Living amidst the rather controversial and somewhat nuanced third wave of feminism, women are constantly being informed and reminded about the need to be empowered. Women need to see their self worth, know their incredible potential, and thus, feel empowered. The irony lies in the fact that “empowerment,” which may of once held merit, has taken a turn for the worse. In fact, empowerment today is a joke.
From a purely basic understanding, being empowered is about being confident in who you are and being able to cultivate your skills to their fullest potential. In one regard, it is about living life to its fullest and getting to know and be YOU as best you can, as well as encouraging this same fearsome attitude in other women around you. Hence, building yourself and others up by not only embracing who you and they are but by constantly striving to become the absolute best version of yourselves.
At least, I would like to think that’s what empowerment is.
However, many articles pertaining to empowerment are all about weight loss/gain, dyed hair, shaving, topless actresses, saying yes, saying no, sex, wearing what you want when you want, and so forth and so on. For something that is supposed to be liberating, it feels strangely confining and petty. Nowadays, empowerment is not about character building, gaining skills, and growing holistically as a woman. It’s morphed into something fascinated by armpit hair, body image, body parts, which lingerie brands you should shop, and ultimately, about achieving nothing.
Let me unpack this, empowerment is a bizarre glorification of insecurity because, empowerment today is about getting a pat on the back for doing nothing but “whatever the hell you want.” If you are thin: yay! Be empowered. If you are bigger: yay! Be empowered! Instead of propelling women forward to pursue what talents they have been given and hence excel as competent individuals, empowerment placates insecurities and dares women to simply be audacious (dye your armpit hair green, put down men, etc…) and buy particular kinds of make up or clothes. (Feels oddly like a marketing scheme, right?).
Modern empowerment turns into something “edgy,” you know, harsh words against men and society in order to feel better about who we are as women. This tactic is incredibly little. It becomes a movement that is entirely centered around proving yourself, which generally is an attitude stemming from fear.
As human beings, we are worth more than the sum of our parts and it is important to know that. . Nevertheless, even a healthy understanding of affirmation should not be the primary end of empowerment. Instead of finding ways to hide behind vulgarity and shock value, grow in character. Be secure in the “YOU” you were made to be. Be authentically feminine. Embrace your femininity because it is good and beautiful.
Women are capable of innumerable achievements; if we want to focus on and admire this aspect, let’s. Being brazen or vulgar for the sake of feeling confident, in no way cultivates your character or pushes you to grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc… The problem with female empowerment is that it has broken from what it means to be feminine. What does it mean to be a woman? In a society where you can be whatever you want, feminism is confusing because it is failing to grasp the feminine spirit.
Instead of heralding femininity in all its beauty, encompassing the biological traits, the intellectual traits, and so on, it seems as if most women are afraid of their femininity. Perhaps, because in some sense, it is tied in with vulnerability. Vulnerability seems to detract from being strong. Take it or leave it, I posit a woman who has embraced her femininity, appreciating who she is because of her feminine soul, as well as valuing those, both male and female, around her, is more likely to grow holistically and be truly empowered. There is a quiet but fearsome strength that comes with knowing who you are and daring yourself to be even better than you were yesterday.
American author John Steinbeck offers a fair meditation on the point:
“I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.”