Being a female means that you’ve got fear embedded in your DNA. In my case, the fear started early on, at the age of three. My dad always made me feel secure and safe, but he could not control the pulsing signals in the atmosphere; that being a girl is a dangerous life or death business, and eternal daily vigilance is paramount.
Little girl, JoJo (my father’s nickname for me) went to school and was scared. Her teacher would slap her wrists for not paying attention, her friends would exclude her for not being part of their ‘group’, the walk home was fraught with dangers; strange men asking strange questions. The years went by and more vigilance was needed, but nothing compared to the second-by-second vigilance needed as an adult female.
Eternal vigilance started very young. And being a Joanna, not a John or Joseph meant that I could expect a very unique type of interaction with others. Remember the nursery rhyme?
“Sugar and spice, and everything nice. That’s what little girls are made of. “
Let me explain; being a girl – and now a woman of a certain age, the message remains:
Shut up, be invisible, do not speak out of turn, know your place, don’t say anything that isn’t seen as ‘nice’, fit in, be feminine subtext put yourself last, and everyone else first.
The fear factor is multi-layered and multi-leveled; sexual fear, psychological fear, street fear, employment fear, housing fear, financial fear, online fear; the female space when broken down is not a good one, but the two that loom largest in my experience are housing fear and employment fear, although they’ve all loomed big in my life.
Sexual fear – the fear of being attacked in the street, leered at, spoken to inappropriately has been so common, it has almost become normalised, but it lives in me (and every other woman on the planet I would suggest, as a daily constant no matter your age, sexual orientation, race, religion).
Sexual fear in my life has taken the form of sexual harassment in the workplace (“my cock is getting bigger just talking to you”); sexual abuse in the street with a knife at the throat (“you’re coming with me”) and another sweary order to accompany the creature possessing a penis into the bushes; misogyny – (“I won’t take orders from a woman)”; sexual domination in relationships (“get your mouth around this”) ; the list goes on, and on and on and on.
Psychological fear is still rampant – the fear (and loathing) of a psychological war on my life, (whether that be my inner or outer life). Orders from others – men/women – anyone: “you should, you must, you ought to, if you did this…….” the list goes on and on and on…..
So let’s deal with my top two fears.
Fear 1 – housing fear
When I was growing up I became obsessed with houses, as a metaphor perhaps for security; houses became (and still are) my one true love. They represent everything that’s important to me; safety from the world, privacy, security, a space to express myself, a place to retreat from the world in. My early love of houses was – and still is – a romantic one. In my mind I lived in Daphne du Maurier’s Manderlay, I lived in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, I lived in Anais Nin’s Louveciennes house. My love of houses has never diminished. I dream of them, want to own them, possess them, in a way I have never felt about men (another story), because of what they represent.
But they also represent an unattainable ideal; mortgaged – they are actually owned by the banks, and the banks are the big, bad enemy, so my grand mansions remain my own private fantasy.
But the fear is there; a female living in insecure accommodation, at the mercy of landlords or banks or any outside ‘force’ who can march in and repossess – in the manner of repossessing one’s soul. And this dynamic has to be stamped out, forever!
Having a place, no matter how small, which I own and which belongs to me in its entirety is part of my anti-fear manifesto (I am currently writing one for myself). My own little pad – which cannot be touched or repossessed by another – EVER is one of my top priorities. And I advise all women to aspire to this wherever they can get one (there are some very reasonably priced parts of the UK in property terms – look north my friends). Removing housing fear empowers women. It should be a top priority, always. Getting rid of that fear means all other fears can also be contained.
Fear number 2 – employment fear
Don’t ever make my mistake! I used to be insanely loyal to employers – not any more. Ditto to anyone with whom I have a ‘business’ relationship really. Not any more. If you’re employed – carve out a private income for yourself as a freelance, using your skill and expertise to protect yourself in the event you become a persona non grata at your company (very likely if you’re a female).
I made the mistake many years ago of freelancing for one company only and then they got rid of me (they found someone cheaper – a female who had employment fear), and my own fear 2 kicked in.
If you’re a freelancer – authorpreneur/entrepreneur – small business person – be a whore and be proud. Sell your product and your brand to the highest bidder and sell yourself hard, fast and often!
Never, ever be loyal and don’t ever enter into a conversation with a person who asks you to justify your decisions – protect your time like a jailor to ward of fear number 2.
Fear is a lifelong female curse. You need your own private army to protect yourself from the reality of fear – psychological or physical.
Watch this space for my forthcoming anti-fear manifesto.
Much love, Jo x