A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how I think one of the best ways to unlearn shitty cultural tropes is to be exposed to situations that directly subvert them (e.g. if you’ve always though men like sex and women like love and cuddles and feelings, spend some time around women who talk about sex or men who talk about love and feelings).
Now I want to talk about one of the implications of this.
Jen McCreight mentioned once that the main character of the movie Contact, Ellie, gave her a role model for a strong, skeptical woman in a world where such role models for women are incredibly rare in popular media. It made me think. Media may not be quite as good for unlearning cultural mythology, minute-for-minute, as in-person exposure to trope subversion is, but it has one big advantage over it: you can expose yourself to it over and over and over again. Millions of people can be exposed to a single product over and over again.
I think one of the best things skeptics as a movement can do to change the world is to produce media that subverts the dominant cultural mythos. Media with strong, skeptical women, like Contact, media that represents minority groups and subcultures as full of individual people rather than stereotypes, media that puts them in positions of power. How many other people were inspired by Ellie, or Uhura in the original Star Trek, or any of the other all-too-few examples of such.
Over the last few years, I’ve been watching the slow but steady advance of polyamory in the media, from forums and blogs on the internet, to the wonderful Family series on YouTube a few years ago to Showtime’s Polyamory: Married and Dating. I love that it’s made that journey. I hope it will continue (because as far as it’s come, it still has a long way to go). Poly people aren’t the only ones who can benefit from that, though. We need things like that for as many different groups of people as possible. I think we could do a lot of good by making more media of this kind. One of the things I think our activism could use much more of is demonstrative narratives. Stories. I want to see people tell stories, write stories, make movies, make shows where the ways that we think the world can be are taken for granted. I want to see more classic stories retold with genders reversed, because it makes a lot of our double-standards obvious when you see how different a production looks after changing that one detail. I want to expand on that idea: reproduce stories with classes or ages or races reversed, etc, etc. To shine a light on our biases—to show what the world really is like for people who are the subjects of our biases and to show what it could be like if those biases weren’t there.
Our activism needs more stories.
We need people writing them, making videos, showing how the world is and how it could be. I want to be alive in a time where when I turn on the TV, I don’t have to think “I wish they would stop teaching me this.” I want to live in a time where I can turn it on and think, “Yeah, that’s about right.”