Introduction to the Political Mythology of Women’s Rights
Who’s really benefiting from the political narratives we choose to amplify?
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When Facebook’s censorship inspired me to start a “real blog,” I expected to be doing basically the same thing as before, only a little better. For a number of years, I’ve been making off-the-cuff posts about various perspectives informed by my neurodivergence and my synesthesia. My first post was originally going to be a light introduction to some of the modeling I’ve done about the human sensory interface and how it affects culture and personality.
As I was preparing my first piece, the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization hit, overturning Roe v. Wade and throwing my social circles into chaos. To be frank, there was almost nothing other than shit takes and ham-fisted scapegoating flying around my social media feeds. People who previously treated each other in a friendly and supportive manner began making wild accusations at each other, extrapolating from even the slightest disagreement into extreme with-us-or-against-us caricatures. It was as if nearly the entire online world had plunged into the swirling depths of fear and anger.
The exceptions to the rule of emotional dysregulation were, for the most part, no better when it came to their invocation and expression of fear, anger, and scarcity. I did see a few perspectives promoting a strategic mindset when it came to various factions’ goals, and a few voices expressing concern about the madness of crowds.
But I still had questions. So many questions.
What happened to political discourse?
Voices I’d previously witnessed saying “of course nobody on the pro-choice side is actually pro-abortion” had gone all-in on the idea that restricting elective abortion was tantamount to all kinds of nightmare scenarios.
First of all, when did abortion become considered such a desirable thing to so many people? I’m not referring to its legality, here, but the act itself. The pro-choice slogan coined by Bill Clinton in the 1990s was “safe, legal, and rare.” How did the narrative of harm reduction through reducing the abortion rate, one of the driving motivations of Margaret Sanger in forming the American Birth Control League—predecessor to Planned Parenthood—give way to an explicitly pro-abortion agenda?
I also wondered how the many nuanced positions I’d seen on the matter over the years had given way to such an extreme variation on the political polarization characteristic of public discourse in today’s America. Surely there was more to it than politicians, news organizations, and social media driving engagement through controversy.
Voices I’d previously witnessed saying “of course nobody on the pro-choice side is actually pro-abortion” had gone all-in on the idea that restricting elective abortion was tantamount to all kinds of nightmare scenarios. They expressed great alarm at the idea that such restrictions would lead to women being forced to carry a pregnancy to term when it was already dead, or when her life would be at stake, regardless of the exceptions provided in such cases by jurisdictions which would even restrict abortion in cases of rape or incest.
Of particular curiosity to me was the constant parade of comparisons of contemporary America to A Handmaid’s Tale, as well as the characterization of this case as “a great victory for white supremacist men,” despite the absolute proliferation of perspectives on far-white corners of various platforms suggesting the exact opposite due to the demographics of who gets the most abortions.
Of course, not to be outdone in exaggeration of the outgroup’s perspective, many of the right-wing factions I’ve observed have loudly proclaimed that the vocal minority of abortion-glorifiers are representative of a fully normalized and even popular position, as opposed to being tolerated with resignation by many due to the belief that to speak out against them would be taking the side of oppression.
Yes, you can find plenty of people online making content about whatever perspective you find most odious. No, that doesn’t mean that your brain is exempt from the tendency to exaggerate the things that you hate or fear. It also doesn’t mean that they’re exempt from hammering on controversy for the sake of views or profit.
Lifting the Curtain of Political Narrative
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
—The Wizard of Oz
I’ve observed for many years that the primary function of the drive toward political isolation was to prevent strategic thinking among the adherents of various groups, and nowhere have I seen it written more plainly than in this conflict. There is no strategy in any field of conflict which does not require knowledge of the enemy, and yet this is discouraged in various ways on almost all sides.
In looking for ways to fully explain these and other questions about how it all fits together, I’ve found that a coherent story requires tying together a significantly complex pattern of behaviors and motivations going back at least centuries. The truth about this, as holds for many other things, is not in the appearance or even the substance of the perspectives themselves, but in the relationships between one story and the other.
This is why the title of this series refers to the idea of a “mythology” of women’s rights. It does not, as some might assume, refer to alarmist cries that women’s rights are “only a myth.” Instead, it refers to a set of interconnecting narratives which together have effectively set the stage for the polarization and unrest we’re experiencing in politics and public discourse.
The function of myth within society is not mere entertainment—it is to provide the wiring on which the social currents of a given culture run. In previous eras, this tended to consist of direct personification of many of the underlying workings of the universe. In the contemporary world, the dominant narrative is structured using the language of politics, economics, and science.
In all eras, the stories we tell about our world and how it works have shaped the ways energy of various kinds flows toward individuals and institutions, and the present day is no exception. We might call things by different names, but there is a strong case to be made that little other than technology and scale has changed since ancient days.
Popular Narrative as a Generator for Social Capital
In this series, I will explore the way this narrative scaffolding impacts everything we experience in life, whether we participate directly in the most popular myths or opt out. It will cover topics ranging from the relationship between women and men over recorded history, to the practice of naming one’s enemy, to the more recent histories of industrialization, feminism, abolition, and fascism. It will even cover the concepts of good and evil and how we relate to them as individuals and societies.
In the end, I hope to present a reasonably coherent case that the main functionality of this system, as currently implemented, is to camouflage the siphoning of power from individual participants in society toward a particular subset of the metaphysical or collective entities which are often referred to as egregores, as well as the human faces of these entities. I will provide a technical breakdown of the narrative system as if it were a machine, explaining the technical flaws (both deliberate and incidental) that make this siphoning possible, and use this as the foundation of an explanation of how to develop both individual and broader cultural resiliency.
I deeply believe that if I manage to explain these things in a coherent enough way, it can provide tangible benefit to the lives of everybody who reads and understands it.
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