Female Empowerment is anything but empowering

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Female Empowerment an outdated and redundant idea.

As some of you will know I have spent the last few years immersed in the female empowerment world and what I have learnt has left me somewhat perplexed, bewildered and a little perturbed. Let’s put it this way, I can safely say that spending time with female empowerment groups has often left me the most disempowered I have ever felt. Furthermore, I have become convinced that our definition of empowerment is no more than a cover to make it compliant and malleable.

We put too many constraints on empowerment.

You can be empowered but not like that, you can love yourself but not that much, you can celebrate your body but your skirt is to short, you can be confident but not if it makes me feel uncomfortable. You can be empowered as long as it makes no one else feel uncomfortable! I mean what kind of messed up thinking is that?

I’m strong, feisty, opinionated, confident in my abilities and pretty much know who I am; you love me or hate me, it’s cool. My straight talking has often landed me in trouble and I never have the intention to upset people, yet I do and more often than not it’s women. I don’t agree with the norm, I challenge convention, I ask deep questions of myself and others and if I see something that I don’t like, whether my own or someone else’s, I will bring attention to it. I’m not mean about it; perhaps maybe too factual (that police training never leave me) and I always do and say what I feel serves the bigger purpose. I am a strong, empowered women and proud of it. Yet I am often shunned in groups of empowered women for exactly all the reasons I feel empowered. And I have been told on more than one occasion by such enlightened women that perhaps I should be a little “less”... what?

Surely, female empowerment is never about being less-than.

I have come to the conclusion that on the surface most female /girl empowerment out there is a load of fluffy nonsense and does more to empower the females spouting it than does those listening. If any kind of female empowerment expects you to be less-than, not do something or conform, then it is about control, not about empowerment.

Female empowerment for me means being comfortable with your own power, how it affects you, the impact it has on others, how it trips you up and how it lifts you up. It’s messy, uncomfortable sometimes, challenging all the time and takes work every single day. If something you say makes me feel uncomfortable, that is my issue, not something you need to deal with. But if the way I am makes you feel uncomfortable or you don’t like my straight taking, it is something for you to work on because believe me I’ve done my work and I’m not silencing my truth just because you might be too delicate to hear it. Of course I only do so in the right environment, when appropriate and always with love. But if my questions or opinions make your feel uncomfortable, use that as a tool to dig deeper, not a stick to bash me with, because I can guarantee to you that I am learning the lessons you taught me.

I feel female empowerment is set up in the very beginning to fail women and girls.

Let me explain: Most female empowerment I read about always holds the female up as the victim that needs saving. It talks about the patriarchal system we have created as the persecutor to all women. When it comes to girls however, we tend to blame social media and the celebrity culture for the lack of empowerment. Most empowerment courses come from the premise that there is a reason for the lack of empowerment. And there may be I’m sure; the particular system has a lot to answer but my real issue with this is if we make someone or something a persecutor then there has to be a victim, and if we are talking female empowerment then there can only be one victim, yes you guessed it, us females young and old. And as such we can just blame and fight not taking any responsibility for the situation ourselves.

This leads me to the other issue.

The person then set to empower you has one job left in this drama triangle and that is the role of the rescuer, and yes this is how most female empowerment programmes seem to work. We have a persecutor and therefore a victim and a rescuer, but this is set up to empower no one at all. And the fact that we go down this route again and again means that when we get groups of women together they play out these toxic relationships within the groups.

If we are to ever empower our young girls, the role models they look up to and the mothers who raise them we need to drastically change the way we look at female empowerment.

For one, you are not a victim. While I am fully aware that in certain countries females and girls are still persecuted, in the western world women are not victims. We have the power, we don’t need to be given it, we don’t need someone else to give it to us, and we don’t need someone else to be wrong for us to be right. We have the power already. If we took responsibility and went into every situation thinking we had the power, I wonder if we would handle things differently. If we know and love ourselves enough the influences that society believes take our power away can have little or no effect. Secondly, we need to stop defining what an empowered female/girl is and is not. Our definitions of this seem so narrow to me. Empowerment can look like Cinderella, Katniss Everdene and a host of things in-between. Empowerment may be softly spoken or shouted, it may wear a suit or a short shirt and revealing top, it may love cooking for its partner and children of it may never go near the stove. The only definition of empowerment is how that female/girl feels.

We must stop been mean to other women

And probably most of all if we are ever to redeem ourselves as the weaker sex we need to just stop been mean to other women. I am convinced through my 30 years in this industry that we are mean to other women who we feel threaten us in some way or make us feel uncomfortable, perhaps because we long to be them. We need to learn tolerance of each other and we need to be able to sit with other women and even if their views are different from ours, or they are louder than us, more opinionated, more sexual - whatever more or less it is we need to learn to accept them and stop trying to mould them to fit our narrow view of what we think an empowered women is.

An empowered women can look any way she wants to and we need to accept that if we are ever going to move this field forward.