Alice Walker’s essay Brothers and Sisters is about the obstacles a woman has to face. It immediately caught my attention when i first read it. This is a very tragic and realistic narrative. The essay clearly addresses feminism and sexism, revealing the aspects of how women are considered to be the weaker sex and men doing things according to their will. This piece of writing is a demonstration of women struggle for equality. The narrative takes place in the South during the fifties. Walker has five brothers and two sisters including herself. The fifth brother she never knew because he left home long ago when she was only three years old.
Back then, the society was accustomed to discrimination about men and women. Even the parents weren’t as close as they were expected to be. Only two ideas were to be followed by the two sexes. The first idea is that men are expected to have sex with women as Walker wrote, her father claimed to his sons, “a man needs to get a little something on his stick” (Walker 271). This type of action resembled a real man. The second idea is that the less a woman knows, the better she is. She was expected to not know about such things like sex and if she did then she was being “womanish” as mentioned in the essay, which is assumed a very bad way to be in those days. Her brothers followed the father’s advice to intimating with various women and leaving behind the responsibility of their children.
While the family takes pride in the activities of their sons, they also warned their daughters not to become pregnant because that would be a sin to abort a child. When Walker discusses the difficulties of her childhood, she says something strange. She feels that her elder sister is suffering from the experiences of being a woman on behalf of her own life (Walker 450). Besides that, Walker is very cunning; she appears as if she is mentally retarded and clueless of what is going around her when she is nothing of that kind. Therefore, Walker is forbidden from the humiliation that her sister has to face. Although, she feels horrible each moment as it happens to her sister. For example, when the elder sister gets her first menstruation, she is very frustrated because the mother never spoke to them about sexual maturity. The brothers laugh at her since she walks in a weird way, feeling uncomfortable herself wearing a pack of rags and suffering from severe cramps. These things for women are expected to be hidden otherwise it’s considered inappropriate and filthy.
However, it’s not simply in the way it deals with the so called facts of life but also in the way Alice Walker deals with her immediate family. In her father’s funeral, Walker finally meets the eldest brother and he’s different from all the brothers since he didn’t like mating. In addition, Walker has a rage against her family that she always hid inside. When she became a student of women’s liberation, she realizes that it was certainly not her father who had created these rules about men and women. It’s the society that made him think and enforced him to act in sexist behavior (Walker 272). She forgives her father for the injustice he did to them. She emphasizes on the main idea at the end of the essay.
Walker claims, “my father failed because he copied the hypocrisy. And my brothers except for one never understood they must represent half the world to me, as i must represent the other half to them” (Walker 273). In other words, the brothers were assumed to be a role-model for her, representing all the other men in the world; instead they dishonored the true meaning of men. Walker is extremely upset with her family and in her perspective, her father is a failure who misguided both his sons and daughters in a wrong way. Furthermore, it’s upsetting how men treated women as their mistress, yet want them to be unconscious of sex. Women were so harmless yet helpless and I feel the society has taken complete advantage of this innocuous human being.
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