Disclaimer: this is an article about fiction, and how the lack of perspective in tales influences real life robbing us of ability to express ourselves, not about diminishing real abuse victims experience. If it sounds like it, I’m sorry, it’s not intentional.
Did Snow White ever realized that it was her Stepmom that’s trying to kill her or did she kept her child like innocence not realizing what her experience was about?
Reading through online confession of life time experience with sexuality, forced one and consent one, from a pen of twenty-something name-less female I thought about how hollow her description sounds. It took me to the end of it to realize what was lacking. Her own perspective on things was lacking.
There’s always argument online about Mary Sue in fiction and how lacking female characters in fiction are, how they don’t get to tell their story but only serve as background for the male character. But it seemed that Mary Sue leaked into a real world, or the fiction (which is in service of retelling reality and suggesting to us how to look at world around us) leaked into our minds not letting real women experience their own destiny.
The story was told flatly only describing events one after another not letting us in on her own perspective on what happened to her, or people around her. It’s like when someone tells you event and finishes with “you can imagine what I felt”. Yes I can imagine, I can imagine vividly more than one scenario, more than one feeling. Letting others imagine what you felt somehow seems that you lack language, comparison or surety to describe your own experience even to yourself. It’s like a blank line in which your audience will fill in the gap to tell you how you should feel about it.
Audience usually fills it with anger, disgust or sadness, depending to whom you’re talking to, but I imagine (and that is how would I feel about it) that other peoples reactions aren’t satisfying enough so you keep on repeating your story trying to get resolution but resolution doesn’t comes your way because you haven’t decided for yourself is it rape, or is it bad luck, were you lucky, brave or scared. Were you disgusted, disappointed, angry, powerless or determined. Was it shameful, uncomfortable or painful? How did you feel? What it meant to you? How you reacted?
What did you feel when you listen to your friend talk about their sexual decisions? The perspective is all we have because we’re not all the same. Just because I’m a woman that doesn’t mean we share common experience or convictions, it doesn’t mean I would feel the same if I was in your shoes. There are out there women with easy approach to sexuality who would found that kind of events funny, interesting or dull.
The question of abuse is question of inner impact some event has on us. The terrifying factor of it are our emotions and aftermaths that are left behind for us to handle.
It sounds terrible what I’m saying here. It’s like I’m editing real life events, telling you how to write them, but it is important because when you own your own experience you can deal with it, adjust to it or fight, not just sit by and stay quiet, not letting anyone in on what are your really going through, letting them imagine what they would feel.
Being a woman, as being a man, is unique experience and telling your own personal view, your own personal perils, helps others to voice themselves out in contrary or agreeing with you. That’s what writing is about. And reading real life confession finally got me to understand what Mary Sue is about and why people are angry about it.
If we had princesses that voice out their trouble instead of just gracefully crying/sleeping/waiting for their peril to end by some outer force (often it being a man) maybe we would be more apt in saying our own stories.
Cinderella didn’t tell us was she annoyed by her stepmom, in fact she didn’t noticed that anything strange is going on. Maybe she daydreamed that she kicked her with her broom. Maybe she thought about poisoning her tea. Maybe she really didn’t give a damn. Maybe she liked the kitchen. But we’ll never know because she didn’t say it, she just ignored the problem and was whisked away in better life.
For me, I more often laughed at men than feared them. The threats or badgering that came my way were fun things to deflect or avoid, sometimes to give few punches and kicks their way. Nothing really scary. For my friends, that I know few stories about, they dealt with it and moved on not really scarred. For one that got through more damaging situations last I saw her she was in good health and better mood.
So when I come across “can you imagine” subtext I can imagine, I can imagine quite allot. I can imagine powerlessness, fear, dread, disgust, anger, rage, sadness, but I can imagine forgiveness, indifference, joke (don’t judge me, one my friend was in that one situation where she couldn’t even feel anything entering if you know what I mean… oh I did that too, it was really small, for the guy sake I’ll say it was pressure), I can imagine quite allot. Because I can imagine large variety of women in the same situation. So when I read your story, or hear it, I’ll probably say, “no I can’t imagine, what did you feel?”. And whatever you felt it’s OK, because the story it’s your own, it’s about your very own body and perception, your life, and how you felt it, is how things are for you.
And that is what telling and listening to stories is all about. To get to someone else’s shoes, to feel what they feel and see what they see, not to imagine yourself in their situation.