Thirsty for a Fresh Take on All Things True Blood?

WELCOME! Thirsty for a fresh take on all things True Blood? Pull up a virtual barstool at the Pierced Pomegranate Tavern where sisters Rachel and Rebecca are serving up juicy feminist analysis with a twist and opening a vein of thoughtful sociocultural dialogue on HBO's hit series.

Like the epic literary salons of eras past - theaters for conversation and debate which were, incidentally, started and run by women; where the spirited debate about the issues of the day ran as copiously as the actual spirits did - but updated for the digital age, the Pierced Pomegranate Tavern is a fun forum for exploring questions ripe for discourse about the human condition & today's most crucial social issues through the medium of True Blood.

Your salonnières are not peddling liquor per se, but they are offering up new and alternative ideas informed by such diverse influences as pop culture, art, music, cultural history, Goddess studies, transformative theory, literature and poetry, and archaeomythology, filtered through the sieve of their own lived experiences as feminist women of a particular age, background, and culture.

This is a space where you - patrons and passersby alike - can view and engage with these perspectives through the lens of True Blood and contribute your own thoughts. So, no matter if you're a Truebie or a more casual viewer of True Blood, or your drink of choice is a pomegranate martini - one of Rachel's favorite cocktails to drink and Rebecca's to mix - an herbal tea, a frothy double mocha latte, or a can of Fresca (wink, wink) you're invited to join the conversation on the show's complexities in a way that can spark transformation.

Hopefully you'll find something to sink your teeth...err...straw, into! PLEASE ENJOY RESPONSIBLY ;-)


The Pierced Pomegranate Tavern is dedicated to exploring social issues and more through the lens of True Blood. As such, you may encounter:

related to the often provocative and adult themes presented by the show

If you choose to enter and participate in this virtual salon, please be prepared to do so in a thoughtful, respectful, and mature fashion with the above in mind. Click here to check out our comment policy. Thanks!


No copyright infringement is intended, all rights to True Blood belong to HBO, credit is ascribed to sites where images appearing here were originally found.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Raise a Glass to Real Grrrl Power - Women in Solidarity Part III - Theme 2 - Female Competition and Alternatives to It

In this third installment of the Real Grrrl Power series, we'll be putting female rivalry and conflict in perspective by taking a look at images of women's relationships in True Blood and their parallels in the art, stories, narratives, and histories of the past and present in the context of the theme:
  • Female Competition Manifested in the Classic Love Triangle & Alternatives to It 
It's time to put back on that good 'ol metaphoric thinking cap!

According to the media (and maybe real life too), if it's not men (and it often is), there's got to be something we're vying for; jockeying for position, scrambling over each other to get. That dream home, ideal career, status, respect, friends, money...or maybe it's the coveted E! Fashion Police vote for who wore that outfit better in the catty "Bitch Stole My Look" segment of the show.

When it comes to the classic love triangle, True Blood'given us plenty of that enduring tug-of-war to go around; the writers over at HBO seem to be pretty equal opportunity as far as who's pulling on either side - be it male or female.

Unless you've been living under a rock, under twelve feet of snow, under a polar ice cap, you're at least somewhat aware of the Team Eric or Team Bill  battle (with occasional interlopers like Sam and Alcide) that's raging amongst True Blood fans which references the love triangle Sookie's in the middle of:..

We've also got other male-female-male triangles like those between Hoyt, Jessica, and Tommy and Jason, Crystal, and Felton; both of which erupt in violence, as proof that True Blood doesn't envision this particular breed of rivalry and conflict as being exclusive to women.

...but for the purposes of this post, let's stay focused on triangulated relationships as they play out on True Blood when two women fight over a man.

They're not always traditional love triangles in the sense that there's romantic involvement between all interested parties and involved players. Take the constellation of conflict surrounding Jessica Hamby's on-again-off-again relationship with Hoyt Fortenberry. 

There's the push-and-pull between Jessica and Summer over Hoyt; Jessica broke it off with Hoyt but still has feelings for him, feelings Hoyt reciprocates - but in an extremely immature move - exploits when he intentionally parades his new girlfriend in front of Jessica while she's a captive audience during her hostessing shift at Merlottes:

Jessica and Summer are now cast as rivals, with Maxine Fortenberry as the fourth side on this love triangle; although not a romantic rival herself (whew!), she co-opts Summer into her quest to lure Hoyt away from Jessica by any means, casting herself as the meddlesome and manipulative mother who selfishly can't cut the apron strings on her adult son even though she has been less than a model parent to him:

Maxine's manipulative machinations (isn't alliteration great?) suggest the image of woman as a crafty, treacherous, deceitful creature willing to employ Machiavellian means (enough alliteration?) to get her way... Lorena (OK, I'll cut it out with the alliteration now - although in my defense, that one wasn't deliberate) who is seen as a scheming rival to Sookie for Bill's affections; she is seen as constantly trying to steal Bill from Sookie and after participating in the conspiracy to kidnap him, she thought she had succeeded. Here Lorena seems quite satisfied with herself as - from the confines of the bedroom they shared for the night (or day, as it were) - Bill calls Sookie to ostensibly end their relationship and sever all ties with her for good:

Lorena and Sookie's rivalry was bitter; it ended in a manner which - albiet in the extreme - speaks to the tears, pain, anger, and suffering such acrimonious competitions between women often do:

It seems that to come out victorious, one woman must utterly destroy - or at the very least maim - the other:

What inhibits or constricts women's bonds with one another? Could it be that the patriarchal family ethic - which emerged during the early 19th century primarily as a means of controling and regulating women's productive and reproductive labor, placing them in their husband's home and subordinate to him as the male head-of-household (Abramowitz, 1996) is partly to blame?

In mainstream Western culture, contemporary social structures - including the current models for marriage and family - are deeply rooted in the patriarchal family ethic. According to Abramowitz, the roles deemed most appropriate for women within this one-man-one-woman paradigm revolve around creating a comfortable retreat for the market-weary breadwinner, socializing children, managing household consumption, offering emotional nurturance to nuclear family members, and taming male sexuality (Abramowitz, 1996). 

It seems to me that this type of system implies women don’t need other women; our connection to men, or more specifically, to one man - a husband or significant other - should be the central relationship in our lives. 

In her groundbreaking work on Biblical society and the eventual suppression of women's rites (and rights), Merlin Stone (1976) traces how men's needs to establish the paternity of their children and protect their property rights were closely intertwined and led to the formula of 1 woman (whose premarital virginity was strictly enforced and sexuality tightly controlled to ensure knowledge of paternity and protect lines of inheritance) + 1 man and their children (that he could be relatively confident were his) being set as the normative family structure. In like fashion, the institution of marriage and its correlate the nuclear family are the widely-accepted default settings for life within modern Western society.

In such a context it's not hard to see how women might be pitted against one another in competition for a man, or the best man, within the limited pool of potential mates.

How does this square with experiences which speak to a fuller realm of possibilities in terms of women’s interpersonal dynamics with each other, such as those of public intellectual bell hooks, who offers, “I had not known a life where women had not been together, where women had not helped, protected, and loved one another deeply.” (pg. 12, 1984, 2000)? or Lowinsky's (1992) contention that contrary to the patriarchal family ethic, when women tell the stories of our own lives, we discover that we don’t usually cut ourselves off from our mothers when we reach adulthood. She also offers that the mother’s place in her daughter’s life is not superseded by a relationship to a man as psychoanalytic theory has assumed, but that the mother-daughter bond is a continuing and important aspect of adult women’s lives.

In generations past the nuclear family (1 woman + 1 man and their children) may have seemed absolutely integral to our society, but today we are witnessing alternative family compositions gaining greater tolerance and acceptance within the mainstream. According to Noble (1991) a more expansive vision of family and family life may ultimately prove to be positive by allowing women to turn once more to one another and rely on the group form that women can create together.

What models have existed - or still exist - for such dynamics?

Let's delve into the history of the human family; we can frame the archaic cultures of Catal Huyuk or ancient India as examples of different ways of living and being; a key difference between these ancient societies and the society within which we live today is that no one woman was (or was expected to be) dependant on a single man for her survival

As Noble (1991) writes, women did not live in isolated units with a man and her children. In these ancient communal societies women lived together, and practiced their religion together as a fundamental way of life. "They cooked, made art, raised children, gathered food, healed the sick, and birthed the next generation together" (p. 197). The men within these societies were mobile hunters and traders, and returned to the women and children regularly. There is no evidence to suggest that relationships between men and women were anything but harmonious.

Fast forward to the present. Let's keep in mind that as Christ (pg. 39, 1997) suggests, “Experience is not only a resource; it can also be a limitation.” Like her, I am a white, middle-class, heterosexual woman of a certain age, background, and experience. In this vein, it makes sense that deeper inquiry into the experiences of women from traditions and backgrounds that are different than my own may enrich my understanding of a wider range of possibilities in terms of how women interact with each might even further a critical interrogation of feminism itself.

How, you ask?

Here's an example: Could it be that a bit of ethnocentrism is at work in the assertion that all (or even most) modern women compete for men to gain access to what is held up as norm; the nuclear family headed by one man with one subordinate women – and see other women as standing in our way? Might this issue, which is connected to the concept of isolation within marriage and the nuclear family, be one that has been identified as a problem by the primarily white, mid-to-upper class feminists of the 2nd wave as if it were a universal women's issue?

bell hooks (1984, 2000) challenges this assertion of the early and mid-20th century women’s movement; she writes that women of color had not flocked to feminism en masse in order to experience the solidarity with other women that white mid-to-upper class women were experiencing for the first time, because they themselves had always been in community with women. Indeed, she recalls being unable to relate to the joyous reveling that she witnessed white women experiencing in their togetherness when she first entered women’s studies classes at Stanford University in the early 1970’s, because isolation from other women had not been part of her own experience.

hooks' memories of a life lived in closeness with other women stand in contrast to those of most of her white contemporaries, but are echoed by Luisah Teish (pg. 11, 1985):

Now I began to take special notice of the women in my community. It seems I had a mother on every block. This, of course, was a double-edged sword. On one side, I would not go hungry or fall down sick without “Auntie, Cousin, Sister, or Big Moma” So-and-So doing something about it. On the other hand, if I committed a transgression six blocks away from home I could get at least five scoldings and two whippings before I got home to receive the final one. When a woman had a baby in my neighborhood, the neighbor women “slaughtered a fatted calf” so to speak, and fed her other children, cleaned her house, and visited regularly for the next two weeks.
In light of the tightly woven matrix of bonds between Black women described by hooks and Teish, it seems plausible to believe that modern models for the creative dynamic of women in living in community with one another exist today.

Carrying along this idea, Rushing (1996) states her research has convinced her that there is an unbroken circle of women’s lives from Africa across the Atlantic into the Americas. African women expect their closest emotional bonds to be with their natal family, the women they grew up with, and the children they bear. She cites weak emotional bonds between husbands and wives. Although many Western white middle and upper class women may harbor similar leanings, they are expected by society to bond with and relate primarily to their husband.

Rushing sees this pattern of marriage and family life repeating in African-American women, “I re-see not only African-American extended family relationships, beauty parlors, the pivotal role of women in our churches, and the whole valiant history of the “Negro” women’s club movement” (pg. 124, 1996).

These are just a few examples of women living in cooperation as opposed to competition and conflict with one another. Can you think of others? Perhaps you are living such a model of solidarity? Please share!

In the next (and final) installments of this Real Grrl Power series we'll:

  • look at some images of women sharing support, connection, compassion from True Blood
  • move into a discussion of women as each other's allies, helpers & guides
  • close with an exploration of women united in ritual – personal and political power expressed in women’s rite, as they were suppressed so were women’s rights and connections to one another
We're looking forward to having you come along for the ride!
 Until next time...

~ Rachel


Abramowitz, M. (1996). Regulating the lives of women: Social welfare policy from colonial times to the present. Boston: South End Press.

Christ, C.(1997) Rebirth of the goddess. New York: Routledge.

hooks, bell. (1984, 2000). Feminist theory: From margin to center. Cambridge: South End Classics.

Lowinsky, N.R. (1992). Stories from the motherline: Reclaiming the mother-daughter bond, finding our feminine souls. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.

Noble, V. (1991). Shakti woman: Feeling our fire, healing our world. The new female shamanism. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Rushing, A. B. (1996). “On Becoming a Feminist: Learning from Africa.” In Terborg-Penn, R. & Rushing, A. B. Women in Africa and the African diaspora: A reader. (pp. 121-134). Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press.

Stone, M. (1976). When god was a woman. New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Teish, L.(1998). Jambalaya. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.


  1. Love it!!! This just in, I have created a new band for the sole purpose of making an album entitled "Maxine's manipulative machinations"

  2. Hi ladies,

    So, I've been couching and getting acquainted with your blog... and I am absolutely smitten!

    You have such a variety of issues that you hit on and you do them all justice. You also are total book nerds and that makes me fall in love with ya all the more.

    I have enjoyed everything I have read thus far, including the Real Grrrl Power installments. This particular post on solidarity among women is a theme I have had on the brain for a few months, personally speaking. Women are totally pinned against each other, and spoon fed to think that that is the natural way things are. Keep women fighting amongst themselves, and they'll forget about the bigger picture.

    I have also recently been giving a lot of thought to the one-man/one-woman paradigm. The more I read, the more I think, the more I come to realize it is a complete social construct. It goes farther than the idealization of marriage in our society. It also forces this monogamous lifestyle as the ideal.

    Blahh, I could say so much more. Will end the soapbox here though. Looking forward to learning more from you!! xoxo.

  3. I'm not sure how this amazing comment got away from us! Thank you so much for your kind words! We have been very smitten with your blog as well. Sometimes we feel like we write and write and nobody's reading our work! Thank you again for not only reading but taking the time to post such a heartfelt comment! Again I aplogize for not getting back to you sooner, I hope you continue to enjoy and share your ideas with us!