By Jo Murphy 22 Oct, 2017
Google will tell you a woman wants a man. Mr Right, to be exact, on bended knee. She cannot know her life or herself without him. A woman, these spurious search results suggest, is not an autonomous being able to go it alone.

She wants commitment.

Repeat the search, however, swapping ‘women’ for ‘everyone’ and we’re told something different. We all want to be happy . Of course we do, but happiness is just so intangible, isn’t it? It’s such a personal thing.

I believe happiness is founded in freedom.

By that I mean the freedom to be who we want, to do what we want, however, whenever and with whomever we want, unafraid of the backlash, unencumbered by fabricated limitations of gender, race or class (you know, like white men have been doing since forever).

In case you hadn’t guessed, Mr Right can’t deliver on this singlehandedly.

You have to set things in motion yourself, nevermind the toxic dating advice that tells us 10 ways to please a man because anything is better than being alone. I really want to believe that we’ve evolved beyond this, yet still I see us chasing after fantasies concocted by someone else on our behalf, as if we’re unable to think for ourselves. But think we must. It’s up to us to decide what we really want and whether we’re truly committed to going after it.

You have to commit to your own freedom, your own happiness.

Nobody else is going to do it for you. And nobody is going to sweep you off your feet but you. I could talk here about social conditioning, how we’ve been bred over the centuries to expect a man to make the first move. I could focus on how fine the line is between sexual harassment and ‘harmless’ flirtation...

But instead I want to emphasise this: when we put the onus on men to ride in on their white stallions and rescue us from the perverts and patriarchs, we might as well kiss any hope of freedom or happiness goodbye.

We have to rescue ourselves.

More than that, we have to do what we can to create a world from which we no longer need rescuing. It’s a tall order, I know. That’s why we start with the parts we can reach. We start with ourselves, and address the role we’re playing in all of this.

Pointing the finger of blame doesn’t always serve us. In fact, it astonishes me how often I’m blamed for blaming men for all that’s wrong in the world, thereby making the place untenable for them (sigh). Yes, naming and shaming those raping our bodies raises awareness of the severity of the situation, but a more powerful way to bring about change is by empowering ourselves.

If women don’t give a f**k about their own freedom, no one will.

We begin by cracking patriarchal codes from the inside out. Which means fessing up to our own internalised sexism , since patriarchy isn’t just some pussy-grabbing president, it’s system of values and beliefs that has taken root in our collective psyche.

Our social and cultural infrastructures favour the powerful and the privileged, which means we’re all vying to get out mitts on a piece of that power and privilege in whatever small way we can. Sometimes that means pledging allegiance to those who hold the majority share.

Obedience becomes our sanctuary.

It keeps the target off our backs if we seem less important in order to allow someone else to feel more important. Mr Right, for example. We actually choose to disempower ourselves out of habit . Which is why waiting for that white knight to bestow us with his approval is indicative of the kind of thinking that engenders everything from the pay gap to female genital mutilation.

A patriarchal mindset pitches all things masculine (action, ambition) above all things feminine (intuition, emotion). Think of them as the two hemispheres of the brain. The left side (masculine) solves problems. But the right side (feminine) could create a world without problems .

She may be oppressed, but she is most certainly not obsolete.

The goal here is to amplify the feminine without muting the masculine, to activate her without deactivating him. One without the other falls short, as illustrated by the many problems we now face. But we’ve no hope of healing all this hatred unless we begin with some radical self -healing. And that comes through radical self-knowledge.

We enter into relationship with ourselves.

Why not get to know you ? What makes you happy and why, what makes you angry and why. Put down the media trash and pick up your own ideas. Find out what you’re really good at and do more of it.

Discover what you really want and go after it.

Date yourself, even if you’re ‘with’ someone else. And, if you are, use the relationship as a mirror rather than a mechanism for self-deflection. Don’t hang your hat of passivity on Mr Right. Find out if you want to commit to him rather than chasing commitment from him.

You may be surprised by what you unearth, like an adversity to commitment for example, which I’m very familiar with. It took me a while, but I finally realised how much I’ve struggled to commit to anything or anyone over the years. I’ve rejected whole chapters of my life because I believed they denied me what I wanted the most.

Freedom.

I turned my back on London after ‘committing’ to it for 18 years. I flitted here and there, exploring relationships with exotic men in equally exotic locations. I pursued a life on the road with passion, but I was chasing a freedom fantasy for all the wrong reasons, seeking the shock factor, rebelling against a system of conformity from the outside in . I was playing at it, not committing to it.

I always had one eye on the exit. My life had become one big get-out clause.

Whenever I entered into a relationship or contract, I felt like I lost myself. I seemed to naturally assume a role of subservience, of the minion to the manager, of the student to the teacher, of the woman to the man. I had come to associate commitment with entrapment, disempowerment, hence the dramatic nature of my rebellion.

But here’s the catch.

I’d chosen subservience
. I’d chosen to seem less important so that someone else could feel more important, even if they hadn’t asked me to .

Freedom had been available to me all along. It was simply a choice.

I’d been basing my future potential on past performance, assuming that what had always been is what would always be. No matter how much I chased the fantasy, so ingrained in me was this idea of obedience that on a subconscious level I didn’t believe I could really be free.

Commitment issues, you see, aren’t always the by-products of play away egos. They can stem from a deep lack of self-belief, a lack of self-worth. If we commit to something, we fear we will eventually lose it. Yes, we may get it at first, but there’s no guarantee that it’s a keeper.

There’s a deep sense that we’re not allowed to keep it.

The precariousness of this situation spins us into a panic. If we become dependent on someone other than ourselves , something outside of us, to make us happy, then what happens when they leave? If we commit to Mr Right over and above committing to ourselves, what or who is left when he’s gone? Worse still, what if we blame ourselves for his departure?

If, fundamentally, we don’t believe we’re deserving of the things we desire, we get caught in the dreaded confirmation bias loop, tripping over evidence of what we believe to be true: that we’re not worthy . So, while we think we’re looking for someone to prove our worth, we just keep hooking up with those who show us the opposite. It's a battlefield

It’s the kind of relationship rot that patriarchy both creates and perpetrates.

But here’s the good news. It’s all role-play and we don’t have to accept the part. It’s all wiring that can be re-wired. Our internal patriarchs have thus far ensured that we remain strangers to both each other and ourselves. You can change that. And you can begin by dating yourself (safe in the knowledge that you won’t walk out or cheat, I hope).

I’ve been going steady with me for a while now. Checking in with my happiness levels in every situation. It sounds batshit, I’ll give you that, but this commitment to myself has been one of the most radical steps I’ve ever taken towards freedom.

It means asking over and over, is this acceptable, is this making me happy, what do I want instead? I may not always act on the answers, but at least I asked the questions rather than waiting for someone else to do so. More than that, this inner dialogue has become a constant source of love and reassurance.

If I want to become the revolutionary I desire to be, I first have to deal with the BS on the inside. That’s where the revolution begins.

We can march. We can say “me too”. We can sign all of the petitions. We can do these vastly important things since they’re the threads that will weave a new tapestry. But these threads will be weak and snap unless they’re spun from a place of conviction and integrity .

It’s no good dipping a toe in the waters of women’s lib before retreating into the arms of our inner patriarchs. If, on a subconscious level, we still don’t feel deserving of equality, we’ll never get it. So we have to give it to ourselves.

We have to choose freedom and see ourselves as equals.

Our history of oppression is no small matter. But if we hold too fast to the past, believing it impossible to create something different, we’ll just get more of the same. We relinquish our responsibility to become a part of the solution. If we acknowledge that the problem on the inside creates a problem on the outside, however, freedom is there for the taking.

These are unprecedented times…

To think I got all this from a random Google search on a Tuesday afternoon, and a lifetime of commitment issues, and a lifelong hunt for freedom. But it reminded me that we have a choice every day, in every moment. Commit to ourselves or commit to someone else’s idea of who we should be. It’s a no-brainer, surely?

So, here comes the irony.

Google isn’t wrong. Women do want commitment. But we can lose the dude on bended knee (unless Mr Right is right on).

Women want commitment from women.

When we turn towards ourselves, we turn towards all of us. So when I say I give a f**k about my freedom, what I really mean is that I care deeply, passionately, unwaveringly about yours too. This is my commitment. It’s what I want the most.

This is me on bended knee…


By Jo Murphy 02 Oct, 2017
Learn the subtle art of only giving a f**k where it counts…

We build prisons out of other people’s opinions. The thoughts we think they think form the walls that keep us locked inside ourselves, afraid to come out. When we care too much for other’s judgements, and too little for our own, we’re reduced to the twofold existence of attack or retreat. It’s an oversimplification, I’ll give you that, but we tend to understand our world better through the binary lens . Opposing ideas offer us the comparison we need to expand our worldview.

Indeed, comparison is as much an art form as giving a f**k is.

It’s a key sociocultural driver behind the resentment, fear and denial that shape so many of our relationships. When we measure what others have against what we don’t – who they are against who we are not – we resent anyone enjoying privileges we deem unavailable to us. We may fear we’re not deserving of those privileges, but deny ourselves the opportunity to do anything about it.

Denial is retreat. While we believe it provides a way out of having to deal with oppression or prejudice, it’s actually the way into the prisons they form. It's the way we internalise our culture of compare and despair. It's the way difference destabilises us. And this is what I want to talk about here since I recently touched on the nature of attack .

Denial saves us the hassle of having to admit to a problem and therefore having to do anything about it. Thus we maintain the status quo by giving f**ks where they’re not due. When we place our sense of identity in the hands of others we’re challenged far too easily, retreating at the slightest whiff of opposition, even if we’ve no clue what we stand for, even if we deny ourselves an opinion.

As we retreat from the world, we retreat from ourselves.

Any offering we make at the altar of approval serves only to keep other people happy. So if we go about the business of belonging, of inclusion, to the exclusion of ourselves, we misplace far too many of our f**ks. And this is what hems us in, keeping us unsure of ourselves and unknown to anyone else.

Our imagined ‘self-preservation’ hinders all relations.

How can we know what others truly think of us? Any perceived judgement is not necessarily a value judgement. All positive and negative evaluations are relative to each other. This makes it impossible to see someone as worthy without seeing someone else as worth less .

That’s why we must challenge our perceptions or they will continue to challenge us .

So what’s the solution? If we don’t yet feel brave enough to step out into the world without inhibition, we have to create a safe space of our very own where we can explore and deconstruct those inhibitions. It’s here that we can tend to our roots before we branch out. Yes, I’m talking about boundaries again. They’re the foundation of our feminism.

Our power as activists and individuals does not come from simply raising our voices . Nor does it come through artificial bravado, which requires the mirror of another to tell us if it’s convincing. We don’t fake it until we make it.

We find real conviction in our cause instead.

We understand and honour who we are (within our boundaries) so that we can fully occupy ourselves. This is how we dismantle needless apology. This is how we cultivate presence. This is how we forge identity through integrity, no attack or retreat required. But we do not indulge in the kind of trite and trendy badassery that makes us assholes.

This is not a zero f**ks situation.

Because that would infer apathy, indifference, allowing us to tolerate the kind of intolerance that’s f**king us all over. In an ideal world we would indeed go about our business as if no one were watching, but that doesn’t simply mean we become overly self-involved. If we cared less for each other’s judgement, we’d be free to care more for each other’s wellbeing. Yet we still begin with ourselves.

Otherwise, who gives a f**k?

Let me explain. I recently relocated and I’m the new girl in town, so it’s time for me to make friends. On the whole, I’m not a fan of small talk. It feels like a form of disconnection rather than connection – self-preservation rather than relation. And yet I’m proceeding with caution.

It’s not for me to spout feminism at every opportunity. Instead I’m treading the middle ground, staying mindful of what I’m giving out as much as I’m taking in. So even if I find myself occasionally lingering in the shallows, talking about the weather, that’s ok. I’m still rooted in integrity, but I don’t want to poke my branches where they’re not yet welcome.

Which means I still give the wrong kind of f**ks sometimes.

I find myself walking away from an exchange wondering if I was too much, if I should apologise. I care for other’s experience, for sure, but I also care not to lose myself to it. When I stop caring about my own experience, you see, I'll eventually stop caring about anyone else's too. There comes a point when all our f**ks run out and nothing and no one matters anymore. If I deny myself opportunities to take up space, and be who I am, I’m denying others the same.

That’s why zero f**ks actually f**ks us all over.

And it sets a precedent. It becomes the one thing that informs the way we do everything . What we say yes to. What we say no to. How we walk into a room. How we start a conversation. How we end it. How much credence we give to other people’s BS. What we’re willing to accept and what we’re not.

So if I stop giving a f**k or start throwing them down left, right and centre, I build barriers where my personal boundaries should be. And yet it’s inside these boundaries that I can stay rooted, not only in my integrity, but my humanity . Once there, I can branch out, reach out, connect with conviction.

Barriers, however, have the opposite effect. They keep us locked in, and everyone else locked out. They represent our allegiance to questionable social standards over and above our own. And when we put social codes ahead of personal, we actually disconnect further from each other.

So please give a f**k about your boundaries, not your barriers.

Boundaries enable relationship. They’re the property line, if you like, without the ‘keep out’ sign. They allow us to invite in difference without feeling threatened. They allow us to use comparison as a platform for connection, understanding.

Boundaries give us the balls to come out .

People may not agree with us and that’s ok. We may not agree with them and that’s ok. What’s important is that we use this platform to launch useful dialogue without attack, without retreat. A word of warning, however, while we grow comfortable with difference of opinion, others will not always follow suit. You will meet with hostility.

Most of it really isn’t worth a f**k. Trust me.

When I read negative and unconstructive comments posted in response to my writing, I take care not to engage or retaliate. The vast majority comes from those who give more of a f**k about attacking feminist thinking (because, feminism ) than understanding how it addresses the human experience. Not just the female.

I’ve made myself a target for any misogynist with internet.

But women are not without guilt here. Some still challenge our feminism since it challenges their post-feminism. Perhaps even their internalised misogyny . Our refusal of the status quo makes it uncomfortable for them to maintain it.

Our activism throws light on their passivity .

But I welcome these challenges as continual reminders of what I came here to do. As continual reminders to have the courage to speak up, even when I know I’ll get slapped down. Because I know that I’m speaking up about something they’re in denial about. Because I know they want to make me feel ashamed as a mechanism to cover up their own shame. Because I give a f**k.

So don’t let anyone else’s discomfort become your discomfort. Please, please, save your f**ks . Those who challenge you don’t yet know you’re doing them a favour. They don’t yet know you’re paving the way for shared freedoms. They won’t admit you’re part of the solution because they won’t admit to the problem.

The key is in knowing when, and when not, to take it personally. If someone reacts to you violently, negatively, this reaction is simply a projection of his or her own perception of reality. They are the main protagonists in their own stories. You are merely a player who disrupts their script. So don’t waste your time, just let them get on with it.

Remember instead that you remain the main protagonist in your own story, so you get to influence how it plays out. You get to make it personal by focusing only on the factors within your control – like caring less for the players who want to hog the limelight, and caring more for those who need a bigger part.

That means making their plight your personal responsibility.

When we learn to value ourselves as empowered individuals, you see, we begin to notice those who are disempowered – all positive and negative evaluations are relative to each other. We begin to measure our privilege against other’s lack of privilege. And thus comparison becomes a tool for the greater good. 

When we can no longer deny that change is both necessary and possible, we no longer fear adversity. We no longer resent difference, but respect it for what it teaches us about the world. When we stop stressing about other people’s responses and pay mind to our own, we get smarter with the f**ks we give.

This is how we rally effectively as feminists and activists – when we truly understand our individual worth. Only then do we become sensitive to the injustices, the violations, the daily discriminations that imply others are worthless. Personal integrity therefore brings empathy, humility . And through humility we remember our humanity.

We don’t take up all the space; we share it.

We cannot give a f**k about anyone else unless we truly give one about ourselves. And this, my friends, is absolutely the kind of f**k we should be giving. While some may say pursuit of individual freedom is selfish, and that feminism is concerned only with the rights of women, I counter their argument with this.

We are the individual threads that weave the overall tapestry .

We’re all different, yes, but we’re all connected. To embrace yourself without apology, without inhibition, is to embrace all of humanity. To empower yourself is to set a precedent that empowers others. To free yourself is to free everyone.

To make every f**k count is to make every life count.


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