“Until a lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”
I begin every semester by teaching narrative writing. I encourage my students to use their voice to speak their truth. Narrative writing allows us to reflect on past experience and the way it shaped who we have become. There is power in telling our story. We own it. Nobody can take that away from us.
Recent events have highlighted the power of speaking our truth. Movements such as #metoo and #timesup are in essence a stamp of ownership. We will tell our stories as we perceive them. No longer will we let other people tell their version or remain silent and tell no story at all. As Oprah stated at the Golden Globes, “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
Our voice is a powerful tool, and I love that I get to help students develop theirs. I also love watching people use their platform to promote positive change and encourage awareness. Thus the quote from Oprah and attention to the Golden Globes. Speaking of which, why should we care what the pampered Hollywood crowd is saying? Despite what the Us Weekly page tries to tell us, “They’re (NOT) Just Like Us.” Who cares what they mention at a fancy award dinner?
Here is why I care.
I know that whoever controls the narrative has the power. For most of our lives we have been hearing one side of the story and never even realizing it. As the saying goes, history is written by the winner. We cannot deny that our cultural narrative is manwashed, to borrow a term from my good friend and fellow writer.
Yes, I can hear it now. “Oh great! Jaime is one of those radical feminists. She is going to start male bashing and burning her bras.” Well, slow your roll.
I am not here to bash males. My partner and best friend is a male. I am raising a little man who will someday help to topple the imbalances I am addressing. Feminism, at a political level, advocates for the full humanity of women. We are not talking about equality since that would imply that one gender (male) is the standard. I am talking about the radical idea that women are fully human! And part of being human is the ability to share our story as we perceive it.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Greta Gerwig, writer-director of the film “Lady Bird” stated, “It’s been such an incredible year for women—as actors and writers and directors and producers, people coming to the forefront to tell stories from their world as they see it.” The female perspective is emerging and gaining recognition, even at a time when a room full of men sign laws governing a woman’s body and her choices for healthcare. Still, women are marching, writing, speaking and producing their story—their truth.
Changing the narrative and creating an inclusive perspective is a critical step in shifting away from a patriarchal society. But the first step is admitting we have a problem. We must admit that we speak a language and read a script that was written by one perspective. HIStory.
This story becomes our culture’s truth. Sociologist Dorothy Smith describes the construction of knowledge. “This is how a tradition is formed,” according to her theory. “A way of thinking develops in the discourse through the medium of the printed word as well as in speech. It has questions, solutions, themes, styles, ways of looking at the world.” What we read and hear forms a tradition. In order for this tradition to change, the narrative cannot be controlled by only one gender, one race, or one religion.
It is time to wake up. We need to pay attention. We can speak our truth and test it out by examining the truth of others. We can consider that what feels like truth to us might not be a universal truth. We can peel back the layers of our culture to question the traditions we are supporting, starting with a mainstream creation story where women are made from an extra piece of a male body. Yep, tradition runs deep.
Some pretty powerful people have controlled our narrative for far too long. We can realize that our language and stories are owned by men because men created them. But #timesup on that one. It is time we own our stories because we speak them ourselves. A new, inclusive story is being written where we can embrace and welcome all voices and sides to the table—a human narrative. Forever and ever, Awomen.