What’s your relationship to fear?

Posted by Amanda Painter

Illustration by Torre DeRoche.

This week’s sex-and-relationships column homes in on one of the most fundamental relationships any of us has: our relationship with our fear. “A Woman Who Walks Alone,” by guest author Torre DeRoche, considers how the mandate that ‘women should not walk alone’ has undermined women — and men — for far too long.

Usually this space is reserved for essays about the nuts and bolts of co-creating a functional intimate relationship with somebody, or some personal exploration of the spiritual/energetic/psychological facets of sex and healing. Once in a while we feature a sex ‘how to’ guide, like last week. If you’ve been reading Planet Waves for any length of time, however, you know that the foundation for all of these avenues into considering sex and relationships is the relationship each of us has to ourselves.

Torre DeRoche

Torre DeRoche

Discussion of that relationship is incomplete if we don’t consider the relationship we have to our fear.

Torre DeRoche is an author, traveler and illustrator based in Australia. In her blog post titled “A Woman Who Walks Alone,” she counters the traditional assertion of patriarchal cultures that ‘women shouldn’t walk alone’ — at night, or in ‘dangerous’ places (or perhaps at all). But more than simply standing up and saying, “Yes we can! We have rights!” DeRoche considers the issue in the context of her life spent traveling the globe. She sees a fundamental error in pointing the finger at all men as ‘the problem’ — and a similar fundamental error in mistaking our fear for the guidance that intuition offers.

DeRoche has given permission for Planet Waves to quote the first few paragraphs of her essay; I encourage you to read it in its entirety here. — Amanda P.

A Woman Who Walks Alone

By Torre DeRoche

“Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.”

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

About 25 years ago, Dutch adventurer and explorer Arita Baaijens quit her job, bought camels, wandered off into the desert alone and never looked back. When asked why she went alone, she said: “I wanted to disappear and experience the void.”

Illustration by Torre DeRoche.

Illustration by Torre DeRoche.

I’ve had a tiny taste of that delicious void. I walk alone a lot. I’ve walked alone through cities around the world: Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Paris, Italy, Barcelona, New York… When I arrive in a new place, I usually ditch public transport and opt to walk instead, to meander down streets, read in parks, turn down interesting alleyways on a whim. With a little bit of courage and a whole lot of curiosity, I explore the world by the power of my own two feet, and I’m happy and fit and free.

In Italy, I met up with another woman who loved to walk too, and together we hiked for weeks through the hills of Tuscany. We were two women alone in the big bad woods, improvising a place to sleep each night, to eat. On one occasion we were homeless at 10pm, walking from one fully booked hotel to another in the dark before we finally found a place to stay. We never felt we were in danger, never met a bad person. We trusted in our intellects and instincts. We explored Italy by the power of our own two feet, and we were happy and fit and free.

From there we travelled to India and walked 390 kilometres in the footsteps of Gandhi, carrying only a tiny can of pepper spray each in our pockets for protection. “You might get raped,” we were warned again and again, and while part of me questioned if this was a reckless idea, the larger, louder, more intuitive part of me repeated a mantra of Gandhi’s:

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate but it is fear.”

For three weeks we walked along the dusty shoulders of Indian highways, past slums and farmlands, chaotic cities and empty fields. Every day, strangers welcomed us with head bobbles and made us chai, cooked us food, and offered us their own beds to sleep in. The pepper spray remained unused and was removed from our pockets to make room for gifts offered by new friends: good luck trinkets and mounds of fruit. And because we trusted in the goodness of humanity, we got to explore India by the power of our own two feet, and we were happy and fit and free.

Last week a young girl was murdered in a Melbourne park while walking alone. It’s horrendous news, and my heart breaks for her family. On the day that this happened, homicide squad detective Mick Hughes issued some words of warning for women: “I suggest to people, particularly females, they shouldn’t be alone in parks.” Former premier of Australia Jeff Kennett agreed with this sentiment, stating that women should not walk alone in poorly lit areas.

Continue reading here.

3 thoughts on “What’s your relationship to fear?

  1. pam

    ‘Unlike detective Mick Hughes, I’m a woman who has sailed and walked and explored and climbed and adventured all around the world, and have met many other women along the way who have done the same thing. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but after all of my experiential learning, this is my advice for all women:

    We were each born with the gift of instinct. Hone in on it. Listen carefully to it. Trust implicitly in it. Always be ready to save yourself. If someone gives you a bad feeling, get away. Now. Don’t wait for the world to change or become more fair before you do what you want to do; all we have to work with is how things are now. Make peace with it. Be brave in the face of it. While feeling peaceful, fight fiercely for equality. Learn to kick ass. Listen to your own judgment and exercise your own common sense, because you are smart and capable and strong and powerful. Be courageous and curious. Trust openly but attentively. Don’t be afraid, be a fucking warrior. Explore the world by the power of your own two feet.

    Be happy and fit and free.’

    ***

    Bravo!

  2. Alex Brocklehurst

    “We were two women alone in the big bad woods…”

    I must admit to being a little confused by this statement! I am rarely over-literal but pondered whether there was a literary device, or metaphor at play here. The reason I ask is simply because the case being made is about the safety of women ‘on their own’ and the patriarchal, fear-driven advice, seems literal about that. It seems strange to document two women walking together, but refer to “two women alone” both idiomatically and as a rebuttal of the patriarchal dictats..

    ..or am I missing something glaringly obvious?

  3. YoniyoganidraYoniyoganidra

    Thank you Torre for reminding us of Skinny-G’s words: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate but it is fear.”

    Daily I teach (mostly) women to relate more fully to their wombs/pelvic floor and nervous systems and so often they are terrified to discover, or unpack, what might be hidden there. Their fear mimics the whole process of ego-death even though they do not want to be held hostage, or creatively blocked, by the history that resides in their nervous system, musculature or fascia.

    I sometime feel that if we were not so afraid of our own bodies and the somatic history stored there, that we would be less afraid of each other.

    Here’s to everyone feeling like they can be in the world as a well-defined and safe self…Happy and Fit and Free.

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