Women Empowerment: Get it right!
By: Shreevidhya Ravi
Published On: January 16, 2019
“Women empowerment” has been a buzzword for at least half a decade now- not because we want it to be, but because capitalism has released that women empowerment can be commodified.
Suddenly women empowerment is everyone’s dear cause- agarbati brands to your neighbourhood kirana stores, everyone wants to cash in on “empowerment”. Every aspect of womanhood has to be commodified, Yay capitalism.
With every brand competing to tell us what empowerment truly means, it is not a surprise that everyone has an opinion on it. Right from your watchman to your next door neighbour everyone wants to tell you about how this generation is full of empowered women.
I have so many favourite statements that have been offered to me under the guise of opinion when in reality they have just been largely unsolicited and extremely offensive social commentary.
This is one of my personal favourites- “Women these days, their progress is at par with men, we have truly reached the awakening”, okay, firstly why is progress conveniently benchmarked with men? Why should women be looking up to be at par with what a man’s version of progress means? Progress is personal. Period. If you think otherwise, your idea of “women’s empowerment” is very much like your existence-redundant.
Another personal favourite of mine- “She can be dangerous, she is a beauty with brains”. I fangirl for everyone who assumes and casually implies that brains without beauty is useless in women, like what good is going to come out of that? Right?!
Brains have to come along with beauty for it to be a lethal combination, just beauty or just brains in its singularity doesn’t cut it. After all,we hold women to high standards in this society, who is to compensate for all the low benchmarks that men are expected to play up to? “Oh he takes care of his own children, wow how remarkable of him”, “Oh, he actually washes his own plates, wow, he is the epitome of humility in human beings”- statements like these make me wish for a million eyeballs so that I can roll them all at the same time.
Have we talked enough about the things that do not constitute women empowerment? I don’t think so but I’ll stop. The list is literally unending. Instead let’s talk about what is women empowerment? Let’s try and understand how little of what we see is actually women empowerment.
1- Women empowerment is about choice
To simply put it, women empowerment is about choice or autonomy. It is about recognizing the fact that women can choose to have their opinions, follow whatever they want, practise whatever they believe in.
For everyone who is thinking “oh but what if it hurts someone, no one should get hurt in the process..”, well patriarchy has been around for quite a while and all the women in the world have been collectively hurting for a while now….where’s this rock that you live under?
Frankly speaking if whatever I’m wearing, whoever I’m with and/or my opinions is all it takes to hurt someone, it's their brain that must be hurting. Not to say that choice is just limited to what one wears or what YouTube channel one follows, but it is a part of what one chooses to do and that’s the important bit there.
It is about understanding that one choice isn’t lesser than the other, it is the collective power of individual choices that matter. It is not about belittling one women’s choice over the other. It is about understanding that autonomy is all that matters. In this process, hopefully the realization that an adult woman doesn’t need supervision or doesn’t have to be equated to an infant will hopefully come around.
2- Women empowerment is about empathy
Women empowerment is not about pitting one woman against the other. It is not about comparison. It is about understanding and it is about having the maturity of contextual subjectivity and realizing the fact that the commonality of being a woman is all that it should take to empathize with one another.
Empowerment can look very different for a 30 year old married woman with 2 kids as compared to a 18 year old on the cusp of adulthood. It is important to be able to empathize as that’s the only way one can hope to build respect. Consequently, this will lead to empathy and appreciation- which will build women empowerment by the sheer power of sisterhood.
3- Women empowerment is about questioning
Women empowerment is about actively creating and co-creating spaces for women where they can afford to question much of the internalized misogyny in the name of customs,religions and/or culture. It is about enabling a woman to understand that not everything in name of “history” and/or “tradition” has to be adhered to.
Even today, millions of women all around the world are oppressively held together in the name of tradition and social norms. It is time that we realize that just because something is considered a part of our culture does not necessarily mean it is right. As a society, there are a lot of cultural loopholes that we find ourselves in and unless we actively question them, there’s no way that women empowerment is actually going to find its way to every woman in the world.
At the end of it all, it is very important to understand that women empowerment is a collective movement that prizes progress. Progress can come in many forms and ways; let’s all understand that each and every progress deserves to be appreciated and cherished.