Written by Carrie Baker. Media by Kayla Morton.
There has certainly been a lot of talk about women lately. Not only is March 2016, Women’s History Month, but this past week, women around the globe celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD). While it was refreshing to see so much positivity about the strength of women and our growing roles in society, I also saw and heard some comments that were disheartening and exhausting.
While scanning the abundance of social media websites on International Women’s Day, I came across a suffocating amount of propaganda for feminism. While this may sound pessimistic coming from a woman, I felt disappointed the hype this “special day” caused was counterproductive to the real meaning of International Woman’s Day. This being said I delved into a little research on the difference between Women’s empowerment and Feminism. I concluded that rather than shouting “feminism,” maybe we should start advocating for women’s empowerment instead.
It’s important first to define both feminism and women’s empowerment. Though they are similar, they are NOT the same. Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines feminism as, “an organized effort to give women the same
economic, social, and political rights as men.” So obviously feminism’s mission is an equal playing field, right? So as I was reflecting on this question, I began to wonder if there was such a thing as International Men’s Day. I was surprised to find that there was indeed such a day, and not so surprised to find that it had long passed without much recognition.
I was both disappointed and intrigued. When I took to twitter to get “the scoop,” I was met with equal ugliness. While there were multiple positive posts celebrating the day, there were equally as many posts mocking any “trolls” who might dare to bring up International Men’s Day.
If feminist equality is about being proportionately integrated into a community, is this the message we need to be sending? Some other twitter users responded with some cringe-worthy, yet truthful statements.
Then, in the midst of all the negativity and hatred surfacing over feminism and International Women’s Day, I stumbled upon women’s empowerment.
“One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and where you want to go.”
— Sheila Murray Bethel—
Selfgrowth.com claims women’s empowerment, “refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social or economic strength of individual [women] and communities.” This was when I realized there is a difference. Feminism is a battle of comparison. Feminism focuses its energy outwards while women’s empowerment directs energy inward. While feminism is an attempt to get the outside world to bow to its commands of equality, women’s empowerment focuses on the inner woman. Empowerment is about developing a woman’s character, building their confidence and providing them with skills to give back to a world in need. Women’s empowerment fosters strong females who realize their self-worth and importance, and prove it to the world. Should women measure happiness by the amount of money they make or the job title they possess? I should hope not. It’s not about success; it’s about self-worth.
It is my hope that readers realize this article is not an attack on feminism. Rather, I desire for them to read between the lines to find a yearning for others to consider a more wholesome solution. I do see the benefits of feminism and realize that, at times, there is a place for its commanding presence. However, my concern is that the feminist movement has the capability to become corruptive to women and to the greater community in which we live. Any power can be abused and the feminist movement is powerful. Fighting for rights, money, status and power isn’t always bad, but what would happen if we focused on empowering women instead? What if we focused on women’s strength—emotionally, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually? I would dare to say that it might be much more powerful than power, and much more successful than success.
I appreciate your thoughtful reflection on feminism and women’s empowerment. Your focus on feminism as a corrupting force is certainly something that women have been considering for over 50 years. Of course, focusing on the internal work of empowering women can also be corrupting. Finding the middle road of maintaining grace, love and humility is something that we can achieve only through God’s empowerment.
Recognizing the importance of the organized actions of women through many movements (suffragist, feminist, womanist) is also vital. Through the work of these movements women can now vote; are able to hold elective office; can be lawyers, doctors, scientists, CEO’s; and have legal protections against sexual harassment. We take many of these things for granted today, but I grew up in a world in which women’s opportunities were limited, their intellectual strength was often minimized, and they had limited recourse when sexually harassed or assaulted.
Little gets done in this world without collaboration. Let’s also celebrate in this month the organized work of women as we have sought social justice and legal recognition through movements that have bent the arc of history toward a more just society for everyone.