Shanice is the blogger behind eversoslow.com (@eversoslow). She is a strong believer in sustainable, fair trade, and slow fashion.

Fear of the F word

Recently, I’ve been experiencing a persistent symptom of pandemic-related anxiety. Focus on past events is apparently a common experience. Many things come to mind. As a soon to be married woman, gender roles and how my fiancé and I will define them in our new life have been increasingly on my mind. Along with this rumination, past examples of what those dear to me have said related to this topic are also circling in my head. Now before any men (or womxn) dismiss my perspective as crazy (“Crazy”, another problematic term, not just for womxn though disproportionately used against them), well, I’m going to stop here. Why am I worrying about what I’ll express before I even express it? I’m sure the womxn reading this can venture a guess. To be discredited, dismissed-par for the course, especially when you bring the F word into the conversation, which offends many more than the actual curse word itself. Yes, I’m talking about Feminism. A more frightening and devastating concept than Lord Voldemort. No, it’s not my goal to give a monologue, but only to explore this other F word, fear.

In many settings, a conversation related to feminism turns heated, and participants act out of self-defense. We can call an individual’s response to a statement offense, and an argument between individuals an exchange of self-defenses. All over social media, it’s easy to find disagreements that quickly turn threatening, and angry reactions in response to a womxn’s experiences. In any form of expression, words do have the power to elicit strong emotional responses. When they come from someone dear to you, it can feel like a betrayal.

I recall one seemingly friendly conversation about gender separation in religious gatherings. Out of nowhere, when the discussion had faded, a friend of mine remarked, “You’re going to turn into a feminazi.” Dumbfounded, I could only ask what he meant, and probably equally dumbfounded at falling for some social conditioning that had fallen out waywardly, he mumbled an unintelligible response. It was as if he was sitting on it, thinking quietly about it, then it somehow tumbled out of his mouth.

If I had more maturity when I was younger, I would have invited him to explain the rationale behind it and if he was expressing fear, anger, frustration, or the most likely, misunderstanding. A misunderstanding borne from a mixture of fear and a disruption of what was familiar..

In another situation, I spoke up for someone who was suffering emotional (and perhaps physical) abuse, and the speaker disparaged my passion for womxn’s empowerment, claiming I only sided with the victim because I “liked” them. Emotions brought an irrational response.  The best defense seemed like whatever offense from the past that could be thrown at me, even if it was grasping at straws. Again, I couldn’t find out the perfect way to engage. I most likely should not have engaged at all.

Another interesting statement, “chicks can’t drive”, was most likely borne out of frustration after bad experiences with drivers perceived as girls and/or womxn. It baffles me slightly but I still find it amusing. I just don’t see a good way to engage with that one. As writer Soraya Chemaly puts it, you can choose to laugh or cry in certain situations, and I’ll take that as a laugh.

I wonder what statements touch nerves that cause some (usually those who identify as a cis-gender male) to rail against a perceived takeover or threat when a womxn expresses a negative experience. I don’t think it’s just a #notallmen offense. It’s something stronger, and personal betrayal seems closer to the mark. How dare you challenge my worldview and turn something that I can identify with into a negative? Anyone can relate to that feeling. So why aren’t womxn entitled to their own rage?

I refer back to the first jarring statement: “Feminazi.” Unfamiliar. Assigned to an aggressive label and dismissed. Hands washed once we’ve dehumanized the other so it’s not necessary to acknowledge the unknown. Nazi is, on its own, a loaded, more appropriated word recently. It’s said that fear is based on the unknown.

A blatant display of a womxn’s rage, warranted or not, is unusual.  Several studies show that from a young age, womxn are encouraged to put the needs of others before their own, to repress their negative emotions and express positive, accommodating ones. And so we stamp down our feelings, and in some cases those emotions manifest in our bodies in the form of illness, an invisible rage that is not on display to the world. It hardly needs to be said that men’s aggressiveness and dominance, on the other hand, are encouraged from a young age. These can lead to mental and physical health issues as well. When such characteristics leave heavy marks on impressionable minds, it’s not a surprise that tensions between all of them erupt periodically.

Let’s take who’s “wrong” or “right” out of the equation and explore what could be motivating such statements. Better Help explains the intersection of fear and anger:

“Fear ultimately breeds anger out of the innate human instinct for self-defense. When someone feels threatened, they may initially fear regarding the possible validity of the issued threat and subsequent harm that could follow. 

However, in many scenarios, anger may follow or even override fear. Someone may go from thinking ‘oh my goodness, what happens now,’ to ‘how dare this person threatened me?! Don’t they know who I am?’

Nine times out of ten, it’s not fear or anger which leads to an individual’s setback or demise, but their next steps. A fired employee may be fearful of how he’s going to make his rent now that he’s out of a job. This fear is relatively normal and so is the anger which will likely follow.”

Lately, it’s as if the pandemic gives everyone a free pass to be vulnerable-to openly express fear, stress, and fatigue. Traditionally mocked for expressing emotion, men who have been leading efforts to battle the consequences of the pandemic are being praised. A New York Times piece discusses the controversy and gender dynamics of crying in public:

“And crying has long highlighted the complicated dynamics of how people view emotion — and who gets to publicly express it. ‘Both genders seem weak when they cry, but for men it is much worse because it is so strongly against norms,’ said Elizabeth Baily Wolf, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Instead, a business school near Paris.

When a woman cries at work, she confirms the stereotype of womxn as emotional, hysterical, unable to perform under pressure. But when a man does it, he is defying the stereotype for men — strong, decisive — which can damage him even more.”< /p>

Leaders such as Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, and Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York have been breaking down and letting tears fall during their public appearances.

Are these signs of strength, weakness, fear, or pride? Does it matter? Will we look back and associate them with incompetency?

Pressure can lead to a breaking point, and most womxn can identify with those difficult emotional forces. However, self-expression is not a threat or an attack, though it can be difficult to remember that in a knee jerk response to an opinion that triggers something deep in someone’s psyche.

Maybe this could explain why instead of a compassionate or curious outlook, some men reach for self-defense even when there’s no immediate threat. Several female focused social media accounts regularly field attacks and invalidation. Topics range from experiences about safety to statistics and ideology. Elizabeth Plank, author of For The Love of Men: a new vision for Mindful Masculinity, quotes David Hogg. Hogg is a gun control activist who survived a shooting in Parkland, Florida at Stoneman Douglas High School:

“When half the population gets trained to block emotions, they lose the ability for compassion.”

So what if compassion was offered where it is missing? It’s not exactly fair to ask womxn to perform that emotional labor when they have traditionally held that burden. We need allies to keep up our strength. Not just womxn, but empathetic men who can sit with their emotions. The New York Times pointed out that these are the types of leaders we need in the current climate:

“The days when a politician cried and it was over for them — that’s over,” [Pam Sherman] said. Things like empathy, vulnerability, emotional connectedness — these are the things that define today’s leaders. In other words: the leadership traits that, traditionally, have been associated with womxn.”

I choose to foster hope that these men will emerge and convene for progress. Here’s to strong men. May we hear their support in meetings, personal exchanges, and thoughtful comments on our next Instagram posts.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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