I believe that the fears we try to hide — from ourselves or others — tend to control our behavior. When I was younger, I hid my experiences with sexual harassment (in childhood) and assault (in college). I did not talk about it for more than a decade, trying to will it into being “not a big deal.” I was attempting to block the fact that I was sometimes simply unprotected and vulnerable. It was not until I began to talk to a therapist in my late 20s that I began to let go of how that fear had shaped me.
With solidarity from the #MeToo movement, more women today grow up with less fear about speaking out and acting for change. We are nowhere near a world in which women do not have to fear predators, but it helps to transform the fear that can control us by talking out loud about what we are afraid of.
In spring 2021, I started having conversations with founding advisers of Changemakers Alliance who were engaged in grassroots action. Everyone mentioned how much fear shapes lives of themselves and the people they connect with. This month’s theme of “Fear” was suggested by Ellie Krug, one of those advisers, as a way to start off our year focused on solutions and collective action.
We launched our first-ever “What are we afraid of?” survey; 214 people participated. Of the one-fourth who were under the age of 45, mental health concerns and personal feelings of failure or isolation were strong. Our BIPOC survey takers had more to say about discrimination and gun violence. All age groups had intense fears about political polarization and climate change. A few survey comments:
“I am no longer a young adult but still do not feel established in my career and community. I am changing as the world also changes around me. It is a challenge to navigate both at once. Nothing feels stable. I acknowledge how much I have, and yet I often feel beset by scarcity and overwhelmed by what my communities need from me — church, civic, family, friends, work, cultural.”
“Politically I feel we are not able to do anything to help people who are really struggling. I feel like we are so selfish and money-focused as a country that we cannot trust politicians to actually do things simply for the good of the cause. It is incredibly disheartening and has made me feel so pessimistic about our future.”
As you will read in this issue, our fears range from what impacts us directly to how communities are affected. You will read about common fears — snakes, guns, death — and honest feelings.
One of the survey takers was Lindalee Soderstrom, from southern Minnesota. Her personal experiences with housing insecurity have turned her into an advocate. We asked her to write a longer essay for this issue and participate in a group interview with other impassioned women engaged in solving the housing crisis in Minnesota.
This is how our new Changemakers Alliance works — bringing advocates and Minnesota Women’s Press readers, reporters, and commentary writers together to work toward story- shaping, solutions, and solidarity.
Tapestry: What Do You Fear?
Thoughts — Nicole Soley: American Bride
GoSeeDo: Iraqi Minnesotans, Mandalas, Snowshoes