ART & CONVERSATION
The old adage about sex and power is a well-worn trope in Western culture. It speaks to us in media where a woman uses her “feminine wiles” to gain what she wants from a man, but it also comes out in news reports, when instances of men killing or hurting women for declining their sexual advances are shockingly common. ‘Sex and power go hand in hand’ is an old saying and an even older idea. How does it apply to our modern, popular concept of female empowerment?
The problem with female empowerment is that some of us look at it through a lens of domination. And while that may be the mistaken view society holds, empowerment means giving power back to women who have been excluded or abused. Empowerment should not be confused with the archaic idea of gaining power over someone. Women seek the power that they deserve, not the power to dominate. When empowerment is mistaken for domination, women become divided from men and even from other women.
What have women been empowered to do, we might ask. Women have been empowered to get higher degrees, own property, bank independently, vote, drive, divorce an unsuitable spouse… the list goes on (and we haven’t even touched on the expansion of gender roles and identities that such freedoms enable!). Women sought and continue to fight for empowerment not just to eliminate a dichotomy that stands for subjugation and suppression, but also because we are full and equal members of society.
The notion of feminism has been obscured dramatically in recent times. It seems as if every woman has a different idea of what feminism is or should be. As women, it is critical that we take the responsibility that is provided through empowerment and not just seek to be treated as equals, but to focus on what we wish to accomplish as women rather than what others expect of us or for us. There will always be disagreement about what feminism should be, but the basis—the foundation of feminism—does not change. Empowerment is not about perpetuating the dynamics of fear and control, it is about having the freedom to act and freedom to be who we are, with equal opportunity and equal rights.