On Female Friendship and Solidarity: Sula by Toni Morrison
Wouldn’t it be great if women will actually stand beside women to solidify each other's struggle? And if they believe in sisterhood and understand that the woman standing beside them on a metro station has also dragged her personal sufferings with her, that she is also fighting a different fight every day.
I had been reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex quite a lot these days where she has discussed how women do not use the word ‘we’ but believe in individual ‘I’. They lack the solidarity amongst themselves which is why patriarchy easily rules on them. I saw this ‘lackness’ in Toni Morrison’s Sula where she is talking about sisterhood and female friendships at a larger space. What lacks is the sense of sisterhood between these two friends: Nel and Sula, because of which both of them failed not themselves but each other too. Nel and Sula are two contrasting characters; Nel has accepted her fate and pursued married life but Sula is of wild nature who doesn’t want to be restricted to one person and explored her sexuality. She had been considered a slut by people of her town and Nel too distanced herself from her.
The book is as important as other books by Toni Morrison who is hailed as a writer who is not afraid to pen down societal realities in the most brutal manner. She has extensively talked about race and identity of black people in America but what she otherwise explored are the conventions of gender roles and motherhood associated with/for women. In the novel, the role and responsibility of children is thrown on women while the men excused themselves from such familial needs and responsibilities. But my sole purpose in this review is to talk about why female friendship is more important if we had to fight against the cultural inequalities. Many women have become advocated of patriarchy which is why they try to pull down other women who try to stand up on their feet. Our society has made our minds such, that we think that rules planned out for us are for our benefit.
Nel and Sula’s friendship got ruined because of the males in their lives, because they were taught to prioritise men over their female friends or family members. This reminded me of a poem by Adrienne Rich- Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law. This poem too talks about why women should stand with women and not consider them as their enemies. Do consider reading this poem while you are at it.
Sula’s sexual awakening is another major theme in this novel; though at times I too judged her but that was me 3 years ago, my mind too was moulded by the society to judge women who seek sexual freedom. But after a few months of reading Sula, I realised how she is my hero, that hers is one of the best representations of a woman who seeks complete independence. I now consider Sula as my favorite work of Toni Morrison. The book is very short and will take two sittings at most. Do share your thoughts with me when you finish it.