The Women of Night Vale and the Power of Female Leaders of Color

via nymag

via nymag

I’m not going to lie, I struggled with what to write about today. As someone already dealing with depression, this week has been extremely trying as I worry about myself and many of my friends and family. And I will not lie that as a white woman, I am utterly enraged by the actions of my fellow white women this election. While I always knew that all white women (I do not exclude myself from this) have issues with racism, due to our privilege, I guess I never realized how bad it was. So today I want to write about some amazing female characters of color from my favorite podcast Welcome to Night Vale, and some of the amazing women of color who have been elected to office and give us hope.

My favorite season of Welcome to Night Vale sees the town struggle with the takeover of an autocratic capitalist corporation called StrexCorp. StrexCorp comes into Night Vale and starts enforcing their will on the people. They buy the radio station and begin to control what Cecil can and cannot say in order to control the media and they begin buying up other businesses so that the people are totally reliant on them. They even ban Night Vale’s religion by outlawing things like bloodstones. Even before things start getting bad, Tamika Flynn, a young Black girl, recognizes the dangers that StrexCorp poses and begins to work against them. Tamika joins Night Vale’s Summer Reading program before StrexCorp arrives and survives the monstrous librarians. She loves books and learning and is highly educated because of it. The other children from the reading club follow Tamika as their leader, and when she sees the warning signs from StrexCorp, she begins to organize them to deal with the situation. She becomes StrexCorp’s public enemy number one and they even have her unjustly imprisoned, but Tamika escapes and is one of the key figures who mobilizes the people to take down StrexCorp, rescuing Night Vale.

Catherine Cortez Masto, like Tamika Flynn, is one badass woman of color who promises to fight for the rights of people she represents. Cortez Masto is a Democrat and the new Senator-elect of Nevada. She is the first Latina senator in United States history and she is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants. She has already promised to be a strong force in the Senate to fight for the rights of immigrants entering this country and is concerned about future Supreme Court picks. Like Tamika, Cortez Masto isn’t afraid of threats from people like Trump, who has threatened to build a wall at the Mexican-American border and called Mexicans rapists and “bad hombres”. Despite being a part of the minority in the Senate, Cortez Masto is not afraid and is determined to be a force to be reckoned with.

Back in Night Vale, Janice is a young disabled girl who is the niece of Cecil and stepdaughter of Steve Carlsburg. While we haven’t gotten to really hear Janice speak, she is still a strong and important character. She is technically of ambiguous race, but I have never seen anyone think of Janice as white, so I’m just going with it. Janice has been used by the Welcome to Night Vale authors to discuss disability issues. Steve Carlsburg defends her against Strex Corp’s Kevin when Kevin suggests she be “fixed” so that she can walk.

Kevin: Well, rather than build all those crazy ramps and elevators, we just fix people, so that they can become better, and more productive!

Steve Carlsberg: You are awful, and gross! And I was only being polite about your eyes! They are weird! Now you listen to me!

Cecil: Listeners, Steve Carlsberg has just picked up Kevin by his blood-stained lapels.

Kevin: Oooh! Ooh! Oh!

Steve Carlsberg: You will not change my hometown! You will not change my stepbrother! And, Kevin of Desert Bluffs, you will not change, or fix, or do anything at all to my little girl!

Janice herself is a very self-determined character who is even planning a break in to City Hall to steal the registry of middle school crushes. She also wants to join Tamika’s army of children to fight against threats to her hometown, but her parents believe she is too young yet. I love what a strong character Janice is and how much she reminds me of our new senator from Illinois.

Tammy Duckworth is the second Asian-American woman elected to Congress. Her father is an American and her mother is Thai-Chinese. Duckworth defeated senator Mark Kirk, who repeatedly harassed Duckworth with racist remarks throughout the election; despite this assault, Duckworth triumphed and won the election. She also served in the U.S. army and fought in the Iraq War, where she suffered wounds that caused her to lose both her legs. This also makes her the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Duckworth is determined to help her state, and like Janice, doesn’t view her disability as a hindrance or a problem. After her win, she stated: “I will go to work in the Senate looking to honor the sacrifice and quiet dignity of those Illinoisans facing challenges of their own. After all, this nation didn’t give up on me when I was my most vulnerable and needing the most help. I believe in an America that doesn’t give up on anyone who hasn’t given up on themselves.” Tammy Duckworth, like Janice, is one disabled woman of color who doesn’t give up and fights for what is right.

Finally, Mayor Dana Cardinal is a twenty-two-year-old Black woman who started as an intern at Night Vale radio. After investigating the Dog Park, she was trapped in a mysterious desert otherworld, but eventually escaped to help lead an army of Masked Warriors to defeat StrexCorp. Dana was then elected Mayor of Night Vale (despite not running for the job) defeating literal five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels and the Faceless Old Woman. As mayor, she fights to make things better in Night Vale by opening up the Dog Park and reaching out to those in Desert Bluffs after the battle with StrexCorp. Dana is both a strong woman and diplomat. She cares deeply about people and wants to make things better for them, she makes many hard decisions for Night Vale, and often tries to combat Night Vale’s xenophobic attitudes. She very much reminds me of the new Senator-elect from California, Kamala Harris.

Kamala Harris, the Senator-elect of California, is the first Indian-American woman elected to the Senate, is the second Black woman elected to the Senate, and is already being discussed by the Huffington Post as a potential presidential candidate to take on Trump in 2020. Harris has already vowed to combat Trump on immigration and fight for the equality of all people. In her own state she fought for justice reform and marriage equality, and promises to denounce and fight against Trumpism. She is quoted in the Huffington Post as saying:

It is the very nature of this fight for civil rights and justice and equality that whatever gains we make, they will not be permanent. So we must be vigilant,” Harris said. “Do not despair. Do not be overwhelmed. Do not throw up our hands when it is time to roll up our sleeves and fight for who we are.

Kamala Harris, like Mayor Cardinal, is in a difficult position, but it is one she is willing to fight and stand up for.

Yes, there are those in our country who have let us down and stood for oppression against equality. We have to be aware of our privileges and keep fighting, but most importantly we have to let those most affected by this election, like women of color, take the lead. We have to listen to minority voices and be allies, just like those who follow great leaders like Janice, Tamika Flynn, and Mayor Cardinal. Let’s take an example from Welcome to Night Vale and fight for all people and honor these great women of color working as leaders in our country.


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