The Power of Fiction to Rewrite the Patriarchal Narrative: Free College-level Writing Courses

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Woman Writing

In several of my recent posts, such as, “Radical Feminist Analysis of Dark Shadows, The Television Series (1966-1971),” and “Men’s Propaganda War on Women: Television Sitcoms Designed to Groom Women and Girls for Male Sexual Depravity,” I’ve discussed the use of fiction, mostly in the media of movies and television, to create narratives about society and the relationships of men and women that support the patriarchal establishment and which is highly detrimental to women and girls. I have discussed the almost complete control that men have over the movie industry and how they channel the energy of the most powerful women to the service of males in films, such as in my blogpost, “A Radical Feminist Perspective on Witchcraft Movies: Movie-makers Throw Witches and Women a Bone.” I’ve discussed the television series, “Roseanne,” and how this is regarded as a feminist television show, although, the feminism of the characters is very limited by their social class. I’ve talked about how little has really changed in the portrayal of women in television, of which the television show, “The King of Queens,” is a good example.

Television shows and movies all rely on scripts. Some are originally written as plays while others are adapted into scripts from other forms of fiction, usually novels, novellas, and short stories.

I find that the power of fiction to influence people is generally underestimated. In particular, I’ve noticed that a lot of feminists (including radical ones) are aware of the power of non-fiction. In fact, most are brilliant at writing it, at telling their own personal stories about matters that are difficult to talk about and would be impossible to talk about without the relative anonymity of the internet. But, many regard non-fiction as being more important and may be quick to dismiss fiction.

In fact, this post is inspired by  an online discussion with someone who is a very powerfully influential and courageous exited-woman (one who was trafficked as a child and survived!) and I found she was quick to dismiss fiction as the construction of some far off ideal or the creation of a feminist utopia that can never be. While there has been some fiction that imagines life without men, such as Herland, published in 1915 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, there are other ways to approach writing radical feminist literature.

The examples of such writing are very few because, as I’ve shown in previous posts, fictional narratives must serve men or else they will not see the light of day. Historically, women were forbidden to write and those who did were regarded as whores, which is why they were rarely published, had to publish under masculine-sounding names, and when they wrote, they served men in their writing, such as was the case with Jane Austen, who was praised to high heaven in her time by the likes of Sir Walter Scott and the Prince Regent of England.

Writing, publishing and now movie-making and television-script-writing, producing and directing are still areas that men try very hard to keep women out of. Certain genres of fiction, in particular, science fiction, are very difficult for women to break into or to be acknowledged for their achievements. Sci-fi is notoriously male dominated and women who have attended sci-fi conventions, regardless of their level of achievement, have been subject to all kinds of sexual denigration by the men.

There are numerous articles and discussions online devoted just to harassment of women writers by the men, including men writers, at sci-fi writers’ events. Here’s a sampling of what women writers are subjected to, so you can see what I mean:

On Sexual Harassment at Conventions

http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Science_Fiction_Fandom

The above link makes reference to these particular events:

The Character of Sexual Harassment at Cons

You get the idea, of course, and if you’re still wondering just do an internet search on “Sexual Harassment at Sci Fi Conventions.” There’s a whole lot more.

Let me tell you the reason for this, if you don’t already know. This reason, also, spills over into the reason for the outrageous degree and number of incidents in which mobs of men attack women who create or critique games. The science fiction genre is very powerful. It is in some ways more powerful than any other genre of fiction because it is the one that can most be used to both illustrate the absurdities of society and to forge new directions – even to provide the foundation for new scientific discoveries and inventions.

The applied creative imagination is an aspect of witchcraft – truly. When we create fictional worlds and fictional characters we are at one with the creative forces of the universe.

Here are two examples of fictional novels, both written by men, as far as anyone knows, which illustrate the strangeness of our world, both of which were adapted into movies and one of them into a television series, as well:

The Man Who Fell to Earth, published in 1963, by Walter Tevis: This gives us a look at earth from the perspective of an alien from a distant planet. The alien is from a technologically advanced planet, which has run out of water. He has come to earth on a mission to save his dying planet, but is eventually caught, imprisoned, and treated about like you would expect men in white coats would treat any living creature they want to “study.” Their scientific study is an excuse for torture.

Logan’s Run, by William F. Nolan, published in 1967: This is one of my favorite science fiction stories of all time. It’s far better than Star Wars because it tells the truth about mind control in a way that could only be done in fiction. It illustrates how mind control, especially when the system has been in place for centuries, operates to imprison people in their own minds through belief – blind belief. In this story, there has been a nuclear event in the past and civilization only survived by living in the domed city. It looks like paradise, but it is a prison in which everyone must die at age 30, believing that they will be “renewed.” They believe that there is no outside and those who are not part of their organized civilization, which is actually a soft tyranny, are savages. Logan’s Run bears some similarities to Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World, but I actually think Logan’s Run is even better. Ideally, they should probably be read together because the relationship between the two works seems undeniable.

The men fight to keep this powerful genre out of the hands of women because it is through science fiction that their own evils can be most easily illuminated. The stories in which feminist author’s create utopias, in which men and their power over us is either eliminated or greatly diminished, would fall into this category of fiction.

But, there are other genres that could be just as powerful, if used in the service of women instead of males.

An example of this – and, as you know, there are very few in either books or film, especially since both have been entirely in the hands of men and very controlled by them until very, very recently – an example of how fiction is used in the service of women may be found in one of my favorite witchcraft movies, Season of the Witch, (aka. Hungry Wives or Jack’s Wife), which was made in about 1971, and supposedly the script was written by George A. Romero. Although, I have my doubts about how much he wrote of it, since it may well have been primarily the work of his wife at that time.

Season of the Witch, is of the horror genre, which is, also, a very illuminating one, as discussed a little bit in one of my recent posts on the television show, Dark Shadows. Horror probably does the most to tell the truth about the lives of women and about the nature of men. In Season of the Witch, we do not see a feminist utopia, but a terrible reality, which a woman (and her daughter, to a lesser extent) must somehow escape. She does this by renouncing patriarchal religion and patriarchal cultural norms (to the best of her ability) and embracing her true nature (symbolized by the Green Man chasing her through the house in dreams) as a witch. Eventually, she frees herself in a very real and unexpected way and we are left, as the audience, to decide whether it was witchcraft or not. (I think it was!)  This film is very valuable because its protagonist provides a role model to women. It is, also, a cautionary tale about marriage and the nature of men.

Romero, himself, has described it as a commentary on Women’s Liberation, but it is not something on a large scale, but rather something very personal in one woman’s life. It is one small victory for this woman, which if modeled would be a victory for all of womankind.

It, also, a story we can all relate to in some way, as feminists, because we have had to free ourselves one way or another from the mind control programming laid on us from the time we were infants, enforced by psychological and physical abuse. It takes courage to break free from that – and, unfortunately, it’s something most women never do.

The patriarchal programming of little girls and of adult women through fiction is so absolute. We are inculcated with their sick, twisted ideas about us and our nature to the point that we begin to believe it ourselves. There is so little for girls and women to grab onto as examples of how to plot a path to freedom – and this is where radical feminists writing fiction can make a difference.

I believe we can re-write the world, that we can – through the power of imagination – forge a way out of this dark prison and help lead other girls and women out by providing fictional models of women who have overcome male domination.

I’ve had my own ideas about this for a while, but I’ve never tried to actually write the story. Oh, I’ve put some things down on paper, but there is an art – a craft, a skill, and knowledge – that goes into writing fiction well. So, I have these ideas revolving in my mind. Every day I wake up with them and I feel like a caged animal, thinking, planning, every day how to break out and how to rescue my fellow prisoners. I think this is the answer. We are going to have to write our way free!

You can imagine an ideal world for women. That’s good. But, if that’s too unrealistic for your tastes, you can imagine a world in which one little thing has been made better for girls and women. You can take one little thing like that and run with it and see where it takes you. What if women had complete reproductive rights? What if women never needed to fear rape, again? What if women had as much economic power as men do?

You can take a situation, a single person, or a whole community of people, and use that as your creative experiment in freeing women in some way. What if there was a town – just one town – in which rape was taken seriously? What would happen to the women and the men in that town? What would little girls’ lives be like in such a town?

This one is for NoMorePaperTowels: What if the women in a community developed their own language that only they knew and understood?  How would that affect the people in the community, male and female? How would it change their lives? Would it alter the power dynamic?

Try to think about one tiny aspect of the patriarchy that could be chipped away at and make it happen in the life of a character or characters that you own.

I know activism is a big subject among feminists, especially the liberal feminists, but I ask you to to consider how much more change can be effected quietly, in the minds of people, moving them a little bit at a time, than by taking to the streets with megaphones and picket signs. What I am proposing is a very quiet, stealthy form of protest, in which we insist on our own creation and in which we take control of the fictional ideas that men have created to our detriment and have forced and enforced on us. This is where the real power is. This is why men get angry and attack women at sci-fi conferences, why the try to bar women from the writing and production of films and movies. But, they have had trouble controlling women writing books. They are having more trouble than ever now because the major publishing houses have lost control to digital and on-demand publishing.

Writing is an area in which women have always excelled. It’s an area in which radical feminists do phenomenal work although many of them have had limited educational opportunities, but this doesn’t stop them from being amazing, brilliant writers. I have never known a more talented group of people. I suggest that this is an opportunity, something that we should not leave on the table. We should seize it!

Free Fiction-writing Courses for You to Learn and Perfect Your Craft

Present and upcoming (soon) classes through Coursera on Creative Writing, which you can audit absolutely free!: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/creative-writing

The above courses, can be taken for credit toward a degree, but a fee applies. Of course, if you are working toward a degree at another university, you must check with them to make sure they will accept the credit or that it applies in a way that helps you accomplish the attainment of your particular degree.

But, you are free to audit the classes, which means you get to sit in on them, listen to the lectures and get the assignments, which you can complete on your own. The limitations are that you will not be able to participate in peer grading and will not be able to receive a grade.

I’m auditing a couple of these courses right now through Coursera from Wesleyan College (one of the few all-women liberal arts colleges still around) and they are excellent. I’ve previously taken similar courses from another all-women’s liberal arts college, but it has been years ago and it is wonderful to see how fresh the courses have been made. It is very enjoyable and I think it could really help anyone who is trying to write fiction.

Check Coursera often or sign up for email notifications from them (that’s what I’ve been doing for a long time!), so that you are the first to hear about exciting new classes you can audit. Some are taught by famous writers.

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