The Power of a Story

I'm often met with skepticism when I start talking about the kind of world that I'd like to build.

And you know, going over those goals myself, I can agree it's one hell of a daunting list. As a progressive, as a feminist, I've set my sights on no less than changing the culture in which we live. Perhaps it would be better to say that I want to create entirely new cultural expectations and norms. Well, yeah, not exactly "entirely new", but there are days when it seems like even suggesting that women should not be generally treated as eye candy in the media is a radical proposal. (To take one example.)

But then there are also the days when I feel... well, confident. I won't go on overmuch about what particularly sparked my latest round of that confidence, for a number of reasons. I'll just put it this way: I'm feeling like I have the power of a good story on my side of this one.

It seems impossible to believe, even to me. Wasn't I the one that was just complaining about the way women are portrayed in the media? (Yeah, that was definitely me.) And yet, I see the same messages that I believe in, repeated from the characters and stories that I enjoy. In the mentor explaining that those who commit an action are the ones responsible for it, not the people that they commit that action upon. (Numair, from Tamora Pierce's Wild Magic. If anyone was curious.) In the song that defiantly howls, "even if it's an impossible future, we'll set it in motion." (Nana Mizuki's Young Alive!, originally in Japanese.)

Surely some of this is confirmation bias. I ignore (or at least, fail to remember clearly) the stories that don't align with my world view. And there are certainly no small number of those - my earlier critique remains a problem area, even today, even with some of the stories that I like!

And yet, there's one last point to be made: we're the ones that acknowledge the power of these stories in the first place. How many times have I been rebuked with "Lighten up, it's just a story" or some variant thereof...? Dismissing the power of a story to affect the way we think, the way we act, is all but willful blindness to the way people react to the world around them. Acknowledging that power is the only way I'm ever going to succeed in changing the culture in which we live.

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