the concept of 'sisterhood'--both religious and secular. I always had an enormously difficult time making female friends. If I made them, I never usually kept them! I never liked relationships based upon superficiality and with women it is no exception. I have 4 blood sisters and I really am grateful for them even if we did have some rocky times over the years. I am super close to one in particular and I am currently not fighting with any of them. :-) With one sister in particular, I can be 100% myself and still feel loved/accepted. I find that that is what we are looking for in friendships/sisterhood. We all need someone to depend on, talk to, listen to, share with and have a "soft place to fall".

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I do not know why I have not made the kind of friendships with women that I desire. Do not get me wrong--I have some wonderful women in my life based upon Muslim sisterhood in particular (although not many at all). Not much out of that realm unfortunately. I find I am taken advantage of too much or we just do not stay in touch or even worse--we do not connect at all on a deep level. Maybe I do not know how to be a good friend. I am not a gossip and I stand by my word unless it is an emergency.

In my desperation for friendship, I thought I would reach out to a women who I know from the Oakland Nature Preserve
. She has an unusual facination for animals of the buggy kind (bugs..lol) but whatever. She took me on a tour of the historic area where I am doing research. We went to the historic hotel, had lunch in a cutsey French Style Cafe but did not connect at the deeper level I wanted. She did send me some links which were relevant to my paper. I thanked her and told her it was really great spending time with her that day. She did not respond. Again, I feel shot down but not for long. lol I will say I envy the women who have the kind of friendship where it is ok to call in the middle of the night or when you have a flat tire and need a ride or just because.

I would like to make some more Muslim friendships but I find, not only through my research on converts but in my personal experience that identity plays a huge role within relationships such as this. I find I do not connect on a deep level with non-converts. Am I making myself clear? I hope so because sometimes I do not understand my own self. I am almost always the outsider looking in within the Muslim circle--unless I am among converts. That feeling is not unusual. I just do not know to work within these parameters.

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Finally, the above topic brings me to another arena where I cannot seem to make friends--anthropology circles! Maybe I am too weird even to them--who are "supposed" to be unusual by nature. I struggle to develop friends and go through periods of giving up. I am almost there now once again....

In closing...we have to love this quote from the mother of anthropology!

Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship. ~Margaret Mead



Chiara said...

What a great topic! Thanks for sharing this.
I have only one sister and we are 17 months apart. As the older one it was my role to answer that even before I knew what it meant, when we were invariably asked as small children "Are you two twins?". The twinning was partly our similar colouring, my sister being tall for her age, and my mother being obsessed with twins and dressing us alike, especially for more dressy (ie not play clothes) occasions.

We have been very close with great periods of rivalry but a core foundation of love. We have felt better about each other after the throws of adolescence when we learned to appreciate how different we really are--despite my mother's belief initially, or other people's expectations. In fact we are laughably opposite in many responses to things or even tastes.

If Canadians are culturally waffling between Europe and the US, I am definitely Europe and she is definitely the US. My mother used to think we didn't like the same thing for lunch on purpose, but we have now grown to order totally different things from the menu.

I have a former Spanish professor who is now a friend, and who also has only one sister. They are the same in that they love and support one another but are like night and day. She is also the older, travelling, more international one, and her sister the closer to home more conservative one. In her case it is even more dramatic: she is anti-Franco and left-leaning; her sister is a Franco supporter and definitely on the right. They spend every Christmas together, also with friends and relatives; and she dutifully promises not to discuss politics for the 2 week period.

I have found it relatively easy to have women friends, but I do appreciate having men friends as well. The perspectives are often different and enlightening. Also they are supportive in a different way. Where women commiserate more, men are more likely to be solution focussed--all on a spectrum of course. Each type of support has its value.

I found that I have made more profound friendships with women I met in graduate school, or professional school, or other career women. We have more in common at a deeper level I guess.

I am unsurprised in a way the you have a friendship divide among women who are born Muslims or converts. The relationship to Islam can be quite different, as are the issues about being a Muslim-in-the-world, or in the US. Also, since you are fairly new to your commitment and re-commitment to Islam, these differences may be more important at this point in your life.

I am sure you know how to make and maintain friendships. It seems you need to be drawing from a bigger pool of like minded people, which will probably happen through graduate school, and your ongoing commitment to Islam.

Also there are types of friendship. Some are deep, long lasting, and survive long absences, some are in-the-moment, some are for fun and socialization, etc. All are valuable.

Very inspiring post--thanks!

Chiara said...

PS Love the Mary Cassat, American Impressionist, almost as much as her French Impressionist "sister", Berthe Morissot; Renoir has some wonderful sister portraits.

Great quote from Margaret Mead--deserves to be framed and hung above sisters' beds, especially bunk beds! LOL :)

Anthrogeek10 said...

Thank you Chiara for sharing about your sister relationship. I hope yourmom has finally learned you two are individuals. lol My sister and I (the one I am close with) had violent fights! She pulled a knife on me once....teen emotions at their best. lol We survived.

"and she dutifully promises not to discuss politics for the 2 week period."

Probably something I need to do with my own sister (a different one--a "military" person). She was so pro-GWB! AUGH! LOL

I just have not been lucky enough to have the deep meaningful long lasting kind. I mean, in some times of my life I have but not as much now. Social "friends" are easy to come by....not sure if I need another one of those. :)

Susanne said...

I enjoyed this. I have a sister, but we aren't super-close. I have some kind friends, but not the types I share everything with or would call in the middle of the night. Maybe it's my own fault because I keep most people at a distance. I actually share more things online by writing, it seems. Hmmm

Thanks for sharing about sisterhood. :)

The Nomadic Gourmet said...

I have 3 sisters, one is elder to me by 3 years another younger to me by 6 years, and the other younger by 12 years! So, as you can imagine we didn't grow up like pals. I always felt like the younger ones were keeping me from having fun, since my parents always made me babysit them. I've always had close female friends thankfully, but most of my friends are males.

I know what you mean about feeling like the odd one amongst people who come from muslim families. I also feel the same way. Especially around arabs. They say stuff like mashallah and alhumdulillah and bismillah so much and they seem a bit disturbed by the fact that I don't say it so often. Like they'll ask me how I'm doing and I'll say 'fine, thank you' and they'll say in a loud voice, 'alhumdulillah' and look at me like they're wondering if I'm really even a muslim. I always forget that I'm not supposed to tell them how I'm doing; I'm just supposed to say 'alhumdulillah'. Makes me feel awkward, and a bit like a reject lol.

Chiara said...

I really enjoyed all the further comments from the "sisters". I do think one can find "soul sisters" in the most unlikely places, and that is wonderful. Biological sisters have a certain genetic bond, and those one grew up with a social bond (for better and for worse) but the friends who are "like sisters" are usually chosen for deeper affinities and are very important.

Formal sisterhoods probably have more social convention, boundaries and cliques attached to them as does the Muslim sisterhood or the Catholic Sisters, or others.

Where there are significant age gaps the children have a very different experience of the family, and are often as the Nomadic Gourmet said burdened with caretaking, babysitting or otherwise being a "parentified child". Geographic distance and being raised in different families, eg stepsisters, half-sisters can also be challenging, but of these some are soul sisters too.

Off topic--Discovered the song Moi et Toi from your playlist. Thanks!

Anthrogeek10 said...

Thanks for everyone for responding and I will keep this discussion going after my semester! :-)

Speaking of sisters, my own sister had a bad case of pms and that wrath was generated at me last week. :O lol

Anthrogeek10 said...

"Like they'll ask me how I'm doing and I'll say 'fine, thank you' and they'll say in a loud voice, 'alhumdulillah' and look at me like they're wondering if I'm really even a muslim. "


I feel like a reject too sometimes. I read something in a monthly newsletter of the American Anthropological Association which, although was in the "Gay/Lesbian Anthropologist Section" rang true for me.
The writer was talking about the identity of belonging and converts to Islam tend to experience this issue over and over again. He said, "labels were a way of finding group solidarity--a kind of ecolocation in a world of otherness..." (Houston 51:2010). I really liked that last part in particular. Our experience among other Muslims resonates how accepted we are among them. I have been accepted by the Pakistani community more so than Arab ones; something that confuses and upsets me periodically.

Thanks for sharing.

Chiara said...

Great applicable quote about ecolocation!