Last week, I took a bit of a break from social media for a few days. I am just getting back to it. Honestly, the past few weeks have been a test of faith. The problem with being an idealist is that too often reality squashes you like a bug. Between the murder of a young woman by a police officer, the misogynistic victim blaming comments like ‘why was she walking alone at night,’ the abuse of mourners by that same police force, and then the government report that the cops had done nothing wrong, it just got to me. If that was not bad enough, ‘Britain is not racist’ made the headlines. It all began too much so clicked out of Twitter and Facebook for a few days.
And in the process, I discovered the answer to a question that my 15-year-old, home educated, multi-cultural, #ActuallyAutistic, and asexual daughter has been asking me for months. @PanKwake’s is hyper aware of social justice issues. I have no idea where she gets that from, right? So, it is no surprise that she has strong feelings about a famous ‘she who shall not be named’ author’s transphobic tirades. Of course, before all this, and still to many women, she who shall not be named is a role model for women writers. But in light of those issues and our trans-ally stance, @PanKwake has been asking me for months:
Who do you think is a good role model for women writers?
I was stumped. My list included Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou among others. But how to decide? Who stood out from all the others? What woman exemplified my own beliefs, hopes, and dreams?
Then it came to me. In that darkness of the soul, a light bulb went off and I knew the answer. My role model as a woman writer is…
Her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, took the emerging Abolish movement mainstream. And in the process changed forever the way that we, the whole world, sees slavery.
Slavery was one of those ‘that’s just how it is’ things. No one spoke out against the institution of slavery. No Socrates, Aristotle, or Plato. Not Buddha, Jesus, or Muhammed (though he put more limits on it than others). The U S Constitution codified it. And ya’ll have read my thoughts on Thomas Jefferson from Will’s mouth.
But in the 1800s things were slowly changing. In the UK William Wilberforce first worked to outlaw the slave trade, then slavery itself. America was another story, though. Abolitionist were seen as radicals. Then Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin and it was game changer. The movement became mainstream, at least in the North and parts of west. Of course, change does not come easily, or in this case without a bloodbath.
But the American Civil War was a sea change for institution of slavery. Today, no sane person, even the most radical, would dare suggest reinstituting slavery. Yes, as I dealt with in #TroubleTexasStyle, human trafficking and slavery does still exist the statistics are alarming. But that activity is illegal, punishable by law, and no longer debated as acceptable.
Literary critics and historians continue to debate her writing style and accuracy. It is not an easy read and is one of those classics that I have started a dozen times and not been able to finish (yet). But few can argue the impacts that book had on the Abolitionist movement.
So, when I say my role model is Harriet Beecher Stowe, those are incredibly lofty goals. And there are certainly parts of the woman’s personality and beliefs with which I disagree. But yes, my dream is not to write a best-seller, or as someone said on Twitter today to ‘make enough money to buy a condo on the beach,’ or to become famous.
My goals are to make prejudice in all its forms as socially unacceptable as slavery is.
Of course, I doubt I will ever have the kind of impact that Uncle Tom’s Cabin had. Or that in this internet age, one writer alone has the capacity to weld that type of power. So, on the most practical of levels, my goals are…
To speak my truth, be true to my conscious, and leave the rest to Fate, the goddess, the universe, or 42.
Whether I reach one person (myself above all others) or ten or ten million, that is what matters most.
Thank you for taking the time to read my stories.
Goddess bless and keep you,