Updated: Mar 9
The missing story
All cultures - throughout all of history - have told stories. The earliest evidence comes from cave drawings that date as far back as 30,000 years ago.
To put it lightly, stories are how we come to understand the world and our place within it. Statistics are important, but forgettable. Stories help us remember everything from our coworkers' names to why the earth is round (an example which nicely exemplifies how different stories will lead to different conclusions).
They introduce us to new perspectives, help us to find common ground and enable us to feel empathy. They help us imagine what was, what is, and what could be.
TLDR: stories shape who are as individuals
And stories aren't just the plot-conflict-resolution tales found in books and movies. Any new information we take in - everything we see, hear, taste, touch and smell - feeds into our own, ongoing narratives. We create associations which feed into a larger understanding:
if we see that female moms, aunts, and grandmas all cook for their male husbands, our brain tells us that women doing all the cooking is "how it is"
If we hear dad, uncles, grandpa tell us to, "man up" every time we cry, our brains tells us that to be a man means to never cry
Our perspective of the world is really just one long story that is always being updated as we take in our surroundings. And if enough people share the same story, cultural beliefs and norms are formed.
TLDR: stories allow us to cooperate on a societal scale
In our current story, we've got a bit of a control problem: who does, and doesn't, control the narrative.
It's no secret that men have been the de facto leaders of the world thus far, perhaps with some specific, local exceptions. That position has given them a more than few ways of controlling the narrative, for example, leading nations, passing laws, controlling the media, administering education (and deciding who receives that education), creating the arts and writing history. "Traditional" gender roles conveniently afford men the controlling position in the home as well.
While it is certainly true that not all men controlled this narrative, that doesn't change the fact that one type of human - the one labelled "woman" - was not involved.
TLDR: societally, our stories are missing woman’s perspective
But... does it even matter? Doesn’t “man” represent all humans, in grammar and in life?
Unequivocally yes, it does matter. In addition to the adverse consequences of excluding half the population, a one-sided story can never provide the full picture. Which means we have been organising and operating our world based on an incomplete narrative.
Even worse, this partial story is so deeply embedded into our own thoughts and perspectives, as well as the entire infrastructure of our world, we don't see it as incomplete because it's "just the way it is". The adverse consequences get mistaken for the natural order which perpetuates the inaccurate narrative in a self-fulfilling prophecy, compounding the consequences and maintaining the status quo.
TLDR: her absence means we are guided by an incomplete story, further perpetuating it and compounding the consequences caused from her exclusion
So how do we correct this imbalance and even out the narrative? The answer may now be obvious: we tell the missing story!
We look at the world through her eyes. We tell her story - not as the romantic interest or the caregiver or any other side character known only in relation to the lead (man) character - but as the complex, self-determining protagonist.
Only then will we be able to see the complete picture of our world and what it means to be fully human. By updating our narrative with her perspective, we can (finally) change the story of mankind to the story of humankind.
Thanks for being here and holding space for woman’s story!