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“more dangerous than having simplistic narratives is having no narrative at all”

March 13, 2013

The subject of why women don’t have quest narratives would require a work the length of the unabridged Pentagon Papers. The short answer is kind of a “duh.” Power and patriarchy can’t afford women the possibility of quest, because within these structures women are valued as agents of social preservation and not agents of social change. You can go on a quest to save your father, dress like a man and get discovered upon injury, get martyred and raped, but God forbid you go out the door just to see what’s out there. And these are the tales of rape and death that get handed down to us.

I am not saying that rape and violence aren’t the predominant experiences of female hitchhikers; rather, I’m saying that our cultural imagination plays a role in why it is the predominant experience. Without other narratives to inflect the ones we already possess, our relationship to the woman stranger we meet on the road is forestalled. We turn away. We don’t want to see. We sanction this invisibility, because her visibility forces a choice: whether or not to save her. Left with the pressure to rescue or run, it’s just easier not to see. This is the exact place where narrative poverty renders women on the road socially invisible.

So yes. One might argue that perhaps so few narratives exist because positive transformative experiences are rare. In other words, that for women hitchhikers, rape and death are pretty much all that is out there and, given time, they are what each woman will meet statistically. Setting aside death (which, statistically, we will all meet), it is fair to say that any woman who hitchhikes long enough might very well get raped. But it is also true that every guy who works on a crab boat might fall overboard or lose a finger, and that every chef will probably get badly burned. Over enough time, every guy on the street will probably get beaten up, soldiers in active combat duty will be shot at, and every racecar driver will crash—yet we view these statistical likelihoods differently.

Read More | “Green Screen: The Lack of Female Road Narratives And Why It Matters” | Vanessa Veselka | The American Reader