Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

I’ve fallen back several times in my writing here on the term – “narrative.” But what exactly do I mean by it?

I use this as a catch all term for the “current view” on something.

Narrative is the current story. Its the orthodox thinking of the day. The word on the street. The story we tell to make things make sense.

It’s the generally accepted view, opinion or understanding of something, particularly non scientific. It’s “just how it works.”

To borrow from postmodernist philosophers for a moment- in some areas, particularly sociology, there is often not “absolute truth” – but merely human opinion. And different people and different groups have different opinions and world views.

A muslim jihadist group from Syria will have a different view to a conservative christian church from America for example on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But what I mean by “narrative” in general is both what a particular group view will be but also, the main stream, accepted view in any given society will be.

What is narrative of course changes over time and when I use the term, I’m normally talking about now (vs “narrative at the time”).

You can see “narrative” in all things humans may discuss. Whether it be events from long ago (the moon landings for example) or more recent (COVID19 or Brexit).

It also applies to our understanding on social aspects of life. For example, how we think and talk about homosexuality.

When it comes to gender and how we should treat people in accordance to it, the narrative, in the UK at least, is currently driven, primarily by fundamentalist feminist ideology.

Feminist ideology is, in turn, since at least the 60’s, using postmodernist ideology as a provider and basis to it’s ideas. Concepts from the likes of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida and Kimberlé Crenshaw (especially intersectionality) are used as “fuel” and the background to these ideas.

So, let me paint a picture of what I think narrative is in the UK as it relates to gender and this might give you a good view of what I mean.

I’m not saying here this is how I view things or that I agree with everything. I merely stating what I think is the accepted view by a large number of people, or the “feeling” you’d get from listening to music, watching TV shows or reading news articles.

Firstly, you need the background beliefs :-

  • society is just groups of people struggling for power over each other.
  • we should judge and treat people according to which group(s) they belong to.
  • there are “goodies” and “baddies”
  • there are those people who have more “power” and less “power”

A good/virtuous person sees the world this way and will do things to try and lift up those who don’t have power, or draw attention to it.

With this as a backdrop, in relation to gender, the narrative currently is that: –

  • Women are an oppressed, “minority” group within this picture
  • Women have ALWAYS been an oppressed group, in all ways, at all times
  • Women are STILL an oppressed group, in all ways, at all times
  • The oppressors of women are men
  • Men built society entirely (both physically and institutions) specifically with the intention of benefiting themselves and oppressing women. This is “patriarchy”
  • Men are generally bad, inherently evil and only exist to hurt, use or enslave women. Most things they do are in pursuit of this. Other times they are just dumb, stupid and ridiculous. They will hurt themselves in the pursuit of this end.
  • We don’t know which men are good or bad so we should expect all of them to be bad and treat them as such
  • Things would be better if more women were in charge of things
  • Women should be free to either embrace their traditional gender roles, or push back against them and step outside them.
  • Owing to this, we must think of women (and events/jobs/stories/things associated with them) as being both simultaneously strong and independent but also feminine, “pure” and “clean.”
  • We should do things that put more women in charge of things and give them better opportunities, chances and levels of “service” where we can in order to combat the aforementioned oppression.

It’ll be very rare that you’ll hear this spelled out crystal clearly in such terms. And you may read this yourself and think – “no I don’t agree!”

That’s because these ideas are rarely explicitly stated like this (outside of tiktok and twitter) . Instead, these ideas form the backdrop or the basis for stories, posts, discussions, media and general “understanding” you see and meet on a day to day basis.

Further, these things are held as factually true. When in reality, they are interpretations or opinions based on observations of society. Nothing more.

THIS is narrative.

Anything at all which serves to even question this, is automatically seen as misogynistic, old fashioned or wrong. Even simply trying to reframe these ideas is to be resisted.

Again, this is a core part of the post modernist element of feminism. It is not able to be falsified or criticised in any way. Any criticism against it, is merely evidence of it being correct.

A kafka trap in other words.

This is why, the existence of transgender people and their push for rights as become a real “hot knife through feminist butter.” But this is a topic for another article.

Keep your eyes and ears open as you go about your life. Listen not just to the words that you hear or read, but look under the surface and it won’t be long before narrative appears.

Just keep in mind, this wasn’t always the narrative and it won’t always be like this in future.

This is merely, a current phase we are passing through in cultural belief. This can help us not only identify what is going on in any argument or presentation of idea- but also help us understand the transient nature of it.