"Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness elicits shame, and so they're afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak."
When Ron Leagas and Tim Delaney started their advertising agency in the early eighties they rented an empty office space and filled it with actors to impress a prospective client. I take my hat off to their ingenuity but am appalled at the deception. But then dishonesty has always been at the heart of the patriarchy* and applauded. Truth, it seems, is weakness.
Women of all ages are fed up of pretending. Men are tired of hiding their true selves. The 'othered' are totally over it. And women of our age after decades of contorting to fit into a world built for men are watching our backs (both figuratively and literally). We're building honest, no bullshit businesses, movements and not for profits designed to harness the talents of the most fragile or invisible creative minds not the loudest voices in the room.
And we're doing it loudly. At a time of call-out culture we're calling out culture. In a world where there's little truth, we're telling it as it bloody well is.
When things were getting really tough for the women featured in the Uninvisibility project I reached out to everyone who's helping us get our new venture off the ground. One of our investment advisors couldn't seem to understand that a group of women fighting for an alternative to dead careers didn't have a lazy couple of grand lying around to fight eviction notices or file for bankruptcy. He seemed to dismiss our 'loose change' problems when there were potential million dollar business deals on the table. The thing is, potential million dollar deals don't put food on the table unless there's a lazy couple of hundred quid lying around.
It's yet another of life's paradoxes us midlife women know so well.
Fortunately, another of our investment advisors feared some brilliant women with world-changing ideas were about to be cut off at the knees. He listened patiently as we processed the emotional impact of our situation then gave us a plan (and a lawyer) to be able to compartmentalise our horrors giving us the brain space to turn up to business meetings with our big girl pants on.
When I launched the 'Walking a burning tightrope' fund this week a friend marvelled that I would ask for help when I'd just got a book offer, she worried it may make it disappear. She didn't realise I'm writing the missing chapter.
Seems benefits and food banks weren't enough humiliation, I have to experience the full force of career loss. I am in the middle of an unnecessary, unfair and very nasty eviction process. A process that generally takes advantage of uninformed women causing extreme duress. I'm going through it with massive support and exceptional advice and it is still nerve-jangling and foetus position-inducing. If I had been waiting six weeks for an appointment at the Citizen's Advice Bureau with no idea how I would get out of the situation I dare not think how I would react. Especially after a year of shouting from stages that the highest incidence of suicide for women is in midlife.
And it's not just talk. After one speech a young woman came up to me and said "You had me in bits. My mum ended up living in her car, I thought she was the only one."
Because we never talk about the struggle, we're not allowed to struggle. We're supposed to save our torments up for our success stories' to be shared over a bottle of bubbly and laughed about with a wipe of our brow and a 'There but the grace of God go I".
I don't want to wait for the pop of a cork. I want to scream from the rooftops now that it's time to stop talking about diversity and inclusion and it's time to represent, collaborate and pay the people who are on the front lines of their own volition.
Instead of publishing lists of people in high paying jobs who make some effort in the area or holding panels and events and with nice drinkies. It's time for some bloody action.
At Uninvisibility we have been truly humbled by the support we've received so far. In less than a week 40 donors have raised enough to get two women off the tightrope. 33 of those donations have come from women. One gave us her last five pounds. But then she knows what we are building. And she knows we're building it for her. We're building it for you, too. We're building it for all of us.
*DISCLAIMER (For the hundredth millionth time!) this is not a gendered issue, the patriarchy is a system designed by men to benefit men, many women support the system and many men are harmed by it.