What’s Your Brotherhood?


Wherever you find a group of people with similar micro-cultures and struggles, whatever the demographic, you will find a brotherhood.

We find it in religions, the military, shared trauma and health issues and by country and state (ask any Texan).  We see it in men, women, sisters, brothers and of course fathers and mothers.

Micro-cultures such as these (and sometimes macro ones) all have something in common: if you are not in the “club” then you just don’t know.

Without shared experiences, the micro-culture doesn’t exist and sometimes it’s difficult to value and envision the very experiences that set someone apart.  Those significant commonalities tie hearts together and separate a group from an otherwise a generic human experience.  If you’re not “in,” you don’t know.

If you’ve never had cancer and never been through chemo, there’s no way you truly understand what it’s like for someone who’s going through it now.  If you’ve never lost a child, no matter how horrible it might seem to you, you don’t know the pain of someone who has.  If you’ve never been abused, had an alcoholic parent or been hurt by a pathological liar, you can’t know the pain and the harm it causes.  That last sub-group of abusers is especially insidious, because there are no watch-dog or support organizations to help the addicted or the abused.  Just as a man cannot know what it’s like to have a monthly period, any more than a woman knows what it’s like to be kicked in the groin.  You can try to equate it to something, but it’s never going to be like the real experience.

If you’ve never been discriminated against, for any reason, you can’t claim to understand what it’s like.  Religiously, racially, sexually.  They’re all different.  If you’ve never been on the front line defending your country (or anyone for that matter), you have no idea what that’s like or what it takes.  If you’ve never lost (or been born without) a body part, you can’t begin to know the battles someone who has faces every day.

It’s just the physical/logical reality of the way things are.

And that’s fine.  It’s normal not to be infinite enough to know what all these experiences are like, inside and out.  It’s normal that there’s a huge diversity of shared experiences and micro-cultures that differ.  That’s where brotherhoods come to be.  And I use that term loosely to cover sisterhoods and mixed-hoods too. (So no griping at me.)

But here’s the thing.  As a part of any brotherhood, there’s an unspoken support code. Whatever one it is that you fall into: Are you loyal to it?  I mean, because of all people, those who are “in the club” are supposed to know.  You’re supposed to be empathetic.

This question occurred to me in particular when it comes to mothers.

There’s no doubt that motherhood (and parenthood) is a unique and challenging role in the human experience.  No amount of research can prepare you for it and no one child is ever identical to another.  But there are so many new experiences and challenges that come with motherhood – ones you can’t get any other way.  And mother to mother, we know.  Or at least we should.  And that alone commands a powerful loyalty amongst comrades.

I think I’ll ponder on these things a little longer and write more tomorrow.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “What’s Your Brotherhood?

  1. I really interesting post. I followed your link from Blogher, thank you..

  2. That should have been “a really interesting post” :) #notenoughcoffeeyet

  3. Carmel Johnson

    I wonder if it’s that “motherhood” is a macro culture and the various flavors (eg. special needs, baby/toddler, preschool, teenager, SAHM, working, and so many more) are the micro cultures. The more we surround ourselves with people from the same micro culture the easier it is to forget about the other micro cultures and that they have their experiences too.

    Similarly, we have the macro culture of “American”, but there are so many micro cultures within that macro it’s a wonder anyone can come up with a stereotypical “American”.

    I think a lot of conflicts arise from the differences between micro cultures- much more than we think about. Thank you for this post, it’s started some interesting thoughts. (Too bad I have to now get the kids back to school- being part of the homeschool, Christian, geek, crafty, and laid-back micro cultures here. ;)

    • I have to chuckle as I run off to be a taxi-driver myself Carmel. Thanks for adding to the discussion! I think you are right about the micro-cultures within the macro-culture forgetting that others exist. It’s part of what I want to touch on and explore today.

      • Carmel Johnson

        It really takes an effort to get out and meet people outside of one’s “normal” group. Even on the internet, message boards will develop cliques. I never cease to be amazed at the capacity of the human race to divide itself.

        I’ve found it helpful to either try to be part of multiple micro groups, or better yet, multiple macro groups. You can meet different micro groups by switching macro groups. That seems to help me better understand other micro groups within a single macro group. (Listening to various people I meet through crochet can help me understand other moms, for instance.)

        Otherwise, you have to make a decided effort to listen to the “other side” as well as your own. Which may be harder, especially if the “other side” is attacking yours.

        That said, discovering that you are not alone in your particular combination of micro cultures can be a wonderful thing. When I discovered the Christian Geek group on Ravelry, I cried a little out of sheer happiness. (Christian geeks are fairly rare- a lot of Christians aren’t sure it’s even “ok” to be geeky. But to discover that they played with yarn too??? I was overcome. Never mind that most of them were not mothers…) It’s the sensation of being “with my people”, and belonging that we all want at some point in our lives as well.

        So perhaps in the end it’s still all about balance and moderation.

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