"I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman." - Virginia Woolf
Humanity runs on an ancient and very effective operating system—the stories that make us, the stories that break us, the cultural narratives that unite us, divide us and inspire us to engage in acts of madness, kindness, and greatness.
Our organising principles are built and structured on a foundation of narratives that justify our identity, beliefs, and actions. The scaffolding of civilisation is as old as our ability to express ourselves.
In poor, remote villages in Guinea, the story of the wives of the Prophet Abraham that motivates older women to bestow the most atrocious affliction on the young maidens of the land.
According to the myth, Abraham’s first wife, Sarah, filled with jealousy and hate, ‘cut’ the genitals of Hagar, the second wife. It was Sarah's goal to make Hagar seem less attractive and less desirable. When Abraham’s affection for the maiden Hagar did not diminish, Sarah then inflicted the same mutilation upon herself.
This is a tale that is forever reenacted as a rite of passage to womanhood, teaching young maidens to yield to pain and bear it for as long as they live. Because of one toxic narrative implanted within the identity of an entire civilisation, over ninety percent of the women in Guinea have become victims of genital mutilation.
Of course, most of these stories about women, served to preserve the power and control of men, and were written and disseminated by them. These are viral memes that have endured the test of time and crush women into a lifetime of suffering and shame; limiting desire and sexual expression.
Yet, over our history, the most common sin in storytelling is the one of omission. The exclusion of minorities whose feats of greatness are deleted, altered and appropriated by the male, outwardly heterosexual, and mostly Caucasian ruling classes. Alan Turing, Rosalind Franklin, Rosa Parks, and Ada Lovelace are a few of the names and faces we have recently managed to recover from history's exclusion and misrepresentation; they best represent the anonymous, unsung heroes of the minorities.
We can and should pursue a path of revolution, one that asks for equal pay, equal opportunity, fair representation, and celebration of the voices and achievements of minorities. We are equally deserving of Oscars, Nobel Prizes, the commander's seat on a trip to Mars, and the country's top job. We can pursue a path of uprising, but story is best placed to power change. When we change the dominant cultural narrative, everything else will fall into place.
Queer women of colour are still anonymous. The minorities are rising, finding their voices and their economic weight in the world. Much has been accomplished, and yet the chasm in history books, in fiction and in art is still overwhelming. There are not enough stories about us, our context, our past, our struggles, and our victories.
Corporations, like governments, are always a step behind, trying to catch up to the whims of the faceless mainstream masses, but rarely walking alongside or ahead of their followers. The mammoth sized media organisation is too worried about the sensibilities of their powerful sponsors, too focused on their audiences greatest common denominator, too busy processing yesterday’s patterns and trends to notice today’s sparks of brilliance that will fuel tomorrow’s social progress.
Mass-media panders to white corporate feminism while we fight for intersectionality; they replace a Caucasian actor with a black one in a mainly white story, while we yearn for stories that genuinely represent our communities of colour. They pander to queer stereotypes while we learn to accept that gender is a spectrum.
We will not find the answers to our narrative need in the small number of conglomerates that control global commercial media; it’s the independent storytellers and artists that will continue to push the boundaries. They are the leaders that reach our most primal and visceral desire for greatness through their talent, instinct, vision, intelligence and expression. They help us release ourselves from the stories that no longer serve us as a species.
Every day, through the eyes and heart of an indie storyteller, we discover a new tale to inspire us, to bring us a step closer to becoming who we want to be, and to unleash our true potential. Narratives that plant seeds and make us believe fervently and unwaveringly in the power of legacy, in the strength and character of the unsung hero, in leaving behind a better world than the one we were born into.
These are the creatives that do not settle for what they have accomplished; they are just too busy moving our collective consciousness one step forward, heading to the next frontier, releasing us from past tales of hate, fear, power, control, and separation. One soul at a time, they will continue to change the dominant cultural narrative one soul at a time until the mass media industrial complex is ready to appropriate these stories as universal truths.
To fail to support our independent artists is to give up on evolving the dominant cultural narrative, is to settle for a world full of inequality and dangerously close to environmental collapse.
A story is a drop in the ocean that may one day turn the tide. Funding is to independent storytellers what the silver light of the full moon is to the ocean's tide. So, what are we waiting for?