I didn’t think I had a relevant story to submit to the Nevertheless, She Persisted anthology, but then I recalled my reaction when Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the Senate floor.
“Bullshit!” I was angry, and taking it personally. I asked myself why, and realized that it WAS personal—to all women and girls. This is what I grew up hearing:
“Be nice, be ladylike. Don’t talk back.”
“You’re being impudent.”
If I spoke up against unfairness, I was punished, and I learned to silence myself, like so many women around the world. It was a long road for me before I realized that the persistence of the old “power-over” models, perpetuated by patriarchy (our dysfunctional U.S. Congress, anyone?), depends on silencing powerful and thus threatening-to-the-old-order women. Why has my right-wing father hated and excoriated Hillary Clinton since her First Lady days?
My Resistance to tyrannical authority began with the stories and novels I write, in which plucky women freely speak their minds despite the dangers of doing so. In my early science fiction novel Wild Card Run, a young woman escapes her abusive stepfather and repressive homeworld in which women are required to stay in the home and denied the freedoms given to men. She lands on an anything-goes asteroid called Casino, only to discover that even there her outspokenness may result in punishment with the “Steps of Healing,” which would erase her memories and rebellious personality. She would literally be silenced.
I considered the novel allegorical, not literal, in regard to women’s rights. During my youth, the feminist movement had made great strides in gaining rights for women, and I had worked among men in industry. Of course, I had to go through hazing and working harder than the men to “earn” my right to be accepted on the work crews, but I prided myself on being tough and able to take it.
Then I moved to fairly remote Southern Chile, where my former husband and I had bought land to start a farm. I was startled to realize that in this rural area, women stayed in the home while men had the freedom to go out partying and do what they wished. I was never addressed by my name, but was merely “la senora,” an attachment of my husband. A Chilean woman needed her husband’s permission to open a bank account or do many of the things I had taken for granted in the States.
We started building a house, hiring local workers to help with various tasks. When my husband fell ill with a lingering malady, I took up both reins to finish the house, and I discovered that the workmen would not take instructions from me, a mere woman. I had to get my husband out of bed and prop him up in the doorway, where he could repeat my instructions. When the house was finished, we planned a traditional “roof raising” celebration with the local families and issued invitations. Only the men attended, as the women were not allowed to come.
In my travels around the world, I have seen that the ancient angers and fears of women still prevail in many cultures, where horrors such as stoning and mutilation persist. But I had thought we were moving past those in the U.S., especially during the Obama administration, with its embracing of women, minorities, all genders and lifestyles. The harsh reality of our oppressive new administration has been a slap in the face to so many of us, including the strong women in Congress.
When I learned of the silencing of Elizabeth Warren—temporary, thanks to her power and persistence—I realized that Resistance must move beyond storytelling, as vital as it is to our culture and community soul. I am making the effort to speak out personally and confront the sexist, racist social model that the current regime is supporting. I’m arming myself with facts to counter people who spout “alternative facts” to justify the new tyranny in our country. I hope I will have the courage to take physical action if necessary to hold the line and protect our civil rights.
My story “Reset” is adapted from my upcoming novel Pause about a woman’s often humorous, sometimes painful, midlife journey. My heroine finds her voice and moves past the persistence of oppressive cultural and family dynamics that still poison new generations and spawn the social and political nightmares we’re now facing.
So I join the groundswell and raise my voice against the many forms—overt or insidious—of tyranny: “Resist!”
(And Bear dog says, “Woof!” No one can resist him.)
You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara is counting down the days before she returns to Greece this fall for more research on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect.