Tag Archive for feminism

Nevertheless, She Persisted

by Sara Stamey

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” Mitch McConnell said after invoking an obscure, antiquated rule to silence Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor.

“Bullshit!” I responded when I heard what he’d done. I was angry, and taking it personally. Then 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 had to take up the 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 Santiago and other South American cities, where the culture is more progressive, women engage in business and enjoy much more freedom, though still limited by restrictive laws. Even they must watch their step in the more “traditional” communities, as a Chilean friend told me. She and her husband had a summer cottage near our land, and she reported that when she had asserted her authority to instruct a male worker on their boat, he had deliberately tried to injure her with a dangerous “accident.”

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 the 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 outmoded, oppressive social model that the current regime is seeking to reinstate. I’m arming myself with facts to counter people who spout “alternative facts” that support 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.

I recommend a short, pithy book, On Tyranny, by Dr. Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University. An expert on the Holocaust and recent European history, Snyder lays out clear parallels between the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Putin, and others, and the tactics of so-called president as orchestrated by neo-Nazi advisor Steve Bannon. Snyder suggests ways to recognize and oppose efforts to erode our rights, especially vital to women and minorities.

So I join the groundswell and raise my voice against the many forms of tyranny, overt and insidious: “Resist!”

Author’s Bio: 

Award-winning novelist Sara Stamey’s journeys include treasure hunting and teaching scuba in the Caribbean, backpacking worldwide, operating a nuclear reactor, and owning a farm in Southern Chile. She taught creative writing at Western Washington University and shares her creekside land with wild creatures and her cats, dog, and paleontologist husband Thor Hansen.

Sara’s science fiction novels with Berkley/Ace received praise from Publishers Weekly and made the Locus Best New Novelists list. Her Caribbean psychic suspense novel ISLANDS—“A stomping, vivid ride” (Statesman Review)—won the Chanticleer Paranormal Suspense Award and Hollywood Book Festival Genre Award. Her near-future Greek islands thriller THE ARIADNE CONNECTION won the Cygnus Award for speculative fiction. “A rocket-paced thrill ride that delivers complex, engaging characters in a laser-sharp plot.”   (Chanticleer Reviews) www.sarastamey.com

Sara’s story “Reset” is included in the multi-genre collection Nevertheless, She Persisted, to be released August 8 by Book View Café publishing.

Here is the Amazon pre-order link for Nevertheless She Persisted

Sara’s Amazon author page  

A Life of Words

When I was in 8th grade, my mother gave me a Christmas present: a blank five year diary. The green vinyl cover was held closed with a lock and key. I wrote every day in that diary, important things like “Betsy missed school again because she has mono” or “I’m going to the World’s Fair.”

This gift from my mother revealed two huge messages. The first: that I can write and it feels good. The second: that a private place to write is a safe place to express my inner thoughts. The written word served as the river on which to float my inner thoughts. I discovered writing letters. I joined the high school newspaper and became co-editor, but I never published anything that I wrote. I discovered Ayn Rand and I decided I was one of the few. My best trotted out high school fantasy was to be invisible, thus freeing myself from my daily embarrassments, such as having curly hair or boys not liking me. I lost interest in the diary. Eventually the key went missing, I cut off the latch, and I tossed it in the garbage.

At the end of my college career, the rise of feminism was encouragement that I needed. I am from the consciousness-raising generation of American women, encouraged to tell each other our stories and share our previously private truths. I took to heart the phrase “The personal is political.” In those years when Walter Cronkite was replaced by “All Things Considered”, I wrote isolated essays and short stories, and then turned to journaling, a habit I continued for thirty years. I filled notebook after notebook with my slanted handwriting, teasing out those inner thoughts that were inconvenient to express aloud. In my fifties, in the midst of a personal crisis, I threw all of my journals out.

I lived in Kentucky for 32 years, an out lesbian making tactical decisions to survive and thrive in a difficult environment. When I ventured into my first writing class, I tried my hand at short pieces while encouraged by the instructor to politely mask my identity. During this class I wrote a piece that I am particularly fond of, entitled “What Is Said, What Isn’t Said.”

Barack Obama’s inauguration spurred the start of my blog. My then-partner-and-now-wife Lynne and I, along with two friends, drove ten icy hours to Washington DC and stood on the Mall in 18 degree weather for eight hours to witness his inauguration. This experience was so rich and so many people wanted to hear about it, that I posted the story online (http://skyandlynne.blogspot.com). I’ve continued sharing stories from my life through that blog since then. Blogging opened up a pipeline of responses from readers, who comment or email me, often with their own stories, inspired by what I wrote. Eight years later, I have accumulated a body of work: stories, nature writing, essays, and poems that I am proud to reflect on. I also have been enriched by connections with readers. (And it’s all free!)

Every word that I am able to write is precious to me because I write with a monkey on my back. The monkey is self-doubt and self-criticism. Joan Leegent calls it an occupational hazard for writers. John Steinbeck wrote about excruciating self doubt. Garth Stein speaks about it. In a workshop at Whatcom Community College, Dawn Groves attributed it to our biological mind wanting to protect us from hazards. It stops my hand, it tangles up my energy and before long, I am playing Freecell!

The advice of many successful writers is to develop a sustainable writer’s work ethic, to keep pen to paper despite the critical voice challenging my every word, to keep at it. I have a standing date with two different friends to write each week, a structure that keeps my fires burning and jump starts my writing throughout the week. I also find inspiration by connecting with other writers, through gatherings (RWW), workshops (Village Books) and conferences (Seattle7) as well as listening to interviews with published authors (Chuckanut Radio Hour).

Shortly after I moved to Bellingham in 2009, I joined a writing group at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship. I found myself in the company of people who were wilder than I was (not a high mark since I am more weedy-colorful-garden-wild and not hike-the-Pacific-trail-while-recovering-from-heroin wild.) My only obstacle was my own inner critic. I have learned so much about the craft and power of writing from sitting down face to face with this diverse group. It offers me a venue for my written efforts, and also proves to be a way to deepen connections with other people. Being part of a writer’s group is not only a chance to be heard, but a chance to listen to other writers. Like the diary my mother gave me, this writing group has been a gift that I didn’t know to ask for.

Taking care of my mother as she progressed through dementia is the subject of the memoir I am working on.

I appreciate the writing community in Bellingham, and I extend my thanks to the supportive, stimulating energy of the Red Wheelbarrow Writers.

“You are never too young or too old to write something fantastic.” — Jim Lynch

Author’s bio:

SkySky Hedman’s blog, SkyandLynne.blogspot.com continues to be a venue for her personal essays/stories, and a rewarding connection with readers. She is currently compiling a memoir about being her journey of being a reluctant caregiver for her elderly demented mother. She sends a special shout out to the BUF Writer’s group, which has been a steady source of writerly help and friendship. Her work at the Alaska Ferry supplies her with a good supply of stories each week while leaving her time to enjoy the beautiful northwest with her spouse, Lynne and dog, Winnie. She looks forward to more connections with readers and writers, and thanks the Red Wheelbarrow Writers for their support of the local writing community.