An individual in society may go through a lot of changes and experiences during their lifetimes. From the moment the person is born, society ends up playing a huge role in shaping their social interactions, their behaviors, their morals and the things that end up driving their decisions; whether it is love, education, success, wealth, happiness, or fear, among others. Moreover, although individuals experience different situations based on their social class, status, gender, ethnicity and race, some emotions and feelings seem to be universal, and that they can connect humans on another level through them, such as fear.
Further on, the article that will be analyzed is about the long-standing fear of a young woman that had traumatic adolescence due to her sexual abuse and the indifference of his father. This writing also gets to explain in detail the roots of that fear, the context of her fear, and the understanding of her fear through various sociological perspectives and lenses, which the process gives her comprehension of it to make her finally ‘heal’.
To start, the writer’s purpose is accentuated from the beginning. She finds that laying out her reasons for her fear, and explaining it in various perspectives will help alleviate her pain. She was raped, unemotionally connected with her father and suffered from severe mental illness. But she wanted to know why years later in situations like choosing a university or committing to a relationship or any other small decision, there was always something preventing her from succeeding.
Moreover, that is why she chose to write about it, so she can find out the ‘why’, the ‘what’, the ‘when’ and the ‘how’ of why she is like she is, and how to overcome her fearfulness mind, so she can continue with her life. Virginia Wolf, once quoted: ‘’It is only by putting into words that I make it whole; the wholeness means that it has lost the power to hurt me’’ and in the same way she wanted the hurting to stop through words, she also wanted it to transmit that to other people that might remotely feel the same way.
Following this further, the article poses various questions that are answered through different sociological views, in both the macro and micro levels. She questions why fear is a result of socialization, why is it expected as a woman, why is it interfering with her rational life choices, why is it showing in her behavior and why it is a public issue. Her point of view focuses firstly on her as an individual that is part of society, and then expanding it to the whole spectrum of society, using the symbolic interaction, functionalism and conflict theory approach, to evaluate her fear in diverse manners.
The author starts by explaining fear as a result of socialization, given the experiences she’s had to go through since she was very young. The primary socialization was the lack of affection by her alcoholic father, and the overall relationship her parents had that contributed to her growing up with instability and anxiety as her norm. And her second, but most impactful socialization was when she was abused at 14 and suffered in silence for a very long time in fear of the man and his possible retaliation. Altogether, instilling in her a sense of always being intimidated by something, or someone, especially the opposite sex, and constructing a social reality in which fear guides her every move, which can be called ‘’Constructivism’’. Constructivism is an extension of the symbolic interaction perspective, which suggests that a person’s reality is developed through the interaction with others, and what humans cognitively construct it to be (Lumen). Which would explain why her views of what surrounds her are rooted in being intimated and fearful, because that’s what shaped her in a critical age in which an individual starts to build their reality.
This can be exemplified by her behavior towards relationships and her lack of trust to male suitors. She first saw this when the relationship of her parents was affected by her father’s alcoholism, and how her mother was full of anxiety because of it. In the same way, as she grew up with a bad fatherly figure, she had no sense of what a good man should be like and it only got worse when she was also sexually abused by one. And so, the symbol of men becoming a source of anxiety in the author’s reality in the process. Moreover, since a young age, women are taught to always be cautious of their surroundings, to never walk alone at night, to never talk to or receive drinks from strangers, to dress a certain way to not get assaulted, and so their realities are rooted and constricted in fear. Furthermore, the combination of the perceived fear as part of her reality, and the internalization of women always needing to be cautious—as part of society— is what pushes her away from something as positive as love, because she is afraid of going through her bad experiences again with the men in her life.
On the other hand, as she started to understand more the where, the why, the what of her fear, she also started to understand that fear is widespread, and many individuals in a society can feel it, not only by being abused, but by million other reasons. Throughout history, fear of the other has been instilled in certain groups and has resulted in xenophobia and genocide, and in the last 20 years it has also been seen by the threat of terrorism. A huge example is 9/11 and how it forever changed the socialization of daily Americans. The writer also denotes how the news network can make people afraid of their neighbor, their partners, or even their family, overall showing the lack of trust and instilment of fear as a public issue in both the US and the world.
Pursuing this further, the functionalism perspective shows that fear can also be imposed by not only events, but by politicians/elite groups through manipulating people so they could be afraid of a certain group of individuals. Resulting as a consequence, a fear of the outsider and so a lack of integration between the functions in society. This can be seen with the clashing ideologies, cultural systems and political parties. As far as another macro-sociological perspective that goes along with the line of reasoning is the conflict theory. She proposes that fear is inherent of capitalist societies, one of the reasons being that is an economic system that only a few benefit, and one must always one and must also lose, since is based largely on the competition. And so companies or entrepreneurs are constantly in tension and afraid of who’s going to be one that will be succeeding. At the same time, since capitalism entitles economic inequality, there’s always someone that will be worse off, so others can be better off, and the fear of not having economic security can be excruciating to many.
Overall, as far as what was mentioned before and my perspective, I have learned about fear in different ways that I have not thought of. Yes, I have thought a lot before about not only the small things, such as being scared of an insect or the deep ocean, but also being scared of not finding a good job or having financial security, and in the worst cases to be sexually assaulted sometime in my life. But the article broadened my horizons in how much fear can be instilled in someone’s life and how it can be so widespread that it affects a lot of decisions in people’s lives. It also made me think that after all fear might be one of the things that people think and feel the most; the fear of going to war, the fear of being discriminated against, the fear of terrorism, the fear of losing a job, the fear of not doing good in college, the fear of being molested, among million other things people can think of throughout their lifetimes.
This has also worked to give me an insight that my fear of a certain situation can also make me think that I’m not alone in feeling this way, and just the fact that so many people share this with me, makes me feel I can count on people, I can lean on people and I can connect with them. And at the end of the day, that link you have with people makes you feel less afraid, and more capable of overcoming it. And yes after reading this article, I learned that I can relate on certain things with her. My fears have prevented me from forming new relationships— given my trust issues— they have also given me so much anxiety that at times it becomes irrational when thinking about my future, and my fears do clash with the person I’m trying to be and others expect of me. But at the end, fear and unrest can lead to a change in me to become better, and that’s a very important thing to have.
In conclusion, the article tackles many important sociological points at the micro and macro level that have served the writer not only to alleviate her pains and fear, but to communicate it to whoever is also feeling the same. She got to do it by explaining her fear to understand it better herself, so later she could apply it to many events in a person’s life to accentuate the fact fear can unite people for the best. Because, although history has shown fear has led to discrimination, genocide, cultural clashes, fear has also led people to resist against it and to lead a change instead. Moreover, in my perspective, this article did serve its purpose and on the way it helped me reflect on my fears, and how they can become my weapon, instead of my weakness.
Lumen. ‘Reading: Symbolic Interactionist Theory.’ ND. Courses Lumen Learning. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/intro-to-sociology/chapter/reading-symbolic-interactionist-theory/. 14 July 2018.