Over the Easter break I posted an uncharacteristically “angry” post called, “Who has the right to Moral Outrage?” The article covered some tough ground, including my own experience as an interventional radiology patient, as well as the ongoing struggle of aggressively being told that I don’t know what I know by anti-nuclear activists.
When I pushed the publish button I braced myself for backlash – but instead of backlash something completely different happened. Tweets of support from friends and strangers, sweet emails from other young women referring to me as “role model”- which was a first. And then in a closed forum of nuclear communicators- one of the single most constructive dialogues about gender in STEM careers I’ve ever participated in, complete with thoughts on how to empower women in the workforce, better develop our own voices as communicators and support each other’s unique perspectives. To top it off, it is the most read and shared article of the “Nuclear Tourist” series to date.
So of course this got me wondering- what is it about getting personal that appeals to readers. And then I remembered a class on gender and equality that I took in college and realized the answer- Personal Agency. For whatever reason, we humans tend to connect more with personal anecdotes than facts. The power of the anti-nuclear movement is grounded in this reality. We know that many members of the public prioritize personal testimony over meta-studies, stories over data. Sometimes speaking as a parent or a patient is more impactful than speaking as scientist or an educator. As it turns out when I spoke as a 20-something woman, who has been through interventional radiology and is slightly obsessed with popular culture and internet memes- more people tuned in to hear my thoughts. Who knew that nonprofit manager, educator and world traveler was less compelling by comparison!?
So, in the spirit of Joseph Campbell, I am going to brush up on my story telling skills and continue to develop a unique style of communications, using my own experiences as a spring board. This experience also confirms that taking the time to visit all of these nuclear sites, so I can speak about them with first hand knowledge, is very valuable. I’d also like to open up our “Honorary Nuclear All Star” blog for submissions of personal stories about other people’s experiences with nuclear technologies- how have they positively impacted your life? Have they saved the life of a love one? Prevented pollution in your community? Provided you with your dream job and the ability to support your family? Please share your story: Suzy@nuclearliteracy.org
Lastly, to everyone who reached out- I want to say thanks for all of the support, dialogue and thoughtful commentary- I am incredibly grateful for the feedback.