My favorite read from this week is “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle, and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley. It’s a powerful essay — and if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it.
Devora from Strangers in the Land might have really appreciated the essay, I think.
Hurley discusses the women who drove tanks and flew airplanes in WWII, the women who ran with Shaka Zulu, the statistics that every revolutionary army tends to consist of 20-30% women, and she talks about how hard it is to hear their stories (when you search for information on Shaka Zulu’s warriors, you’re likely to hear about his “harem”) because we are conditioned to expect a different story. And she talks about how hard it is even as a modern fantasy writer to write something outside — truly outside — the stories we expect.
The essay speaks passionately about the power (destructive or creative) of stories:
When we choose to write stories, it’s not just an individual story we’re telling. It’s theirs. And yours. And ours. We all exist together. It all happens here. It’s muddy and complex and often tragic and terrifying. But ignoring half of it, and pretending there’s only one way a woman lives or has ever lived – in relation to the men that surround her – is not a single act of erasure, but a political erasure.
Populating a world with men, with male heroes, male people, and their “women cattle and slaves” is a political act. You are making a conscious choice to erase half the world.
As storytellers, there are more interesting choices we can make.