What is Female Empowerment?

And here I am back after yet another blog hiatus! There are some good reasons – being flat out editing Frontier Defiant (Book 3 in the Frontier Trilogy) is one, and polishing up another novel, tentatively called Amethyst Pledge, is another.

Add to that, being part of the cast and crew of our local Sound of Music Production, my normal day job, and all the other stuff that life throws at you, I ran out of hours in my day.

Anyway, although I haven’t been blogging, I have been thinking – something that I clearly do way too much of.

I’ve been pondering quite a bit about feminism again. I know it’s a recurring theme here, but I think it’s because it impacts me so frequently. I’m a woman, and now I’ve hit the big 50, I’ve been reflecting on the last half century. (Which sounds dreadful, really.)

I was a teenager by the late seventies, and a young woman in the eighties. By the time the nineties arrived, I was into my late twenties. As a teen, I was inspired by the thought that finally women were approaching financial, educational and societal equality with men. By university, I knew that all I needed was a brain and ambition, along with the required physical skills, to do anything I wished. The world was laid out before me.

Now, as a fifty year old woman, I understand that despite those promising years in the latter part of the twentieth century, we women are still lagging behind in terms of wage parity and societal place.

Even as we’ve been able to work full time, and raise a family simultaneously, women still do, and are expected to do, more than half the family household tasks, rising to up to 85 % of the tasks involving laundry. Recently in the UK, 20% of men admitted to doing no household tasks of any description.

At the same time, women are still expected to behave and look a certain way. They are expected to wear certain types of clothes, shoes, and have specific body shapes, in ways that men never have to.

I think I’ve written about it before – one of my female clients, with a severely sprained ankle, when I suggested wearing no heels to work, stated “My boss wouldn’t like that,” and was then slightly nonplussed when I asked whether he (the male boss) would place the same requirement on a man. “Of course not,” was her answer. She was then surprised when I pointed out that that was blatant sexism.

Her brain’s default was that she was expected to look different to the men, and that that involved wearing heels, no matter whether heels were suitable to her tasks, or her injury.

Recently I’ve been pondering the drive for ‘body confidence’ among young women. Now, I have no issues with anyone being confident with their own body. (Seeย https://leonierogers.me/2016/01/30/the-art-of-onsen/ on this blog.) What I have issues with, is that for a woman to be confident with her body, it somehow means being obviously titillating in public.

I haven’t used the word ‘titillating’ lightly. You see, for me, being body confident means being confident that my body can do the things I want it to, like sport, or walking, or wearing whatever I feel like, regardless of whether it’s a fashion statement or not, or being able to go into a Japanese Onsen and strip down, as is traditional practice in Japan.

Maybe I’m weird, but being body confident doesn’t mean that I need to take my shirt and bra off in public, or pole dance, or wear clothing that emphasises my sexuality. In fact, when I see ‘body confidence’ being trotted out for such things, I wonder if feminism has been subjugated to the patriarchy once again.

For some younger women, stating things like ‘subjugated to the patriarchy’ might seem old fashioned, but I have a real worry that we’ve lost our way in our attempts to gain equality, by being backtracked onto the tangential pathway of ‘it’s all about sex.’

We only have to look at popular media to see that the biggest headlines around women are whether or not you should take your clothes off for a selfie. For a large part of the population, that appears to be only if you’re a socially acceptable shape.

What I’m not seeing however, is the equivalent pressure on men: slogans such as ‘free the penis,’ or classes or diets designed to ’empower the male body’ – perhaps something like male bellydancing, pole dancing or stripping – all of which we have for women. I do know that there are such things, but they’re certainly not promoted as ’empowering’ for men, and it’s empowerment that I’m interested in.

What I am seeing is ’empowerment’ stuff that seems all too titillating for the male gaze. Maybe you don’t agree with me. Maybe I’m wrong, but in a world full of sexploitation, where women still need to be a certain age/shape/type to be relevant in popular culture, while their male counterparts don’t, I’m not so sure that I am wrong.

What I’d like to be able to see, is women who are confident, not only in their bodies, but in themselves. I’d like women to not have to face constant criticism on their appearance by other women, or by men. I’d like them to know that they’re smart, intelligent, full of integrity, competent and compassionate, without an internal monologue running about their appearance.

Empowerment should be about empowering women to be themselves, not following someone else’s agenda.

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “What is Female Empowerment?

  1. I got a lot out of this article as it addressed some issues I’ve been thinking about for a long time. One thing I firmly believe is that writers can play a powerful part in shifting core attitudes whether it be an essay, a blog post or fiction. A well written story helps put a reader (such as myself with inevitable residual prejudices) in the mind of the person in the story. These ‘word-operas” (I can’t find the right phrase at the moment) act like mind bullets that have a power of persuasion more potent than a cerebral argument. I think you are spot on about both sexes needing to redefine ‘body-confidence’ free from the baggage that the media hangs on such terms. There’s probably a spiritual dimension to this in terms of being at peace with ourselves intrinsically, so that circumstances and other people’s opinions don’t dictate how we’re supposed to feel. Anyway, I’ve started to ramble; just wanted to say: great post.

  2. A true feminist doesn’t judge other females, talk about good looking females in a derogatory manner unless she has issues herself. Do unto those as you would have done to yourself. If you want to be judged by others don’t lead with your chin otherwise people may write derogatory things about you.

  3. You covered a quite a few hot button issues here, it appears to me that you covered them quite well and honestly and openly. What you have written you should put it into a book and put it on the market. A new world learning tool for men and women. If you read it and take an honest look at, it will open up people’s minds where they can say to themselves, maybe I should change on this or that. You must ha been one heck of a physical therapist.

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