The Language of Empowerment

Feminism, especially less academically driven feminism, uses the language of empowerment. It is about taking back the control and refusing to abide by patriarchal systems and standards. In a world that is still dominantly run by men, women are encouraged by their sisters to celebrate the things that make them feel strong in their daily lives. The cynical take on it says that maybe you can’t get paid fair wages, but at least polka dots make you feel beautiful. And it’s on trend right now, it’s popular to treat yourself and to support what you love just because you love it. Self-care is in style. As with most things that become popular, there is a fair amount of disdain that follows. People don’t take it seriously, not because they don’t believe in feminism, but because the language of empowerment has almost turned into a joke. Now, writing about daily empowerment has the association of a sixteen-year-old Tumblr girl posting a list poem about all the ways you can be part of the stars. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that; I was that.

Websites like Her Campus offer collegiate women the opportunity to write about their experiences on college campuses. Often, I hear friends of mine make fun or make light of articles written by my fellow writers. I’ll ask them for a suggestion of what to write about and they’ll laugh, saying, “Write about why wearing yellow makes you feel strong!” Again, these are not misogynistic, ignorant kids, but they do not see the value of another piece written about why someone is a feminist who shaves their legs and that’s okay. What they don’t understand is that until the judgment that accompanies whether a woman shaves her legs or not, there will be a very valid reason to write just that. While women are still being disrespected and held to impossible standards, much like men, there will alway be a platform.

I personally try to mix up my writing with pieces about my sisters, the details that make personality, and a summary of the 2017 NFL playoffs. When the mood strikes me, I write about me and I write about why I wear tight jeans or why Drake makes me feel like I can take on the world. I include variety because I hear it’s the spice of life, not because I think writing about empowerment is overdone or boring. If the complaint is that it’s repetitive, fine, then don’t read every article. The point is that writing about empowerment keeps the idea in the forefront of people’s minds, and the problem is that it is disrespected. I find it hard to think of something that is allowed to be empowering.

Political activism? Joining the military? Getting a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering? I think our distaste for women who write about how yoga changed their life or why they watch trashy TV and it’s okay, is because we don’t have a lot of extra respect laying around for women at all. If a man talks about how cultivating roses gives him strength, his masculinity might be attacked, but he already is occupying a higher position of respectability. For a woman, whose empowerment helps further a whole movement, if she isn’t the best, the most cultured, or the most approved, then she isn’t worth considering at all.

Celebrating enjoyment for enjoyments sake might not be hard hitting journalism, but honestly, the right for women to express themselves freely is still so new that maybe we reserve the right to write about whatever we want. Men have been doing it for thousands of years. At its core, this trend seems to me to be about claiming your own identity and using it to find security in yourself. That’s something that everybody needs a little more of.


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