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The Family Silver

The Family Silver: Essays on Relationships among Women

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    The Family Silver
    Book Description:

    In an inventive and controversial collection of essays, sociologist Susan Krieger considers the many forms of wealth, both material and emotional, that women pass on to each other. This domestic heritage-the "family silver"-is the keystone for a discussion of mother-daughter relationships, intimate relationships between lesbians, ties between students and feminist teachers, the dilemmas of women in academia as well as in the broader work world, and the importance of female separatism. Drawing on her experiences as a lesbian, a feminist, and a teacher, Krieger presents a stunning critique of higher education. She argues for acknowledging gender in all areas of women's lives and for valuing women's inner realities and outer forms of expression. Krieger has developed a distinctly feminist approach to understanding and scholarship. Her style is self-revelatory, emotional, and at the same time deeply analytical. Her essays pioneer a new method of locating, defining, and honoring female values.The Family Silverincludes a thought-provoking discussion of gender roles among women, including the author's experience of being mistaken for a man; an exploration of teaching in a feminist classroom; and a description of the controversy that resulted when the author refused to allow a hostile male student to take one of her courses. Beautifully written,The Family Silveraddresses issues of central concern to feminists, postmodernists, and queer theorists and encourages new insights into how gender profoundly affects us all.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91705-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XII)
    (pp. 1-10)

    The family silveris an unusual collection of essays. It is at once an intensely individual and emotional set of reflections and a more general sociological study. These essays were written as a collection and are intended as a contribution to feminist scholarship and feminist teaching, to the ethnographic tradition in sociology, and to emerging scholarship in lesbian and gay studies. I also intend them to be emotionally moving personal reading.The Family Silverdraws on my particular life experiences—as a woman, a lesbian, a teacher—in order to contribute to our understanding of female gender. In previous work,...

  5. Part One Personal Settings

      (pp. 13-33)

      I am interested in how ideas about gender organize identity and social relationships among women. Perhaps because I am a lesbian and have noticed how women who are lesbian adopt one gender role or the other (female or male), then discard it, combine roles, and act in ways that confuse me, I feel a need to come to better terms with the use of gender roles by women. Why am I fascinated, confused, repulsed, and drawn in when a woman acts like a stereotypical man, or like a stereotypical woman, for instance? Why do I hate, at one moment, to...

      (pp. 34-64)

      Twenty years ago, I first lived with another woman. This is a story about that experience, excerpted from a novel I later wrote. Although written in the third person, it is strictly autobiographical. To me, this story is not only about lesbians, but also about female-female relating and the challenge of intimacy between women. I call it “Becoming a Lesbian” because, for me, being a lesbian is an ongoing process of seeking intimacy, personal value, and happiness with another woman.¹ This process may have an initial stage, but it does not have an end. Often, I think, becoming a lesbian...

      (pp. 65-81)

      I have just come back from a trip to Florida to settle the affairs of my lover’s aunt, who died suddenly at the age of seventy. She was carrying her groceries up the stairs to her apartment when she dropped dead of a heart attack. A neighbor found her. When we arrived several weeks later, we found her grocery list and the cash register receipt itemizing what she had bought—lettuce, tomatoes, salad dressing, breakfast cereal, milk, tuna fish. It was an otherworldly experience: going to Florida, where I had not been before, to clean out the house of a...

      (pp. 82-106)

      My mother has always seemed big to me. I used to think she looked like Marilyn Monroe. As I got older, I thought she looked more like Ingrid Bergman, which means that I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. When I was growing up, we would ask my mother why we had to do something. “Because I am your mother,” she would say, and I would think she must not feel she was our mother if she had to say this. My mother seemed to me a person who felt absent apart from the role...

  6. Part Two Academic Settings

      (pp. 109-129)

      In this essay, i speak of how I have been hurt by institutional rejections. My purpose is to make my own reality visible and to see how my individual experience is a female experience. I also wish to identify how faults of an institution are felt as the faults of an individual. Speaking of discontent with institutional arrangements seems to me particularly important for women, for too often the failures of the outer world to respond to us are internalized and felt as an inner failure. When I acknowledge my own pain and its sources, I feel relief. I also...

      (pp. 130-154)

      A few days ago, I cleared the remaining syllabi, books, and student papers from my study so that I would not be reminded of classes and teaching and, especially, of certain troubles I had this past quarter. My course on women and organizations went extremely well, but my course on feminist methodology in the social sciences had difficulties. When I had taught this course previously, it had felt very special to the students and to me. This time, however, it felt like a nightmare. The trouble began when I refused to allow a third-year male graduate student to take the...

      (pp. 155-168)

      Not long ago, a graduate student called to interview me for a master’s thesis on experiences of lesbian and gay sociologists. She was interested in the effects of being gay on their academic lives. Was prejudice an issue? What happened in their universities and over the course of a career? I agreed to do the interview, but I told no one about it, for I felt I ought not to speak with her. Although I do have relevant experiences as a lesbian, I have always felt these experiences are not supposed to matter. Being a lesbian is, internally, a source...

  7. Part Three Feminist Teaching

      (pp. 171-195)

      I have taught a course called Women and Organizations for the past eight years, seven times at one institution and once each at two others. Students, most of them women, take this course because they wish to be successful in a man’s world and not to be disadvantaged because they are women. I teach the course for a different reason, because I like women and am interested in women’s worlds. There is a basic set of topics in my course: women’s development, boundaries, and styles of communication; women’s experiences in organizations; women’s work; and female separatism. But equally important are...

      (pp. 196-217)

      My central goal in Women and Organizations is to enable the students to recognize the importance of female separatism. I also want them to understand the problems of women’s groups. For, if separate women’s organizations are important, then it is desirable to grasp the difficulties these groups face, especially the internal difficulties that often threaten the groups’ survival. Women’s organizations are treated differently by the external world. They receive fewer material resources than men’s and mixed organizations, and their boundaries are invaded more carelessly, with greater destructive effect. But the biggest problem for women’s organizations is that women themselves devalue...

      (pp. 218-236)

      The eighth week of Women and Organizations is titled on the syllabus “Circles within Circles: Dilemmas of Belonging in a Women’s Group.” Here I begin to pale, for I know what is coming. We are going to read my book about a lesbian community. From experiences of past years, I know that the students approach this book with high expectations that, within its pages, they will find an ideal women’s community. If women are good, then lesbians, they now expect, must be exceptionally good in their relationships with one another.

      An important part of the students’ experience in readingThe...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 239-270)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)